Working his way up

Kendrick Perry has dazzled Youngstown State University’s basketball fans more than a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Walt Disney World.

The 6-foot shooting guard from Ocoee, Fla., grew up in the shadow of nearby Orlando and the Disney mecca. Now, Perry wants to mystify the mid-major doubters as he starts play today in Orlando Pro Summer League with his hometown Orlando Magic.

The former YSU standout hopes to be another Horizon League player in the past few years to make the leap to the NBA, joining the likes of Miami Heat guard Norris Cole (Cleveland State) and Sacramento Kings guard Ray McCallum (Detroit).

Green Bay center Alec Brown was selected in the second round of this year’s NBA Draft by the Phoenix Suns, but Perry, who was undrafted, has to prove himself this week.

“I’m at a point now that I have to start from the bottom,” Perry said. “Just like when I was a freshman coming in at YSU, I had to make a name for myself. It’s the same way in the NBA.”

The Magic host the Orlando Pro Summer League, which runs through Friday. The 25-game, seven-day event will feature the Magic, Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, Detroit Pistons, Houston Rockets, Indiana Pacers, Memphis Grizzlies, Miami Heat, Oklahoma City Thunder and Philadelphia 76ers.

Perry is the Penguins’ Division I leading scorer with 1,991 career points. He also has school records with 246 steals, 123 games played, 115 games started, 4,184 minutes played and 504 free-throws made.

Perry also finished second all-time with 201 3-pointers made and third with 505 career assists. He ended his career third on the all-time scoring list.

Perry, who averaged 21.3 points per game last season, wants to be noticed by NBA scouts in hopes of finding a place on some team’s roster.

“The biggest thing is I want to have an edge to me, spark so to say,” Perry said. “I just want to be somebody who can be in there offensively and defensively. I want to make some hustle plays defensively and make the right plays offensively, whether it’s to get guys a shot or get myself a shot or defensive-wise, get a key turnover or stop.”

He said he’s not at all awe-struck by the current Orlando players and other high-level newcomers on the roster trying to win a spot on an NBA team, whether it be Orlando or with another professional team.

He’s been impressed with the leadership of former Indiana University standout Victor Oladipo, who is a mainstay on the Magic roster. The 6-4 shooting guard has the same mindset as Perry.

“He’s like myself, go out and have fun with everything,” Perry said. “Let the chips fall where they may. At the same time, be willing to be coached and everything should be fine.”

Perry has received plenty of support through his Twitter and Instagram accounts from former high school and YSU teammates and coaches.

“It feels good that no matter what happens you have a strong support system behind you,” he said.

His biggest support comes from his nearby home, where he spent July 4 after the final practice before starting today’s summer league. But is playing so close to home a blessing or a curse?

“I’m sure some people think it’s a curse because there might be some distractions,” Perry said. “If you ask my family, they say it’s a blessing. No matter where I’m at, I still have to go out and do what I have to do to go get a job. I try not to think too much. I’m still in my hometown. I’m still focused on what I need to do. The fact it is in my hometown, it is a little extra blessing. It’s extra motivation as well, too.”

If Perry reaches the pro level, he’ll be the second member of his family to be at the elite level – although it will be in a different sport. He’ll join his older brother Tre’, who played soccer for the University of South Florida. Tre’ played a year for the Columbus Crew in the MLS and is now on the BKV Norrtalje roster in Sweden.

“I still love to watch soccer as much as I love to watch basketball,” Kendrick said.

This week, he’s hoping his professional basketball dreams are one step closer to coming true.

“My goal in life is to have fun with everything and not take it all for granted because it could be taken from you in the blink of an eye,” Kendrick said. “As I go along the process and go with everything in my life, I want to have fun with it and just cherish everything about it.”