ANAHEIM, Calif. - Exactly one year ago today, Jesse Perry was so transfixed by his recruiting visit to Tucson that he committed to play for the Arizona Wildcats, on the spot.
One year later, Perry finished his junior season having started 25 games, making the last probably his best performance of the year.
"I wouldn't have imagined," he said. "But with hard work and dedication and having a great coach like we got, it's possible."
If the Wildcats had a surprise contributor through most of the season, it was Perry.
He played more minutes, combined, than the rest of the team's other newcomers - Jordin Mayes, Daniel Bejarano and Robert Arvizu, the last two of whom totaled 37 minutes.
He scored more than Jamelle Horne, whose power forward starting role he took after 13 games, and recorded more rebounds than anyone not named Derrick Williams.
"You think about the difference in last year's team and this year's team," UA coach Sean Miller said. "Jesse Perry was a big difference for us."
The senior-to-be from John A. Logan College saved his best game for his last.
Against Connecticut, Perry made 7 of 9 shots - all layups or dunks - and finished second on the Wildcats with 14 points.
He helped pull the UA back into the game. The Wildcats trailed by seven at halftime, but Perry made a left-handed layup, a dunk and another left-handed layup to force a Huskies timeout with the score 34-31.
Later, a Perry dunk gave the Wildcats a 53-52 lead.
It was no coincidence that Perry's effectiveness came with Williams on the floor. The Huskies, like other UA opponents, sagged defenders toward Williams.
When they're covering spot-up shooters, Perry is the last priority for defenses.
"They step off a lot, you know," Perry said. "It hurt them, because I'm real aggressive.
"I can shoot the shot. I attack aggressively on back screens and picks."
Perry slipped open on back screens the whole game long.
"He put himself in situations to score," forward Solomon Hill said. "His man was really standing up. I got him for a back screen and he was standing underneath the basket."
Perry's game reminded Miller of the UA's previous outing.
"Jesse, like he did against Duke in the beginning of the second half, seized control and just played really hard," Miller said.
After that game, Perry was so hampered by a left hip pointer - first aggravated against Texas - that he limped through the locker room while his teammates celebrated.
The St. Louis native did more than score throughout the NCAA tournament. He was scoreless against Memphis, before adding four and five, respectively, against Texas and Duke.
Perry averaged five rebounds per game in the NCAA tournament, 1.5 per game on offense, to help a team that was undersized in comparison to three of its four postseason opponents.
Then, Saturday, he scored his second-most points in a Division I game. Against Robert Morris on Dec. 22, he had 16.
Still, Perry was somber Saturday.
"We're here - we just didn't finish it out," he said. "But that's the nature of the game. You win some, you lose some."
Through one year affiliated with the Wildcats' program, Perry is winning.
"It's the best game I played this year, but it's not the best for me," he said. "It's still to come.
"I've still got a whole year. My senior year."