By Joe Scalzo
A list of things Youngstown State senior Kendrick Perry is worrying about with the basketball season four months away:
A list of things Perry is not worrying about:
Winning Horizon League preseason player of the year.
Pretty much anything else.
“With winning comes all the individual accolades,” he said. “For me, I go to bed thinking of Horizon League championships, not player of the year. When I wake up, I think of Horizon League championships, not player of the year.
“The biggest thing is just focusing on getting that ring.”
A first team all-conference selection the past two years, Perry is closing in on several YSU Division I records, including the career scoring and steals marks.
But the Penguins are still chasing their first league title since joining the Horizon League in 2001-02.
Although they lost both HL defensive player of the year Damian Eargle (the conference’s all-time blocks leader) and Blake Allen (YSU’s all-time leader in 3-pointers) to graduation, they return a solid core for what should be an interesting league race.
Defending league champion Valparaiso lost all five starters to graduation, including 2012 HL player of the year Ryan Broekhoff, and runner-up Detroit lost first-team all-conference players Ray McCallum (who left school a year early and was drafted by the Kings) and Nick Minnerath (graduated).
“One thing about the Horizon League is, it’s always going to be tough year in and year out,” said Perry, who is on track to earn his criminal justice degree next spring. “I remember when Norris Cole went to the league [with the Heat], everybody counted out Cleveland State and they made some good moves.
“I’m sure Detroit’s going to do the same thing with McCallum leaving. Green Bay’s always tough, Wright State has everybody back and with Oakland coming in, we’re going to get everybody’s best shot, night in and night out.
“We know that nobody is going to give us anything, so we just have to have the mindset that we’re going to go in and take it.”
The Penguins thought they might be able to make a run at March’s league tournament title, but a knee injury sidelined Perry for a month and they lost in the second round.
He returned in time for the College Insider Tournament — YSU’s first postseason tournament as a Division I team — and has spent the past few months rehabbing the knee with trainer Todd Burkey.
“It feels good,” he said. “It’s been going well.”
For the third straight year, Perry and the Penguins played in the Pittsburgh Basketball Club Pro-Am summer league with Pitt, West Virginia, Duquesne and Robert Morris.
Perry thinks returnees like D.J. Cole, Kamren Belin, Shawn Amiker and Bobby Hain are ready for a bigger role.
“You can see where their ceiling is and they haven’t reached it yet,” Perry said. You can see the season coming up will be a good season for all those guys.”
And if Perry can stay healthy, it could be a special one for him. Although undersized at 6-foot, Perry has NBA-level speed and explosiveness and could become the first Penguin to make it to the highest level.
“Obviously, I sit back and I think about it, but I think the biggest thing is, one, stay healthy. That’s a huge thing. And the second thing is win and be the leader of the team,” he said. “With winning comes a lot.
“I feel like as long as I’m steering my team in the right direction, get some good quality wins and have a great senior year, I think everything else will fall into place.”