YSU basketball star Kendrick Perry headed for Australia
By Joe Scalzo
After a disappointing NBA summer league experience, Kendrick Perry’s basketball outlook boils down to a (soon-to-be) familiar phrase: “No worries, mate.”
“I’m 21 years old and my first job out of college is going to be playing basketball in Australia,” he said. “A lot of people don’t get that opportunity.”
The former Youngstown State standout will play for the Sydney Kings of the eight-team Australian National Basketball League. The three-time league champion is located in the country’s biggest city and plays a 28-game schedule that runs from October to March.
While he had offers from teams in Italy and Lithuania (where he would have played with former teammate Vytas Sulskis), Perry said Sydney’s culture and the level of play swayed his decision.
“It was a little bit of everything,” he said. “I picked the best opportunity for me.”
Perry, who grew up near Orlando, Fla., admitted he didn’t know much about Sydney, outside of what he learned from watching a “Modern Family” episode set in the city. (“I’m a ‘Modern Family’ connoisseur,” he said.) But he asked around and liked what he heard.
“Everybody I talked to said it was a really big city, a really beautiful city and it wasn’t too far from North American culture,” he said. “I’m excited to get started.”
After a record-setting four-year career at YSU, Perry went undrafted last month and signed with the Orlando Magic’s summer league. He appeared in just one game, scoring eight points in 14 minutes.
While he admits he’d still love to eventually make it to the NBA, it’s not his focus.
“I like to live in the present,” he said. “My big thing right now is preparing myself for the season in Australia. After that season, we’ll see where the chips are falling.”
Kings coach Damian Cotter said the team was impressed with his athleticism, his defense and his scoring ability.
“Importantly, Kendrick has also shown that he is of exceptional character,” Cotter said in a press release. “I believe he’ll be an ideal fit from a cultural standpoint, and while he is a young man and comes to us as a rookie in the professional ranks, he has shown from his early days in high school that he possesses great leadership ability.”
Added general manager Rod Harys, “He’s a real excitement machine on the floor who showed in college he can really fly and I think our fans are in for a real treat this season when Kendrick Perry takes to the floor.
“But what’s just as impressive is what he brings to the club off the court. He’s a great young man who fits our cultural and community values and we are really looking forward to welcoming him into the Sydney Kings family.”
Perry has already heard some jokes about kangaroos and Outback Steakhouse and he’s vowed that by the time the season is over, he’ll be able to mimic the Australian accent. But outside of the time difference, he doesn’t think it’ll be a tough adjustment.
“I’ve been away from my family for four years in Youngstown, so I think I’m ready,” he said. “I’m sure I’ll be nervous in a few weeks when I’m packing stuff, but right now I’m just really excited.
“I’m going do what I always do, which is cherish every moment, learn every day from my experience and try to develop more as a basketball player and a person.”
Between Perry, Sulskis, recent graduate Kamren Belin (who will play in Romania) and 2003-07 standout Quin Humphrey (who played in the NBA’s D-League), YSU basketball has a growing professional presence.
Perry thinks it will continue.
“I think it says a lot about the direction of the program,” he said. “I think it’s only going to get better.”