London Perrantes has not had a problem being far from home. His mom, Karina, learned that more than a decade ago, when she sent 11-year-old London to Amsterdam with the cultural organization People to People for a two-week basketball tournament.
It was a big trip for a young kid without his parents. But the only hiccup happened two days before Perrantes was scheduled to return to his native Los Angeles — he lost the credit card he was given for the excursion, only to have it returned by a stranger a few hours later.
Karina laughs about it now.
“Here he is, 11 years old, halfway across the world, and he was fine,” she said. “He’s just always had that maturity, that independence about him.”
After Amsterdam, sending her oldest son to Charlottesville to play basketball at Virginia seemed like nothing. In the years since, Perrantes’ parents have seen him only sparingly during the academic year. With three school-age kids still at home, they fit in two or three cross-country flights per year to watch London run Virginia’s offense.
Wednesday, Karina will finally get a treat for entrusting her son to Cavaliers Coach Tony Bennett. This time, the 12th-ranked Cavaliers (9-1) will make the cross-country trek to play California (9-2).
It’s the return game of a home-and-home series against the Golden Bears that Bennett specifically scheduled to give Perrantes a chance to play in front of friends and family.
“It’s closer than a cross-country trip, so they’re all making that one,” Perrantes said of his family when asked about the game at ACC media day before the season. “I’m excited to be able to play in my home state, in front of some family, some people that have never seen me play in college. It’ll be exciting.”
Said Bennett: “He’s obviously got a lot of requests for tickets.”
Virginia’s West Coast trip is the first time Perrantes will have played in his home state since he was a senior in high school. Scheduling homecoming games is something of a tradition for Bennett, who has been doling out thank-you trips since he was a head coach at Washington State in 2006-09. The Cavaliers played Oregon and Seattle on a West Coast swing in the 2011-12 season for guard Joe Harris, a native of Chelan, Wash.
Bennett tried to schedule a game against UCLA or Southern California for their greater proximity to Perrantes’ family but eventually settled on California. Redshirt sophomore center Jack Salt’s family is also scheduled to travel from New Zealand to the game in Berkeley.
“It doesn’t mean you can always do it or guarantee it, but you try to get a guy that’s come out [a long distance for college] at least one time in his career to play closer to his home, so his extended family, those maybe who haven’t been able to watch him play, get to see him,” Bennett said in a phone conversation earlier in the fall. “We always try to do that. We did that even at Washington State, with a kid who came from Texas.”
Perrantes’ parents and three younger brothers will caravan six hours from Los Angeles to Berkeley along with extended family and friends. They will be driving alongside a few carloads of basketball players from Perrantes’ high school, Crespi Carmelite High in Encino, Calif.
“All levels of the basketball program are going to be up there,” Karina Perrantes said with a laugh. “That’s not too much pressure on him, right?”
Last year, the Perrantes family celebrated in their living room when London hit a three-pointer with 10 seconds left in overtime to get the Cavaliers a win over the Golden Bears.
This year, they’re looking forward to hopefully celebrating a win in person with the point guard, the Cavaliers’ senior leader and top scorer (9.6 points per game).
“It’s very surreal, you know, sitting at home in your living room and watching on TV and hearing people like Dick Vitale and Jay Bilas speak so highly of him,” Karina said. “Sometimes my husband and I just look at each other like, ‘Is this really happening? Are we dreaming this?’ It’s incredible. We’re so excited to have the opportunity to see him live.”