One final shot for record-setting Perry
Mar 4, 2014 at 11:44a ET
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio - The winter that seemingly never ends in Northeast Ohio has been the last one for a kid from Florida who came here four years ago knowing almost no one and nothing about the importance of owning a good winter coat.
Kendrick Perry has done well for himself, even if he has done it under the radar.
Entering Youngstown State's Horizon League tournament opener tonight at Oakland in a situation where every game could be his last, the 6-foot (and not a hair over) Perry is still re-writing school record books. He has become YSU's third all-time leading scorer, its top scorer since moving to the Div. I level, as well as the school's all-time steals leader. He's third all-time in assists, the first player in 35 years to pass the 1,900-point mark and just the 13th player to earn all-league honors three times.
"It's been a great ride since the moment I stepped on campus on as a 17-year old freshman," Perry said. "The coaches got me up to visit in the fall so I didn't see any snow. I loved it right away."
Perry is from Ocoee, Fla., and when he started lighting up opponents as a young player at Edegwater High School he saw himself "going to one of the big schools -- Miami, South Florida, Florida State." He played on the same AAU team as eventual NBA lottery pick Austin Rivers and, though some college coaches were hesitant because of his stature, he was explosive enough to keep them coming back.
Just before his junior season, Perry suffered a broken leg. He missed the whole season, and a bunch of those college coaches never came back.
Youngstown State and coach Jerry Slocum did, though, and established a connection that's worked well for both sides. When Perry was named Horizon League Preseason Player of the Year last fall, Slocum said Perry "is what's good about college athletics."
Recently, Slocum reflected upon Perry's career by saying, "To say you're going to miss a kid of his character is an understatement. Not only as a basketball player but he's just a great person.
"What he's done on the court is remarkable, and it's not just the points (and the records) but it's how good he is defensively. He's not one dimensional. He'll get 31 points and have 5 or 6 assists, 3 or 4 steals. You just don't see that very often."
It was the fall before Perry's sophomore season when Slocum found him in the gym -- it was more than a hunch -- and had a quick chat with Perry about expectations and leadership.
"Coach came in and basically said, 'Hey, we're giving you the keys,'" Perry said.
The Penguins went from 9-20 in Perry's freshman year to 16-15. Last year, they went 18-16. They're 15-16 heading to the postseason this year.
There's not a bunch of winning tradition at Youngstown State, nor is there a bright spotlight on the program. Still, Perry said he "never wavered" or second-guessed anything and believes he's leaving the program in better condition than it was upon his arrival.
"I think you see it," Perry said. "We had two straight winning seasons. There's been steady growth.
"Whether or not anybody (nationally) knows about me, I've never really much thought about it. I'm sure my work gets noticed by people but that's not my concern. I've just worked to perfect my craft."
This season, Perry broke his own school single-season steals record, became the first YSU player to post a 600-point season in 27 years and has seven games of 30 or more points, pushing his career total to 10 30-point games. He made his last round through less than tropical Horizon League stops such as Detroit, Milwaukee, Green Bay and Chicago while facing double teams and extra defensive attention.
"Lots of palm trees," Perry joked about his farewell tour. "All the records and that stuff, it's truly humbling. I hope it shows my commitment, the work I've put in. You can't help but feel good about it. I just want to go out with wins. I feel like everyone in this program is my family, and I can't thank them enough.
"I've tried to cherish every moment."
Perry enters Tuesday night's game with 1,956 career points. To get to 2,000, Perry is either going to need another game -- or a 44-point night. Don't dismiss either possibility.
"I have to be a tough out," Perry said. "I have to lead. I have to give everything I got. Whether I have to get 30 or 40 points, or 8 or 9 assists, or whatever my team needs, I'm going to do that.
"I'm going to fight 'til the end. I've loved every minute of this. I wouldn't trade it for anything."