Can Kendrick Perry, one of YSU’s all-time greats, play in the NBA?
By Joe Scalzo
After a week that saw Kendrick Perry become Youngstown State’s Division I scoring leader and the Horizon League’s all-time steals leader, it’s time to ask the question: Is he the best player in YSU history?
Penguins coach Jerry Slocum thinks Perry belongs in the conversation.
“Obviously there’s been some great players here,” Slocum said. “But how good he is defensively, that’s the thing that I think separates him. He’ll get 31 points but he’ll have five or six assists, he’ll have three or four steals. He’s a 3.9 student.
“When God created the thought of intercollegiate athletics, there was a picture of that dude in there.”
Question is, will he have his picture in an NBA program?
“I think he has a chance,” Slocum said. “I think his quickness and his speed give him a chance. I think he’ll get some play. There’s been numerous people in to see him.
“At the end of the day he’s put himself in position to have that opportunity.”
Perry ranks fifth in school history with 1,862 points, surpassing Reggie Kemp (1988-93) as the team’s Division I leader last week. He’s in striking distance of No. 3 John McElroy (1,942) but won’t catch Jeff Covington (2,424) or Tony Knott (2,218). Perry’s 238 steals are 46 more than anyone in school history and one more than the previous Horizon League record, held by Green Bay’s Terry Evans.
“I’m very humble and thankful for all the individual awards and all the individual records that I’ve broken,” Perry said. “But at the end of the day, if I could trade them all in to have a Horizon League championship, I would.”
Perry, the preseason player of the year in the Horizon League, will almost certainly finish the season as a three-time first team all-conference selection.
The average NBA player is 6-foot-6, so Perry’s size (6-foot, 175 pounds) put him at a disadvantage among draft prospects. Still, there were 16 players shorter than Perry’s listed height to start the NBA season, including All-Star point guard Chris Paul of the Clippers.
Perry’s explosiveness makes up for some his physical limitations, as do his long arms and vertical leap (41 1/2 inches, which is a half-inch higher than Julius Erving). And while he’s leading the conference in scoring (20.5 points per game), he’s also fifth in assists (4.1 per game) and second in steals (2.5).
“He has a level of foot speed that you have to have if you’re going to separate yourself at 6-foot or 6-1,” Slocum said. “And he has that ‘it’ factor for me, which is a little bit of that quickness, that explosiveness, the fact that he can get off the floor.”
The Horizon League has sent 29 players to the NBA, including five that are still active: Heat guard Norris Cole (Cleveland State), Clippers guard Willie Green (Detroit), Jazz forward Gordon Hayward (Butler), Hawks guard Shelvin Mack (Butler) and Kings guard Ray McCallum (Detroit).
Green Bay center Alec Brown will almost certainly make it 30 later this year. Perry would love to be No. 31.
“It’s really humbling when you hear guys talk about me being in the NBA,” Perry said. “Coach [Gary] Waters of Cleveland State said I was Norris Cole-caliber. It’s very humbling to be compared to a guy who, say what you want, he’s a two-time NBA champion. He’s not a bench-warmer. He’s a role guy, a solid point guard in the lead. So when you hear yourself being compared to that, it’s truly humbling.”
YSU has sent just one player to the NBA, Leo Mogus, who played for seven teams from 1945-51 in the BAA (the forerunner to the NBA) and the NBA.
Perry said his focus is on the team’s last five games. He’s only guaranteed five more games and he hopes to make the most of them.
I’m just trying to take everything one day at a time and try to finish out these last couple days strong,” he said.