Freshman Perry arrives as a 'Dog

By: Bob Holt
Published: Friday, February 15, 2019
Mississippi State forward Reggie Perry (1) dribbles past Mississippi forward KJ Buffen (14) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Oxford, Miss., Saturday, Feb. 2, 2019. Mississippi State won 81-75. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
Mississippi State forward Reggie Perry (1) dribbles past Mississippi forward KJ Buffen (14) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Oxford, Miss., Saturday, Feb. 2, 2019. Mississippi State won 81-75. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

FAYETTEVILLE -- Reggie Perry finally will play a game in Walton Arena when Mississippi State faces the University of Arkansas basketball team on Saturday night.

Arkansas fans would have preferred to see Perry, a 6-10, 245-pound freshman forward, in Walton Arena since the start of the season and in a Razorbacks uniform.

Perry, a McDonald's All-American and consensus five-star recruit, committed to Arkansas in August of 2016 before his junior season at Thomasville (Ga.) High School.

A little less than a year later on July 5, 2017, Perry announced he was decommitting from Arkansas. Two weeks later he committed to Mississippi State, and he signed with the Bulldogs in November of 2017.

"He's a skilled forward that rebounds the ball well and can score and passes the ball well," Razorbacks Coach Mike Anderson said on Thursday. "A good basketball player -- and he's playing really good right now."

Perry is averaging 14.5 points and 9.3 rebounds in 30.1 minutes over the last 4 games against Ole Miss, LSU, Kentucky and Alabama since Mississippi State Coach Ben Howland put him into the starting lineup for the longest stretch this season.

In the Bulldogs' first 20 games, Perry made just four starts.

"I played AAU ball with Reggie for a long time," Arkansas freshman guard Isaiah Joe said. "We're real close friends."

Perry played on the AAU Arkansas Hawks with Joe and two other Razorbacks freshmen -- guard Desi Sills and forward Ethan Henderson -- as well as guard Justice Hill, who signed with the UA in December and is practicing with the team.

"It was unexpected when he had a change of mind," Joe said of Perry switching his commitment from Arkansas to Mississippi State. "But I'm happy for him and I wish the best for him.

"Going into the game there's probably going to be a lot of emotions in the air, so you've just got to play hard."

Instead of Perry playing inside along with Arkansas 6-11 sophomore forward Daniel Gafford, the two will go against each other on Saturday night.

"I've seen Reggie Perry play," Gafford said. "I haven't seen him lately at Mississippi State. I hadn't really been paying attention to it, but I heard he's doing some pretty good things and we've got to be ready for him when he comes to Bud Walton."

Gafford, asked about Perry's decision to decommit from Arkansas, said recruiting is a process.

"I guess he didn't feel this program was what he needed, so he decided to go somewhere else," Gafford said. "I can't blame him for that.

"Sometimes your mind changes. I'm not going to knock on his head for not coming here. He would have been a great addition to this team, but he decided to go somewhere else.

"I haven't really gotten the chance to get to know him as much as probably I wanted to, but I met him once and he's a real good kid."

Perry was asked about his recruiting decision during a recent interview with the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal.

"I just wanted to do what was best for my family and also do what was best for me, too," Perry told the Tupelo, Miss., newspaper. "I felt like Mississippi State was one of the best places.

"It means a lot to me and it meant a lot for Coach Howland to even offer me a scholarship to come here to play basketball and continue the legacy like my dad.

"I grew up watching college basketball and being around it because my dad was a college coach, but I did grow up liking Mississippi State."

Perry's father, Al, was a point guard for the Bulldogs from 1975-78 whose 510 assists rank third on Mississippi State's career list.

"He's real proud of me and tells me that a lot," Perry said of his father.

Anderson didn't want to say much about Perry flipping from Arkansas to Mississippi State.

"He's at Mississippi State," Anderson said. "A commitment is one thing, but when he signed, he signed with Mississippi State."

In 24 games this season Perry is averaging 8.9 points and 6.5 rebounds. In 11 SEC games he's averaging 10.5 points and 7.8 rebounds.

"I think he's a double-double guy," Howland said after Perry had 21 points and 11 rebounds in Mississippi State's 81-75 victory at Ole Miss on Feb. 2. "I think he can be a guy who can consistently go out and get you a double-double night in and night out. That's my expectation for him moving forward."

Howland said among Perry's strengths is his ability to catch or grab the ball.

"Phenomenal hands," Howland said. "Some of the best gloves I've ever seen on a player. Anything that's in his area, he's going to snatch it."

Perry is shooting 51.0 percent from the field (77 of 151) and his hit 8 of 32 three-pointers. He's shooting 70.3 percent (52 of 74) on free throws.

"I think he's just getting more comfortable with the program and things we need him to do," senior guard Quinndary Weatherspoon said after Mississippi State beat Ole Miss. "He embraces that role. He's getting his confidence up."

Joe provided a scouting report on his close friend Perry.

"He brings a lot of energy to the floor no matter what he's doing," Joe said. "He's always going to go after that extra rebound, go for the loose balls as a big man, and you don't really see that that much, but he'll do all the little things.

"He's very skilled, so we've just got to play to his weaknesses."

What are Perry's weaknesses?

"I think I'm going to keep that a secret," Joe said. "We've just got to go through it as a team.

"Everybody has a lot of weaknesses, so we have to point those out so we can stop them in a game."

Sports on 02/15/2019

UP NEXT

Arkansas men vs. Mississippi State

WHEN 7:30 p.m. Saturday

WHERE Walton Arena, Fayetteville

RECORDS Arkansas 14-10, 5-6 SEC; Mississippi State 17-7, 5-6

SERIES Arkansas leads 33-28.

TELEVISION SEC Network

RADIO Razorback Sports Network

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