Long Road To Success For Perry
By Emi Komiya
Arizona senior Jesse Perry hasn't always had it easy. But as a man that counts his blessings, he's not taking any moment or opportunity for granted as he embarks on his final chapter as a Wildcat.
"I've done everything I could do here and everything that I've been asked to do. I'm not done here. I still have a long road to go; it's not over yet. I'm definitely pushing myself to the maximum level to get everything that I want out of this because once it's gone you can't get it back," said Perry.
Perry has grown immensely as every stone he's laid on the path to Arizona has carried a struggle and a triumph. Now here, he's been using past lessons to help him work overtime on the court and in the classroom.
"I just skipped a lot of young stages in life and was forced to become an adult real quick," said Perry. "But it's helped me prepare to get to the place I'm in now. If I didn't go through the life I went through as a kid I don't think I would be in Arizona right now."
In his last season as a Wildcat, Perry 's presence on the court is crucial to the lineup. He's more than doubled both his minutes on the floor and his average points per game from last season. Adjustments as a result of injuries and other circumstances have pushed Perry into a role where he may not always be the bigger man.
"It's something that I know I have to do. I'm not a five man but I play that role because I have to do that for my team, I'm going to do whatever they need me to do," said Perry. "I mean my whole life is pressure. Growing up from where I came from. Every day is pressure for me. It's about big games and big plays and tougher guys that have really been through a lot and act the same through every game. Not letting the big lights affect you. I feel like that's the type of guy I've become. I step up to the challenge."
Perry's ability to thrive in high-pressure situations has helped him and teammate junior Solomon Hill to emerge as the leaders on a Wildcat team that, despite being young, has posed a real defensive threat in the Pac-12 this season.
"Rebounding and scoring are the two most important things for us to go out there and do," said Perry. "We try to stay on the same page with each other and try to get 10 or more rebounds, be in double figures and help our teammates in any way that we can. And those just happen to be the ways that we stand out the most."
Perry is the first junior college player to enter the Arizona program on scholarship since Lamont Frazier in 1999-2000. His debut in 2010-2011 slowly pushed him from a supporting role to the face of Arizona basketball. With the graduation of Derrick Williams and Jamelle Horne, the Cats were left to rebuild. Perry was thrust into the spotlight, starting every game so far this season and averaging 30 minutes on the court. Off to a rough start, the team has now reached a newfound confidence with Perry leading the pack.
"We never put our heads down and we kept going. And we stayed together as a team and that's the reason why he had the three good games we had and we stayed the same, did better in practice and did better as a team," says Perry.
Perry has become a fan favorite and finds himself more grateful than ever for the opportunity to not only graduate with a degree in business but also the chance to continue to play with the goal of providing for his nine-month-old daughter.
"[Having a child] is somebody that you have to live for and look after no matter what," Perry said. "And when you give things up for not only your team but your family I now would giver everything for her too. It's definitely a big boost of motivation. It's the hardest thing being away from her."
Motivation, confidence and the drive to achieve something great has left the team to depend heavily on Perry. He only hopes the hard work will pay off in the form of a championship, a diploma, and a shot at stepping on the court again.
"Definitely bumps and bruises here and there. But I'm doing fine, it's a part of the game and a part of life," he said. "When you work so hard you're going to have those up and down you just can't give up. I'm blessed. Things could be much worse for me, and I'm just the type of guy who takes life how it comes and try to make the best of it."
With the Pac-12 Tournament in sight and graduation day approaching, No. 33 is taking all the life lessons and moving forward.
"I'll be the first one out of my family to graduate from college with a degree," Perry said. "That's what I'm looking forward to is graduating. For my daughter, everything I do is for her."
As for his growing fan base, "Every guy wants to be the best. We have some of the greatest fans I've ever seen," he said.
"I'll just keep playing basketball and all I have to say is, 'Stay tuned.'"