Losing an all-time great

YOUNGSTOWN – Kendrick Perry’s season has come down to a one-and-done scenario.

The Youngstown State University 6-foot senior guard knows full well that tonight’s first-round Horizon League Tournament game at sixth-seeded Oakland could be his last as a Penguin.

The seventh-seeded Penguins (15-16, 6-10 Horizon League) will certainly miss him, especially YSU coach Jerry Slocum.

Perry was asked at a recent news conference about how much Slocum has meant to him.

“He’s a great guy,” Perry said. “He’s been with me since Day 1. He’s the man.”

The two exchanged a hug as Perry left.

“KP has been a treat every day from his freshman year – coachable, likeable personality. He means the world to me,” Slocum said,

Just as he has to YSU’s program. Perry has 1,956 points in his career, ranking him third all-time behind Tony Knott (2,218) and Jeff Covington (2,424). Covington was drafted by the New Orleans Jazz (Pelicans) in 1978.

After this year’s YSU win over Cleveland State, Vikings coach Gary Waters had high praise for Perry – comparing him to his former player, Norris Cole. Cole plays for the Miami Heat.

“It’s truly humbling,” Perry said. “You think of a coach like coach Waters. He’s seen some great talent at Cleveland State. A guy like Norris Cole, his resume speaks for itself. Two years in the league and he’s a two-time NBA champion.”

YSU assistant coach Michael Wernicki said Perry has the skills to get to the next level, but the question is will that be enough?

“There’s a big difference between playing at this level and playing at that level or any pro level because now it’s on you,” Wernicki said. “Kendrick has all the qualities to be able to do that, without a doubt. He’ll go as far as he wants to go.”

Perry knows his game must improve to be seen as even a free-agent prospect in the NBA.

“I have to sharpen up my game every day. I know it’s a process,” he said. “Things can’t get done overnight. As long as I stay consistent, as long as I stay dedicated, I think results will speak for themselves wherever I end up. As long as I’m playing basketball, I’m living out my dream.”

Perry has come a long way from his days at Edgewater High School in Orlando, Fla., where his junior year was almost wiped out with one bad break. This one was on his left tibia, which required surgery that night.

He missed all but a few games that season and ended the courting of schools like Ole Miss and LSU as well.

“The funny thing is it happened with a minute left to go in our first preseason game,” Perry said. “I just went up for a layup and I heard something pop and then I came down. I couldn’t get up.

“Later, the doctor told me I jumped with so much force the muscle tendons kind of just took my bone and just snapped it. Freak accident.”

He fully recovered and bounced between playing on 16-and-under and 17-and-under AAU teams. The 17 team had New Orleans Pelicans player Austin Rivers on it. Perry played on the U-16 team to get more exposure. Perry added he played with Milwaukee Bucks guard Brandon Knight as well.

“Seeing how they compete day in and day out, it definitely helped me along the way,” Perry said.

Slocum and Wernicki made a commitment to Perry prior to his junior year, coming to several AAU games.

“It really showed to me how committed they were to me,” Perry said. “Doing both the 16-and-under and the 17-and-under can be difficult at times. Just seeing them there, being committed, just checking up on me every game, it meant a lot to me.”

It came down to William and Mary and YSU for Perry’s services.

“Because he’s such a good student, there was an academic fit there,” Wernicki said. “It’s no knock on Kendrick.

“Your junior year is the worst year, in this day and age, that you could be out because that year people lose track of you. They don’t see you in the summertime. That’s how kids fall through the cracks.”

Perry, a criminal justice major, carries an overall 3.46 GPA. He would like to join the FBI after his playing days as a profiler, similar to the work you see on the show “Criminal Minds” – getting into the minds of serial killers and arsonists. He was named to the 2013-14 Division I Men’s Basketball Capital One Academic All-America Second-Team.

Perry, the preseason Horizon League Player of the Year, averages 20.9 points per game.

“But the one thing I do know is if it doesn’t work out in the NBA, he’s going to play as long as he wants overseas,” Wernicki said. “He’s going to make enough money to set himself up. Then, he’s going to have a great career in the FBI or whatever he decides to go into with his criminal justice major. He’s not going to be one that’s going to be short of opportunities when he gets out of here.”

He’s been the best YSU player since Covington and someone Slocum will not soon forget.

“When God created the thought of intercollegiate athletics, there was a picture of that dude in there,” Slocum said.