VandalVenue.com Spotlight: Coach Perry

"Individual workouts can start as soon as school starts but official practice won't start until October 15th. We're going to have Midnight Madness at the Memorial Gym and hopefully the student body will come out and be supportive and we'll have a good time."

Former Vandal Basketball player and present Head Basketball Coach Leonard Perry is glad to back in Moscow. With recruiting over until next year, Vandal fans will be anxiously awaiting the start of the new season. Coach Perry recruited some needed height to the team, bringing in 3 players at 6'8 as well as bringing in some skilled point guards.

Last year the team had to develop a game plan that suited the team's lack of height, slow and deliberate. This year expect different. You should see 3 guards on the floor, any of who can move the ball up the floor as well as forwards who can either play inside or outside.

Congratulations go out to this year's seniors. All four are graduating.

VandalVenue.com: As far as recruiting needs after last season, what were your needs and did you meet those needs?

Coach Perry: I felt like we had needs across the board in terms of quality play on the perimeter and in terms of guys that are more skilled. Our skill level really needed to improve. I think we've done that Vandal88, I'm not sure. Just from a stats point of view we've done it but what they will do at this level, as you know, you've got to show up everyday and get it done. I like the group of kids we've added and thought the biggest needs this year was to get some size but along with the size we needed to get a certain amount of skill level. We've addressed that for the most part, obviously we would like to have 13 full scholarships players and we can't do that with the restrictions we're under in the way we inherited the program, but I think we addressed quite a few of our needs in terms of quickness, athleticism, size, and rebounding ability.

VandalVenue.com: In terms of college basketball what players tend to be the hardest to recruit?

Coach Perry: There's a premium on big men with skill. There are not a lot of them out there. That's why you see in the NBA draft some guys get drafted so high and you don't think they should go as high. You can't teach height and there's a premium on it. If guy's and good motor skills and can run and move and catch they're going to have a chance to make money at some point after their college careers. It's really that simple and they may not be the toughest or the best but there is a premium on size.

VandalVenue.com: In a league like the Big West can you have successful seasons taking in a lot of JC players or is it generally more critical to get players at the freshman level and have them develop up through the system?

Coach Perry: I think that depends on your contract. If you've got a 10 year deal and you can afford to take kids in your program as freshman and allow them to develop and adjust to your philosophy and grow with your program, sure. If you don't have a 10 year contract in today's day and age you can be bought out anywhere at any level. They're firing high school coaches now for not winning enough games. For me personally, we will always have experience with JC players. I don't think we have an over abundance of it. We have to us use JC players quite a bit right now because we want to become competitive at an earlier stage rather than late but in saying that we will have 5 freshmen in the program. We're exited about the direction we're going. The combination of JC's and high school kids coming in is going to be good. It allows us to retain some kids and be in the program for a long time and be good Vandals down the road. I know this year, unfortunately, Tyrone Hays got hurt but was able to redshirt. He will have been here 3 years but he'll only play 2 but he will graduate from our program and he's a JC kid. Obviously I'm very fond of JC players we've had great success with them everywhere I've been and the majority have gone on the be graduates. I'm a junior college player myself. I know the rigors of it and I understand the impact they can have on a program. Our biggest challenge is to make sure we get the right ones.

VandalVenue.com: Speaking of recruiting how is Davis Radlovic progressing?

Coach Perry: It's coming along. It's slow. It's funny you asked, is it better to get some high school kids, we want to get our program to the point we're supplementing our program with some JC players and not supplementing our program with high school kids. I think we've already overcome that with the amount of kids we have in our program that are coming out of high school. That many hadn't been there at one time in a long time.

David's progress is coming along, it's slow and he's developing. He's got a great shooting touch but he doesn't understand yet how physical this level is and until he really gets a feel for the speed that we play at this level and the physicalness needed at this level, his development is going to take some time. We're really happy with his progress although we need him to come a much faster pace. I'm really happy with what David has done. He's really adjusted in the classroom and we really understand where David is because 4 years ago David was in Croatia. That's where he was born and raised. The language barrier for him is not as easy as he portrays. You really need to take extra time to make sure he understands what you are saying and we've done a better job of that as a staff and I think that's helped his progress. He's really made strides, but during the year we got him in December and we were going so fast we really didn't have the time to stop and say, "Do you understand". It was a quick romance for him, a baptism by fire if you will.

VandalVenue.com: Going back to JC's, from my limited basketball knowledge, can a JC player help the younger players with some of their experience just having played at a different level than high school.

Coach Perry: You know, I think that they can. Our jobs are difficult in the sense that you're trying to gauge the character of a high school kid or a JC kid in about a 4-month evaluation period. In the evaluation period you are only allowed to evaluate 3 times and have contact twice. Now you can talk over the telephone once a week throughout the recruiting process but talking over the telephone does not give you a full perspective of a person's character. That's why sometimes things don't work out. It's not an exact science; no one's perfected it. It's tough to be able to evaluate what a kid will be like in stressful situations and in practices, away from home, an on the road. It's something we try to do a good job at and obviously there will be bumps in the road. We pay attention to it, we really do.

VandalVenue.com: How's Jack May progressing?

Coach Perry: He's finishing up school; he'll have about 6 hours to take in summer school. He's doing well. I really like him. I like his attitude.

VandalVenue.com: What is his exact position?

Coach Perry: He's a 4 that can defend a 5. He's a real good defensive post player but he can also step out on to the floor offensively and can really pass the ball well. He's got a good feel for the game, tough kid. He likes to play.

VandalVenue.com: Where is he now?

Coach Perry: He's at CSI. He was a great get for us. Out of high school he signed with Duquesne, which is in an upper mid-major conference, the Atlantic 10. He had games where he started as a freshman. He had great games against Temple and Xavier. He's played in some really tough environments and excelled. We're looking forward to a lot of leadership from Jack. It'll be new to him and there will be some new challenges, but he'll be up for it.

VandalVenue.com: Do you expect the general overall talent level to be much higher than last year?

Coach Perry: Yes. And in saying that I'm not knocking the kids we had last year, I love those kids. They gave our University everything they had and they laid it out on the floor every night. Obviously the scores did not turn out in our favor too many times but we always gave ourselves a chance.

VandalVenue.com: Starting out last year did you expect to have to change your game plan to slow down the games or is that something that just evolved during the season?

Coach Perry: When we originally started out the season I thought we would be able to get up and down a little more and our skill level would improve even more as the season went along. When practices began I was very nervous but I also thought it was something we would play through as a team. I guess I was hoping them to be better skilled players than what I was seeing and they didn't. But what they did is they turned into great listeners and they were able to execute our game plans and really cause a stink for our opponents in the way we had to play. We had to slow the ball down, we weren't very deep, we weren't great shooters, we were a set play orientated team, and we had to execute it to a T to get a good look at the basket. And a lot of time we got great looks and we weren't able to knock them down, but they were good shots. We routinely shot in the 30's percentage wise. You know, what do you say? I'm proud of them. I wouldn't trade then for the world, I really wouldn't and it was the first losing season of my career but I wouldn't trade those kids for the world.

VandalVenue.com: But you did end up going the Big West Tournament. Did you expect to get there?

Coach Perry: It was one of our goals. I was so happy for the kids that they were able to achieve it and it was for them. We had 7 kids and 5 of them played on the team prior to me getting here and they weren't able to make it. This year they won more games and were able to make it and it was a neat experience for them. They got go to Disneyland and see what going to the tournament was all about. It's about playing basketball in March and at that particular time you have a chance to win a National Championship, as crazy as it sounds, going into the tournament. It was a great experience for our players, program, fans, and community.

VandalVenue.com:Will that be a huge motivation going into this season?

Coach Perry: No question. It will definitely be another goal. Our biggest goal is to improve from eighth place, we're not satisfied with that and we want to finish better than 8th place. It's going to be difficult. Our league is a very good league. We had 4 teams win 20 or more games and 3 of them played in the post season. One of them played in the NCAA tournament and almost beat Arizona in the first round and this was a team that the Vandals beat. We have quite a few things to be proud about and I like the direction our program is heading in.

VandalVenue.com:How has the 8/5 rule impacted college basketball?

Coach Perry: It's turned it upside down. There's a kid in this state I would have offered a scholarship to under the old rules and there's another one in Washington. I wouldn't have thought twice about it. I'm still recruiting the young man from Washington as a walk-on but it's changed everything it really has. And retention in programs has become the number 1 priority. You just can't bring kids in anymore, and they leave, and you replace them. These kids need to work out because it damages your program. They changed the rule for 1 year, you can't give anymore than 5 scholarships the first year and no more then 4 the following year but that's only for 1 year then it goes back down to the 8/5 rule. It kills a program when they make a change and a new coach comes in because he inherits not only those who have left the program because they were disgruntled and want to get out but he also inherits the situation where you have 8 scholarships to fill. Well, you can only fill five. Three are going to be burned.

VandalVenue.com:Why did they NCAA do this?

Coach Perry: Their intentions were in the right place. There were some coaches that would bring kids in and the kids would play for a year and then the coaches would run them out and bring in a new set of players and that was killing graduation rates.

VandalVenue.com:So if I didn't like you as a player I could just get rid of you?

Coach Perry: Yea, just bring in a new guy. This was killing graduation rates. Kids were leaving programs and not graduating. I see the intent but when there's a change in the staff, there has to be some exceptions and there has to be exceptions made when one coach loses 4 kids to the NBA in one year, that will devastate you.

VandalVenue.com:Or a player decides to leave on his own Fruition?

Coach Perry: Yes, and you know that the University of the Pacific who was in our league this year, Bob Tomilson had 8 seniors. They all graduated. That devastates his program. He will have to burn 3 scholarships. You can only fill 5. That hurts because Bob Tomilson is doing the right thing. Guys are graduating. He just happened to have 8 kids who were seniors. The kids played hard, graduated, and represented their University well, yet the coach gets penalized. It's not fair.

VandalVenue.com:So are we full up on scholarships now?

Coach Perry: Yes, in the sense we've signed 4 and will sign 1 more so that will give us our 5.

VandalVenue.com:When do you start practices in the fall?

Coach Perry: : Individual workouts can start as soon as school starts but official practice won't start until October 15th. We're going to have Midnight Madness at the Memorial Gym and hopefully the student body will come out and be supportive and we'll have a good time.

VandalVenue.com:I think you've brought excitement back into the program.

Coach Perry: :I hope so, we're working hard. We have 3 Vandals on the staff. We just lost Donnie Tyndall but the next young man we bring in will be a great addition to what we're doing.

VandalVenue.com:So he hasn't been hired yet?

Coach Perry: :No. We're going to take our time and make sure we have the right guy.

VandalVenue.com:Sam Jackson redshirted this year right?

Coach Perry: :He couldn't practice, he was a student only but he could condition.

VandalVenue.com:Do you think you'll work him at guard?

Coach Perry: : I'll play him at the 2/3 slot. One of those, second guard or small forward. He'll play back and forth between those 2 spots.

VandalVenue.com:You use a point guard right?

Coach Perry: :Oh yea, it's a 3 guard offense. We would like to get to the point where the 1,2, or 3 are interchangeable; any one of the three can bring the ball up the floor.

VandalVenue.com:When you have a 3-guard offense do you want a 7-foot center?

Coach Perry: :If it was a 7 footer that was very mobile and really skilled, sure but not a 7 foot heavy guy. We've never had one in my experience. And we played teams that had one and we beat them. When I was at Utah State we played against Michael Olakandi and we beat them every time. It's not a necessity to win at a high level. If we could find one that was really good I'd take him but we won't take a 7 footer just to take a 7 footer.

VandalVenue.com:Did Tenoris Shepard get a chance to play?

Coach Perry: :He practiced all year. He's a very talented young man. I think that Tenoris doesn't understand the level of maturity that is needed at this level in order to get his tremendous talent to prevail at this level, but talent-wise he's as good as any player in the league. He's got some maturing to do and that takes time.

VandalVenue.com:When you say maturing do you mean patience?

Coach Perry: :Yes, just patience and realizing when things go bad it's only temporary, the world's not ending. Kids out of high school, when things go bad for 2 or 3 possessions, they tend to fall apart. We're going to go through some freshman blues but I think by January once he figures things out and understands that there will be highs and lows he really has a chance to make an impact.

VandalVenue.com:Is he a point guard?

Coach Perry: :He's a point guard that can play the 1 or the 2.

VandalVenue.com:VandalVenue.com: David Radlovic, I know you're pretty happy with him?

Coach Perry: :He's making improvements. He doesn't understand how strong you have to be at this level but I love his skill level and I really love the progression he is making. The language barrier, because he is originally from Croatia, everyone thinks he's from Canada and he's not, he just finished high school there. He's really trying to grasp what we are teaching and he's doing a good job. He's making progress.

VandalVenue.com:He looks like he is really athletic.

Coach Perry: :Yes, he really is.

VandalVenue.com:What's the biggest asset that Jackson will bring?

Coach Perry: :His athleticism and quickness defensively. I hope that Sam gets his self to the point where he is a guy that can guard anybody on the floor and shut them down. Right off the bat, those are the thing I'm looking forward to although I haven't had the chance to coach him so we've got a lot of catching up to do.

VandalVenue.com:What's Tenoris' biggest asset?

Coach Perry: :Offensively he can go thru stretches where he is the best player on the floor against many different opponents at all levels including PAC 10 type of talent. We'll be able to put the ball on the floor with Tenoris and he can get his own shot.

VandalVenue.com:What's Radlovic's biggest asset?

Coach Perry: :I think it's going to take just time and experience. He's going to have to go through a trial by fire if you will and get in there and we're going to have to live with mistakes.

VandalVenue.com:Is he in the mold of a Tony Kukoc, meaning a big play who tends to play outside more often than not?

Coach Perry: :Yea, he's in that mold and we need to get him Americanized more and get him to understand how physical this level is and he's really going to have to be able to guard in the post and rebound far better than he does right now.

VandalVenue.com:Are you looking at him more as a small forward?

Coach Perry: :He's going to have to be a forward that can play the 5. Power forward or center type of position.

VandalVenue.com:Is Travis Puckett going to be on the team?

Coach Perry: :Yes. Travis is on the team. He did a great job for us in practice last year last year. He's a hard working kid. I love him to death. The team's talent has picked up on the perimeter so he has his work cut out for him earning minutes but whatever minutes he earns he's going to play and that goes for all these kids. Nobody's guaranteed anything. If they don't show up and earn it they're not going to play. All the spots are wide open.

VandalVenue.com:You said all 4 of the seniors this year are graduating?

Coach Perry: : Yes.

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