Kendrick Perry’s YSU career one to remember
By Joe Scalzo
After wrapping up argu ably the best career in Youngstown State basketball history, Kendrick Perry — the man with the hashtag “NoDaysOff” on his Twitter biography — did something he didn’t expect to do this soon.
He took a few days off.
“I honestly just put the ball down for a couple days,” he said, speaking by phone Monday from his hometown of Ocoee, Fla. “Just to give my body some time to heal and my mind some time to heal.
“It’s tough. On TV, it seems like all everybody talks about this time is March Madness and to think that our conference championship is tomorrow, and I’m not playing in it, it’s definitely upsetting.”
Perry earned first team All-Horizon League honors for the third straight year and all-defensive team honors for the second straight year, but he never reached his ultimate goal: advancing to the NCAA tournament.
After a 4-0 start, the Penguins finished 15-17, with losses in eight of their last 10 games. Four of those eight losses were by two points or fewer, and two came in overtime, including a 96-92 defeat at Oakland in the quarterfinals of the league tournament.
“We definitely put ourselves in position to win all those close games,” said Perry, the league’s preseason player of the year. “It just seemed like for whatever reason we weren’t in sync all 40 minutes. You look at the Cleveland State game [a 70-69 OT loss] and it came down to a crucial turnover. You look back at the other games and there was missed layups or missed communications or a missed box-out.
“Those little things pile up over 40 minutes. So we were kind of the cause of those close games and we weren’t able to pull through.”
After freshman Marcus Keene broke sophomore Ryan Weber’s nose in practice in early February, YSU essentially played with a five- or six-man rotation for the season’s final eight games. Weber missed two games with a broken nose while Keene, one of the team’s top reserves early in the season, was suspended for the final eight games. (He is not expected to return next season.)
But when asked if fatigue played a part in the team’s finish, Perry said, “No, I don’t think so. I feel like I would have been able to see fatigue with the players, but I just didn’t see it out there on the floor. It seemed like everybody was still fresh. It seemed like everyone was giving 100 percent. It was just those little plays that really affected the outcome of our season.”
While YSU lost its only tournament game, the Penguins proved they could play with almost anyone in the league. They split the season series with Wright State and Milwaukee, which played for Tuesday’s league tournament title, and beat five of the league’s eight teams. They played two other teams tough, losing to Valparaiso twice by a combined five points with the three losses to Oakland coming down to the final minute.
“I think seeing Milwaukee and Wright State in the title game just shows how special the Horizon League is and how balanced it is,” Perry said.
Perry, who will graduate this spring with a criminal justice degree, is now focusing on his professional career. While undersized at 6-foot, his explosive athleticism and diverse skill set should give him a chance to become just the second Penguin to play in the NBA. (Leo Mogus played for seven teams from 1945-51 in the NBA and the BAA, the forerunner to the NBA.)
“I’m just taking it one day at a time,” said Perry, who plans to sign with an agent soon. “Right now, I’m still at home with my family [for spring break] and I’m not trying to think too far ahead in the future. I’m approaching it ... I don’t want to say cautiously, but somewhere along those lines. It’s a process and I understand that. The work isn’t done in a day or a week or a month, so to say. There’s a long commitment there.”
Perry holds YSU’s Division I scoring record with 1,991 points — he missed four games with a knee injury last season, costing him the chance at 2,000 — and holds the Horizon League’s career steals record with 246. He also finished with more than 500 assists and 500 rebounds and was named a second-team academic All-American this season.
“When you talk about legacy, there’s so many great players that came through YSU before me, so just to hear my name mentioned with some of them is truly humbling,” Perry said. “When people are coming up to you saying you’re probably the best player to play on a college campus, that’s truly humbling.
“At the end of the day, I just want my fans and supporters to know I’m thankful for them and I’m very grateful for the opportunity I had at YSU. Not a lot of people are blessed to have the experiences I’ve had and it’s not something I take for granted. I cherished every moment of it and even though it didn’t end the way I wanted it to, I still had a great time and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”