Player Spotlight: Darius Perry
Hometown: Marietta, GA
Whenever there is a coaching change, it’s a little more difficult for some players to adapt to that. The player that seemed to struggle the most last season to grasp Chris Mack’s system was Darius Perry. His defensive mindset fit more the style of, oh I don’t know, Rick Pitino. And there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s who he came to UofL to play for.
He plays aggressive and goes for steals on and off the ball. What I mean by an “off the ball” steal is when a pass is coming to your guy, you try to steal it, rather than trying to steal it when he already has it. The problem with going for that off the ball steal is that when you miss it, you take yourself out of the play and put your teammates at a disadvantage. Not to mention it’s just not in the gameplan for the packline defense. So doing your own thing and putting your team in a bad spot does not work well.
It wasn’t just a struggle on defense for Perry last season. After scoring in double figures in the first three games, he didn’t reach double figures again until the final two games against North Carolina and Minnesota. Mixed in there were eight games where he did not score at all. There was also a six-game stretch in February where he only played 10+ minutes twice. For the season, Perry averaged 5.4 points, 1.5 assists, and 1.2 turnovers in 16.4 minutes per game.
I say all of that to say this…Darius Perry could be one of the more important players on the team this season. We have seen the flashes of what he can be. He can score. His freshman season had some people calling him “Russ” because of his fearlessness when driving to the basket. Plus wearing #2 helped that narrative. He can shoot the three. He can be an excellent on-ball defender with his quickness. So we know it is there. The question will be if he has adapted to the entire system. If he is asked to be the primary ball handler, can he look to distribute and not force the issue that leads to turnovers? On defense, can he play team defense and do his job instead of trying to always make the aggressive play? If he can do these things, this team will benefit immensely from having that veteran presence on the floor and not having to force a freshman to play significant minutes if they are not quite ready.
I will also say this about Perry. In those games last season where he wasn’t playing well or playing much at all, I definitely remember him still being one of the biggest cheerleaders from the bench. If a timeout was called, he was one of the first guys on the floor to greet his teammates. There is a lot to be said about that, and you won’t find any of that when you look up stats or season previews. If he spent this last off-season focusing on cleaning those things up that I mentioned and just changing his game up a little bit to fit the rest of the team, it will be a major boost for the Cards this season.
Let’s wrap it up with this. In the last three games of the season against Notre Dame, North Carolina, and Minnesota, Perry averaged 9.6 points, 3.3 rebounds, 3 assists, and 0.3 turnovers per game. He shot 10-21 (47.6%) from the field and 7-14 (50%) from three. Strong finish.