He can jump, he can shoot, he can dunk, and he can ball. He’s Kendrick Perry, one of the reasons that Youngstown State’s basketball team has turned a corner this season. Perry has another gear, the ability to change his motion in mid-air, and is a very exciting and talented commodity. The strangest thing about the sophomore guard from Florida is the fact that he remains humble. He plays on a team with guys he considers his family. He is the best guard in the Horizon League and is inching closer to Player of The Year possibilities with each game on a team that remains hungry.
Paneech: What steps were taken to get you here from Florida?
Perry: In high school, my coach at that time, mentioned Youngstown State. At the time, I had my mind set on Florida or Florida State, some of the bigger schools. Throughout high school, YSU stayed with me and kept me on their radar. Before my senior year of high school started, I went on my visit and committed before the season started. Coach Wernicki and Coach Slocum were the two main guys that were instrumental in recruiting me.
Paneech: You are losing a couple of guys when this season is over in Ashen Ward and DuShawn Brooks. What have you learned from them?
Perry: I have learned a lot from them. Ash has shown great leadership both on and off the court. First one in the gym and the last one to leave. He does all of the talking and the little things that make us a better team. I can take that from him. DB gives us a good spark when we need it. Whether it is offensive rebounds, making the right pass, or just making shots, he has been a spark in big games when we need it. Ash is my best friend on the team. He took me under his wing when I was recruited and made me his little brother.
Paneech: You had some losses you maybe should have won this season. Which of those would you take back and do over if you could?
Perry: That’s a tough one. I really can’t just pick one because there are more than one of those games where we beat ourselves. If I had to pick one though, I would say the UIC game or the Butler game. Every game counts as much as the next and they are losses. The important thing is that we have grown from those games.
Paneech: Coach Slocum and the staff have my respect because of the way they work you guys. When you are around him so much, do you get used to his style?
Perry: I don’t think it is really that hard. It takes some time to adjust. Nobody wants to make a mistake, but we are all human and we all make mistakes. Coach Slocum will let you know two different ways – and if you make the same mistake again, be ready for it because he will get on you for it. As a person, he does his best to make sure that everyone is in tune. Some guys he talks lightly to, others he can be more aggressive with. He knows when he does that, he is sending the message to get in tune, to be more focused and play better as a team.
Paneech: You are losing a couple of good players, and this season is not over yet, by any means. Take a gander forward and tell me what to expect next season.
Perry: I see a lot of guys coming back and trying to get better. Shawn [Amiker] has really improved, Josh [Chojnacki] and Fletch [Fletcher Larson] have gotten better, and Mike Podolsky has probably shown the most improvement along with DJ [Cole]. Ash and DB give us a lot and we are going to need guys to step up and fill those roles. I think we have a good recruiting class coming in too. It’s a bunch of hungry guys who want to get better.
Paneech: I will always remember last year at Akron. You drove a crowded lane and dunked over a much bigger player. Do you envision your finish when driving or do you create once you leave the ground?
Perry: I think it is just natural God-given ability. I try to have the mindset to play aggressively each game. What goes through my mind trickles its way through my whole body, so it is a mental thing. My athleticism catches people off-guard. If I am getting chased on a fast break, the person chasing me is thinking about getting an easy block. Most of the time it isn’t. I like that underdog feeling, where I can rise up and use an extra spurt of confidence to get it done.
Paneech: Big difference between Youngstown and Florida. Besides the weather, what is different here?
Perry: The biggest thing would probably be a car, honestly. In Florida, I have a car, whereas here, I have to rely on guys who have cars to get me places. It seems like I am eating Taco Bell or McDonalds every day when I can’t get a ride out. It is a different culture but it is diverse like Florida, young and old, different races.
Paneech: So you get in the car with a friend and head toward Boardman. Where are you going to eat?
Perry: (laughs) That would depend on how much money I have in my pockets. I have $50, we are going to the Springfield Grill or Red Lobster. If I have $5, we are going to Burger King or McDonalds, I’m not that picky of an eater. That $5 will get me a 20 piece chicken nuggets and extra barbecue sauce. It’s a sacrifice (laughs), a sacrifice I gotta make. When I came on my visit though, I had Niccolini’s, and that was really good and when I helped recruit DJ, I had Springfield Grill, so its about 50/50 on those two places.
Paneech: If not basketball, what sport would Kendrick Perry be playing?
Perry: Soccer. Definitely. My brother plays professionally for the Columbus Crew. Growing up, it was soccer or basketball for both of us. He stuck with soccer, and it got him somewhere he wanted to be. I stuck with basketball and so far, I am where I want to be.
Paneech: Does your family get to some of the games?
Perry: Yeah, they try. They came to Samford for the opener last year. My mother does a good job of following our games and always is able to find a feed online whether it be the Horizon League Network or the opposing teams site, she will find it. She always tells me about what she saw me do after the games, and they really do a good job staying on top of it.
Paneech: Is this home now or are you on the first bus back to Florida when you graduate?
Perry: I have definitely made a lot of friends and connections here. That snow though? I can’t take that… I would rather deal with the 55 degrees in Florida over the 25 degrees here. I could see myself being here because of all of the relationships I have made while I was here. It’s all different though when you look at college. You have to learn better time management. A teacher can tell you that you have a 20 page paper due at the beginning of the semester, and you have to be on top of what you are trying to do within your classes.
Paneech: NBA. Florida. Heat fan?
Perry: I do like the Heat. I grew up in Orlando, so I have this love-hate thing for the Magic. My go-to team is the Oklahoma City Thunder and Durant and Westbrook. I like their athleticism, they are young, and they bring the energy. They are a very dangerous team and I like watching them. Lebron is probably the next Jordan, but I don’t think he will ever come back to Cleveland. He can win multiple championships with his best friend Wade and the talent they have.
Paneech: If there are no sports on television, what are you watching?
Perry: I watch cartoons, I’m not gonna lie. Not Sponge Bob and all that. I watch the Simpsons, Family Guy, and American Dad. My favorite cartoon though, is called Archer. It’s a spy cartoon, me and my brother call each other and talk about it and joke about the lines.
Paneech: Who is a bigger team jokester, Eargle or Burkey?
Perry: (laughs) Ohhh, that’s a tough one. I would say Damian, because it is non-stop with him. Burkey knows how to turn it on and turn it off. With Damian though, it’s just non-stop, 24/7, first thing in the morning until the end of the day.
One Word Answers
Favorite Color: Red.
Favorite Breakfast Cereal: Lucky Charms.
Favorite Drink After The Game: Red Gatorade.
Favorite Movie: He’s Got Game.
Song On Your ipod That Nobody Would Expect: Jill Scott, some of that soulful stuff from my mother.
Sport To Watch: Football.
Favorite Snack Food: I could go on for days… picking one – Fruit Roll-Ups, any flavor.
Biggest Phobia: Lizards.
Worst Habit: Cracking My Knuckles.
“I will stay with the sport of basketball and I am going to keep going until I can’t play anymore. Hopefully, the good college education I am receiving will line up the next part of my life and new career.”