A year ago, a lot was unknown about Jesse Perry. What was understood is that Arizona would be getting a workhorse in the post that was a bit undersized, but made up for it with effort. The power forward ended up living up to the moderate expectations set for him at power forward and provided UA with a much needed presence alongside Derrick Williams, especially during the tournament.
Perry's numbers weren't flashy, but his production on the court cannot be denied. Now with a year high-level college basketball under his belt, the senior could be even more productive with how much he feels he has improved.
"I'm getting better," Perry said. "I actually know what I am doing now. My first game here, I didn't have a clue what was going on. Now I pretty much have an idea of what's going on. It's given me a great start with the offense and defense. I pretty much know everything."
There has been a fair share of roster turnover since the conclusion of last season. With a couple of key players gone and group of brand new freshmen, Perry hopes to retain the atmosphere that was previously established.
"I think the biggest challenge for us will be to keep that team environment," Perry said. "With four freshmen, just keep everybody on the same level."
It's hard to tell which of the four freshmen will wind up producing the most, but Perry has noticed that they have all come in with quite a bit of fire in them.
"All four of them came in with the same attitude," Perry said. "Different places, different personalities, but all came here for one thing – to come in and work hard and get to a championship."
Aside from the freshmen, there are several other players that must pick up the slack left behind by Williams and former starting point guard Lamont Jones. Perry isn't quite sure who will specifically step to the plate and isn't positive that it will be known until it happens on the floor.
"I can't say," Perry said. "We'll have to wait for the season to start."
From an individual aspect, Perry has put a lot of work into his game over the offseason. He is looking to open his game up more as he becomes more comfortable and is focusing on one area where he believes he can make more of an impact in the upcoming campaign.
"I think shooting," Perry said, "I am more of a spot-up shooter. I have been working on that a lot. Actually, I was doing that a lot in junior college. When I came here it was a different transition; a different role I had to get into. So, I have been doing that a lot - coming off screens and pulling up."
The senior big man knows that adding additional skills to his repertoire will only make him more dangerous on the floor.
"Being versatile is the best thing," Perry said. "Being able to bigger guys or smaller guys, I think that's the best thing I've got going."
A specific area most players tend to focus on at some point during the offseason is physical conditioning. The Wildcats are led in that area by strength and conditioning coach Chris Rounds, who is developing quite the reputation for turning his players into physical specimen. Perry acknowledges Rounds' presence on the staff as one of the primary reasons for Arizona's overall success and knows what he means to the Wildcats.
"Everything," Perry said. "Think about it - without strength you can't put the ball in the hoop, you can't dunk or get past your defenders. He is one of those guys that's able to push us to the max level and make guys way stronger, way bigger and a lot more confident."
When it comes to the game on the court, there isn't a bigger question surrounding UA than just who is going to replace Williams. There is still plenty of talent on the squad even without Williams and it is Perry's opinion that it will take a group effort to make up for what the former Arizona star player leaves behind.
"Basically anyone that's down around the rim," Perry said. "All of us have to come together and try to put in what Derrick put in and more."
When it comes to team goals, Perry's aspirations match those of his teammates. UA came very close to the big prize in the NCAA Tournament a season ago and Perry wants to take it even further in 2011-12.
"I want to win a championship," Perry said. "Junior college, I got a ring for that. I got a ring last year for the Pac-10, but I definitely want to get a (national) championship."
Perry working to improve
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