Easygoing Perry going hard in new role

2010-12-23T00:00:00Z 2014-07-02T12:15:56Z Easygoing Perry going hard in new rolePatrick Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
December 23, 2010 12:00 am  • 

There was no formal meeting held to tell Jesse Perry he would start.

Instead, the Arizona Wildcats junior college transfer was moved onto the first team in practice Tuesday, a preview of Wednesday night's starting lineup in a 82-56 victory against Robert Morris.

The meeting was reserved for Jamelle Horne, the forward whom Perry replaced.

Perry rewarded coach Sean Miller for the move against the Colonials, scoring 16 points and grabbing four rebounds in a mere 19 minutes.

The St. Louisan, quiet and easy to smile, will be the first to say that starting doesn't mean much.

"I'm just going out there every night, whether I'm starting or on the bench, to pick my team up. …" he said. "It's basically the same thing."

Miller knows better.

"No player, if they're being honest, will tell you that starting doesn't mean something to them," he said.

The coach categorized starting as a reward for the team's best day-in, day-out players. Perry's confidence - not to mention his knack for getting fouled and getting rebounds - edged him closer to the nod over the past few weeks.

Meanwhile, Horne's confidence, Miller said, was falling.

Guard Kyle Fogg praised Perry not for his statistics - although he has set career highs in points the past two games - but rather for "the things they don't keep stats for."

Setting screens is one, and fighting through them is another.

"He plays hard," said UA forward Derrick Williams, who led all scorers with 17 points. "We didn't have that last year. He brings that to the way we're playing right now."

Perry will keep his starting job when Pac-10 play begins, Miller said. The coach is intrigued by Perry's 40 free throws this season, the second-most on the team despite he's eighth in minutes played.

"He gives us another aggressive player out there," Miller said.

Perry's affable nature helps him fit in. Perry spoke of befriending his teammates after transferring to the UA from John A. Logan Community College, where he averaged 17 points and 10 rebounds.

"Once I got on the court, it was like chemistry right off the bat," he said.

Fogg said he and Perry "connect out there on the court," no small feat for someone who didn't commit to the UA until March 29.

Miller said the coaching staff believed that Perry's quiet demeanor would help him fit in as a role player. Perry admits he could have transferred to a school that had promised him more minutes or a starting position.

"I wanted to come somewhere where I have an opportunity to play with big-time players," the 6-foot-7-inch forward said. "The opportunity to get to the highest level, to play the toughest teams. …

"I found that at Arizona. I wanted to really go somewhere where it's a challenge for me every day at practice."

Fundamentally, Miller's rotation minutes are changing.

Horne played 17 minutes - only about two short of his season average - Wednesday after playing only seven because of foul trouble Sunday at North Carolina State.

Perry's 19 minutes were about five more than his season average; he logged 20 Sunday.

"My confidence is up a lot," Perry said. "I always had confidence in myself. Just being productive, and my team finding me."

This much is sure - entering Pac-10 play, Perry will play more than ever.

"Jesse's role is continuing to grow," Miller said, "whether he's a starter or not."

On StarNet: See more photos from the game at azstarnet.com/gallery

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