Perry comes up big in first start for Cats
GameTrax: Stats and more
By Anthony Gimino
December 22, 2010
TUCSON -- Arizona forward Jesse Perry, a junior college transfer, made his first career start Wednesday night. It won't be his last.
Perry's emergence has been one of the happy developments of the Wildcats' non-conference season, which they capped with an 82-56 victory over Robert Morris in front of 13,982 fans at McKale Center.
Perry had a career-high 16 points and four rebounds -- with no turnovers -- in 19 minutes. He left the game with 6:06 left to a nice ovation.
"He plays hard, and we didn't have that last year," said sophomore post player Derrick Williams.
"He's always there every day in practice, every game. He is always in the right spot. Always. He can play the wing. He can post up. And he loves to rebound, too. Like I said, we didn't have that last year, and it shows with our wins."
Arizona finished the non-conference season at 11-2, and although the strength of schedule has not been up to the Wildcats' usual rigorous standards, 11-2 is still 11-2.
Perry and backup freshman point guard Jordin Mayes -- who didn't play in the second half against Robert Morris because of a stomach ailment -- have been key additions to a group that returned everyone other than point guard Nic Wise from last season's 16-15 squad.
"Now, our goal is to do better in the Pac-10 than we did a year ago," coach Sean Miller said.
That's where Perry, 6-foot-7 and 210 pounds, comes in.
His recruitment addressed many of Miller's concerns for this year's team: experience, toughness and somebody who would be relentless on the offensive glass.
In that sense -- especially in those last two areas -- Perry is the anti-Jamelle Horne, the senior who lost his place in the starting lineup. Horne has athleticism and jumping ability, but he hasn't turned into a full-time go-getter when the ball bounces off the rim.
"Jesse's role is continuing to grow whether he is a starter or not," Miller said.
"Watching him every day, to me he's earned the right to start. He gives us another aggressive player out there, another offensive rebounder, a quick defender.
"If you really pay attention to Jesse Perry, he shoots an amazing amount of free throws in a short period of time. It allows us to have two guys out there in both Derrick and Jesse who can do that. That puts a lot of pressure on the other team."
Perry doesn't provide the same 3-point threat that Horne does, but Arizona has plenty of 3-point shooters. So that's not a big deal.
Perry is a closer-to-the-basket presence, more of a clean-up-the-mess guy than Horne. With Williams being the team's offensive focus -- not only in the post but for the entire attack -- Perry just needs to be the complementary player who gobbles up some rebounds, picks up loose balls and converts inside.
This guy gets his role.
Perry had six baskets against Robert Morris -- one was a dunk, three were layups and the other two were from about five feet.
"He always offensive rebounds, he gets fouled, he's getting better on our defensive end as he learns what we do," Miller said. "He's doing a nice job right now."
Perry, who is from St. Louis and who attended John A. Logan Community College in Illinois, could have picked another college where playing time and a starting assignment were more guaranteed. But, true to his blue-collar instincts, he wanted to go somewhere where he had to work for anything he got.
"I wanted to come somewhere where I had the opportunity to play with big-time players and play at the highest level," Perry said. "I wanted to go somewhere where it was a challenge every day in practice, and that's what I got here."
Perry, who produced 10 points and six rebounds Sunday at North Carolina State when Horne was limited to seven minutes because of foul trouble, mostly put himself into Miller's good graces by rebounding.
Perry entered the Robert Morris game with an average of 4.2 rebounds in 14.5 minutes. Horne was averaging 4.0 rebounds in 19.3 minutes per game. Perry had the edge on the offense glass, 21 to 11.
Miller has a variety of interchangeable parts and lineup permutations, but Perry and Horne basically sub for each other and share time.
"It didn't matter if I started or not," Perry said. "I'm just going out there every night, whether I'm starting or coming off the bench, just to pick my team up and go hard."
But it does matter who starts. It's a reward. It's a signal. Miller said so. He's going to start the best five players