Time to round out the players portion of the season preview. Tomorrow, we move into the very interesting nonconference schedule, and then finally, next week, the ACC itself. 48 hours, man. 48 hours.
#32 - London Perrantes - Jr. PG
Now entering his third year as the unquestioned starter at point guard, Perrantes's sophomore year efficiency stats are a bit interesting. Compare:
Hanlan was Boston College's do-it-all star, the league's top point guard last year and a draft pick of the Utah Jazz after his junior year. There's no doubt who was the better player. But Perrantes finished with an O-rating of 105.0; Hanlan, 107.4. Very little difference.
It goes to show two things: one, I don't know anything about what goes into a player's O-rating, though I'm rashly assuming that crazy things like shooting and assists and turnovers are involved. And two, whatever is in the secret sauce, it rates Perrantes's contributions to the offense pretty highly.
Perrantes has a quality to his play that you can spot even if you don't know you're spotting it. That's what helped drive a narrative last year that was barely borne out on the stat sheet - that Perrantes asserted himself more, shot more, and picked up the scoring pace to help UVA's offense cope with the loss of Justin Anderson. He didn't do much of that, actually, not so's you'd notice if all you did was peruse stat sheets. But it looked like he did, and perception is reality.
So far, the Cali-cool image he projects has been a perfect fit with Tony's methodical approach to offense. There's an ever-so-slight backwards lean that he sometimes projects in pictures of him making the opening pass of the play setup. Tony hasn't minded him setting an offensive pace that uses all 35 seconds of the shot clock. But he will now, because that 31st second is a doozy. With a tad bit more urgency required on the offensive end, Perrantes will have to adjust. Move a little quicker. Maybe save some time on the front end by not always walking the ball up the court like a stroll through the gardens. The adaptability of Perrantes's game will be challenged this year, and because of the way he can project on the flow of the offense, how he responds will set the tone.
Oh, and it'd be cool if he could improve his shooting a little this year, too. /every critique of every point guard ever.
#33 - Jack Salt - rFr. C
UVa's New Zealand import will get to take the court this year after a redshirt year spent bulking up and getting used to the pace of American basketball. Salt added 15 pounds, which is bad news for opponents because every report we've ever seen says he likes cracking skulls.
Also, literally every story I've read about him this year - and there are a lot because a yet-to-be-unwrapped 6'11 Kiwi is a curiosity worth finding out about - mentions that he sets brutal screens. It seems random. I don't know what to make of this. It could be bad news in disguise - if he were playing Bad Boys defense with eight nasty streaks or was a sudden scoring revelation, they'd write about that instead. But it could be secretly really good news - because part of the reason Will Sherrill became a regular player was his diligence in setting screens.
The safest bet is that Mike Tobey is still a very skilled player, much more experienced, and going to take up 95% of the minutes that call for a true center. It might seem that Salt and Jarred Reuter are competing for the last of the big-man minutes, but I doubt that because Reuter could easily be on the court at the same time as Tobey; Salt never will. I think whatever meaningful minutes Salt gets will be in cases where Tobey's in foul trouble and the opponent has trotted out a true center of their own.
I also think that even though he won't be seen much, there's major cult-hero potential here. If he's as powerfully physical as all the reports say, somebody is either going to get whacked on a perfectly legal screen, or have a shot ruthlessly rejected after Salt roots himself into place in the post, and people will notice. What I'm hoping for is a future where Salt and Reuter are both patrolling the middle like a couple of roughneck bastards and everyone just hates them. For this year, it'd be cool if we got a few glimpses of that.
#51 - Darius Thompson - rSo. SG
Here's redshirt number two from last year, another Christmas present to open on November 13. With Malcolm Brogdon in charge, the chances that Thompson breaks into the starting lineup are zilch. But like Anthony Gill before him, Thompson is a potential really big deal.
Possibly the most athletic player on the team, Thompson brings a slashing, driving threat that's been a little lacking in Tony's tenure. Truth is, in his year at Tennessee he was a lousy shooter. Two or three, it didn't matter, he couldn't hit it if it was a jump shot. But he also took 71% of his shots at the rim....where he also was a lousy shooter at just .369. And all that was two years ago. If those numbers improve, and you ought to believe they will to at least some extent, Thompson has the chance to be a tremendous bench scorer and a Sixth Man of the Year candidate.
Thompson will probably be asked to play the point some, where he'd give opponents a completely different look from Perrantes. Perrantes is smallish, conservative on defense, and more likely to shoot a jumper than drive. Thompson will try to use his excellent length and athleticism to jump passing lanes, and look to drive on offense. Justin Anderson was a tremendously important player because his athleticism scared opponents and forced them to give the rest of the team room to operate. Thompson can look to partly fill those shoes this year.
#1 - Austin Nichols - Jr. PF
#2 - Justice Bartley - Fr. SG
#24 - Caid Kirven - Sr. PF
#25 - Mamadi Diakite - Fr. SF
#34 - Jeff Jones - Jr. SF
Here's the end of the bench - the walk-ons and redshirts. UVA will have the most talented non-playing players in the country. Kirven and Jones are familiar sights at the end of blowouts and do an admirable job of keeping comical scores comical. Bartley brings a fair amount of talent; he turned down a scholarship at UNLV (that due to his late appearance on the recruiting scene would've had to wait til his sophomore year) in order to study business at UVA.
And of course, the redshirts. Nichols is coming off a season where he was one of the top ten shot blockers in the country (efficiency stats) and a starter at Memphis - possibly the top prize of the transfer circuit this summer. Diakite was planning on playing a prep year, but UVA convinced him to essentially prep under Tony Bennett instead. By some accounts he's the second-best athlete on the team and UVA is redshirting him just because they can. They'll stay in the shadows for a year and then help cushion the blow of losing four rotation seniors after this season.