When Virginia played George Mason in its first game last season, coach Tony Bennett didn’t have any point guards. At the time, Jontel Evans was injured, Teven Jones was suspended and Bennett was forced to man the position with a combination of Taylor Barnette, Joe Harris and Justin Anderson.
Times have changed.
When UVa opens its 2013-14 season against James Madison on Nov. 8, Bennett will have four legitimate point-guard options in Malcolm Brogdon, Devon Hall, London Perrantes and Jones.
“That’s an important spot,” said Bennett, a former point guard himself, “so you want to have depth.
“But they’re all different. They’re unique. They can play together, which is important.”
A negative with having so much depth is the fact that there are only so many minutes to go around and there could be some unhappy campers.
However, Bennett said that unless “somebody really emerges in the preseason,” he plans on using all of his point guards, at least initially.
Bennett believes playing his guards in short stints will allow them to play harder.
Bennett, who values versatility, says all four of the players will see time at both the “1” and “2” positions.
And, as you would expect, defensive prowess will be a key to seeing the court.
“Who can you match up with?” Bennett said. “Can you guard point guards defensively? Can you be spread out and be quick with your feet? That’s more significant than who brings the ball up every time.”
Unless of course you’re going up against “Havoc," VCU’s press-after-every-make defense, which Virginia will see when it hosts the Rams on Nov. 12.
Since Brogdon is entering his third season in the program, many people have presumed that he will be the starter. Bennett, whose team began practicing in earnest only last Friday, says that’s not necessarily the case.
“It’s way too early to say that,” he said.
Brogdon, a redshirt sophomore, says he is feeling great physically and doesn’t even think about the foot injury that caused him to miss all of last season.
Brogdon, who averaged 6.7 points and 2.8 rebounds as a freshman, says he feels very comfortable at the point — a position he played sporadically in his first year.
“[The coaching staff] pushed me to play it,” Brogdon said. “They had me back up Jontel [Evans] a little bit last year [in practice] and that got me adjusted to it a little bit.
“Just watching Jontel and watching all the point guards we played against and the NBA Finals with the great point guards going at it, I think I learned a lot.”
At a chiseled 6-foot-5, 217 pounds, Brogdon, who likes to post up, can be a matchup nightmare for most point guards.
“He has power, size, can get into the lane and is a very good rebounder,” Bennett said.
On the flip side, Brogdon could have problems trying to stay in front of the super-quick point guards in the ACC.
“I think it’s a challenge,” Brogdon said, “but something I can handle. I think it’s just a mindset I have to be in every night to guard any point guard we come against.”
The 6-foot Jones, entering his sophomore season, is the quickest player of the group. He could also be the best defender. Bennett says Jones’ biggest strength is his ability to put pressure on the ball and be a “pest.”
Jones showed flashes in his first year. The key for him this season will be trying not to do too much offensively.
Hall, like Brogdon, has good size. The 6-foot-5 freshman from Virginia Beach whose brother, Mark, is a linebacker on the UVa football team, is known for his passing. The lefty has drawn comparisons to former North Carolina star Kendall Marshall.
“I like to be known as my own [player], but I do play like him,” said Hall, referring to Marshall.
Hall, who would have been a high school senior this year had he not reclassified back to his original class, says he does not want to redshirt. He says he’s glad that he entered college earlier than he had at one time anticipated.
“I thought if I stayed in high school another year I would kind of be holding myself back, rather than competing against the best,” he said. “Staying in high school another year I would have been limiting myself.”
Meanwhile, Bennett calls the 6-foot-2 Perrantes “fairly complete.” He says he likes Perrantes’ “feel” and the fact that the California native “doesn’t get sped up.”
Bennett has also been impressed with Perrantes’ perimeter touch.
“I think London might be the better shooter out of [the four point guards] — if I just went by numbers, shooting drills, watching them shoot,” he said.
Last season, teams sagged off Evans, daring him to shoot jumpers. The former Wahoo attempted just two 3-pointers all season.
Bennett thinks teams will have to play Virginia differently this season.
“None of them are non-shooters where you [don’t have to defend them],” said Bennett, referring to the quartet. “If they’re open and they have rhythm, they’ll take it with confidence.”
While he rehabbed his foot last season, Brogdon spent hours working on his shooting mechanics.
“My shot feels at its best, better than it’s ever felt before,” he said. “I’m still working on making it as consistent as possible, but I’m happy with how I’m shooting it right now.”
Of course, replacing Evans’ defensive prowess won’t be easy.
Adjusting to Bennett’s “Pack-Line” scheme has been known to take some time.
“There are certain spots you have to be in,” Hall said.
Added Perrantes: “It’s definitely something new and something you get exposed on a lot, but I’ve been getting the hang of it.”
Both freshmen are well aware of the value Bennett places on that end of the floor.
“You don’t play defense, you don’t play,” Hall said. “It’s simple.”
No doubt, that will be one of the biggest factors as Bennett considers his four point-guard options.