Sean Miller


Life moves a bit slower in Carterville, Ill., than Jesse Perry and Lazeric Jones grew up being used to.

There were basically two choices that Perry, the Arizona forward from St. Louis, and Jones, the UCLA guard from St. Louis, had for leisure when teaming there at John A. Logan College for two seasons.

Go back to the gym, or go home.

They did a lot of both.

"There was really nothing to do," Jones said Monday. "We'd just go back to our apartments and hang out all night."

Often, they'd hang out after going back to the gym to work on their games, which improved enough for both to transform from low- to mid-major prospects out of high school into starters for Pac-10 teams.

"They'd be there at 10, 11 o'clock at night," said Logan assistant coach Kyle Smithpeters. "They both came in with minimal recruitment but worked hard and did the things they needed to do. Both kids were concerned with doing better and, 'What do I need to do,' rather than question authority.

"It's no shock that (Perry) and Zeek are successful."

Their efforts began to pay off last season. Jones averaged 14.5 points and 5.7 assists, and Perry averaged 17.0 points and 10.0 rebounds for Logan.

The stats weren't the only clue they were heading somewhere else, either.

The other was that, at one game, UCLA coach Ben Howland found himself sitting near two other high-profile visitors.

"Sean (Miller) was there with his brother, Archie," Howland said of the UA's coaching brothers. "And you could see that (Perry) was going to be a good player."

Coaches on their level did not bother watching - much less offer scholarships to - either player in high school.

Perry arrived at Logan with just 179 pounds on his 6-foot-7-inch frame, needing work academically and on the court, Smithpeters said.

Then there was Jones, who was an academic qualifier but lacked the stats to blow away college recruiters earlier in his high school career.

Part of his problem was that, until his senior year, he played at Simeon Career Academy behind a guy named Derrick Rose. It's the same Derrick Rose who took Memphis to a now-vacated NCAA title game and became the No. 1 overall NBA draft pick in 2008.

Jones "played in a bit of a shadow, and really didn't get as much time as he could have," Smithpeters said.

So while Jones excelled in an expanded role at Logan, Perry took care of his classwork. He also gained about 20 pounds and added skills to a game already measured in toughness and passion.

"He was a very good athlete, and he played hard," Howland said.

Meanwhile, all those late nights off the court forged a strong bond. Jones said he still texts Perry regularly and calls him one of his best friends.

Perry was not available for interviews this week, but Jones said he knew during their first practice together that they would become friends. Their body language and actions on the court immediately spoke louder than words.

"It was just the way he plays," Jones said. "He just plays hard, and he's always working."

Smithpeters said that's the norm at Logan College, which sent eight players to Division I last season.

Guys come in looking for a major college offer and don't stray much from that mission.

"It was a very close-knit group," Smithpeters said. "They were here for two years together and stayed over the summer (after their freshman year). They were good kids who got along well. When you have a common interest in wanting to win and get better, it's easy to."

The end result of that goal will be on display Thursday during an ESPN2 telecast that is likely to reach some homes and basketball offices back in Carterville.

Perry "has really been a great addition to what we're doing, like Lazeric Jones has been to UCLA," Sean Miller said. "There's not too many high school or junior college programs that are going to have a starter on UCLA and Arizona in year one when they both arrive on campus. I'm sure those guys are going to be very excited to watch the game on Thursday."

Rim shots

• Miller hit all 25 free throws to advance into the round of eight in the ongoing "Shots From the Heart" charity free-throw competition. Miller defeated Duquesne's Ron Everhart, who made 22 of 25, and will face either Holy Cross' Milan Brown or Drake's Mark Phelps in the West Region final next month.

• UCLA center Josh Smith (head injury) and forward Reeves Nelson (sprained ankle) returned in limited form to practice Tuesday.

• Miller said guards Kyle Fogg (upper respiratory issue) and Daniel Bejarano (flulike symptoms) have returned to practice, after Fogg was ill during last weekend's trip to Washington, and Bejarano did not go at all.

• Miller is scheduled to meet with the Zona Zoo student fans this evening. "We want them to know that their impact is really felt," Miller said.

Up next

• What: UCLA at Arizona

• When: 7 p.m. Thursday


• Radio: 1290-AM, 107.5-FM, 990-AM (Spanish)