UK Notebook: China trip a real learning experience for Perry

November 12, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

LEXINGTON - It didn't take long for Bobby Perry to answer when he was asked if he wanted to be part of an exhibition basketball tour in China last summer.

"The coaches came to me and asked I wanted to go on the trip," said Perry. "Of course I wanted to go on a free trip and play basketball for two weeks. It was an opportunity I could not pass up. I contacted my parents, they agreed with me and about two weeks later I was on my way. It was a great trip."

Perry thought the trip would help him improve his basketball skills. He figured any chance he had to play with and against different players could only improve his play this season at Kentucky. However, Perry learned a lot more than just basketball on his summer trip.

"The culture, just how different it is, was unbelievable," Perry, a sophomore, said. "Seeing how other people live in that world was just a lot different. We here in America are so blessed to live the way we do. I saw kids playing bare-footed soccer in the streets. It was just amazing to see how different it was. No one spoke English, either. That was a little different."


The cultural differences were as shocking to Perry as Georgia's win over Kentucky in Rupp Arena was last year.

"We had a 10-hour train trip to one of our games. The bathroom was a hole in the floor and you could see the tracks rolling by underneath," Perry said. "I had never seen anything like that."

He thought sometimes practicing in Memorial Coliseum here with no air conditioning could be bad. He found out what bad really meant on the trip.

"Memorial Coliseum can get pretty hot, but I had never played in anything like those gyms because of the smoking," Perry said. "It was blistering hot, no air conditioning and filled with so much smoke that it was hard to even breathe. It was a real experience, one I'll never forget. But more than anything, it made me appreciate all I have here."

His transition to college basketball was something of a cultural shock last year, too, in its own way. He played in 18 games, including 10 of the last 11, and showed signs that he could become a valuable contributor to UK's future success.

"High school was a piece of cake compared to here," Perry said. "The college level is a whole 'nother world. Coming from high school (in North Carolina) I had an advantage because my high school coach ran the same type of ball as Tubby (Smith).

"Our freshmen this year have tons of talent and everybody has improved since they got here. They are very intelligent, very smart, but it is still a big adjustment to the level of play here."

Because of Sheray Thomas' uncertain status due to his October surgery, Perry could find himself playing more power forward instead of his more natural spot at small forward this year.

"Actually, I grew up playing the post. Wherever the minutes are is where I want to play," Perry said. "I just want to play and think I can help at either spot.

"I definitely got stronger over the summer, and I've improved my outside shooting. I'm also smarter from having the experience I got last year. Plus, I also appreciate the opportunity I have here a lot more after going to China and want to make sure I take advantage of the opportunities I do have."

Scouting: Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury watched all four of UK's freshmen play while he was recruiting for his team and thinks the Wildcats have a special group.

"I saw them all play, and they are all very, very good," said Stansbury, a Kentucky native. "Joe Crawford is a big, strong, mature guard that can really shoot the ball and is very athletic.

"One thing that stood about (Rajon) Rondo is that you could not stay in front of him. I saw him play several times and no one could stay between him and the basket. It was unbelievable. He was about as good at getting to the basket and creating plays as you could find. No one is going to like playing against him."

Center Randolph Morris impressed Stansbury every time he saw him play or heard about his play.

"There's no question about the big guy. He's a top 15 player if he went to the NBA Draft. He's really a talented player," Stansbury said.

Guard Ramel Bradley impressed the Mississippi State coach with the way he could push the ball. "He's more athletic than most people realize," Stansbury said.

Stansbury warned Kentucky fans should not expect too much, too soon even from this talented foursome.

"It's very difficult to win championships with freshmen. I know Tubby has some of the best freshmen in the country, but there is still a learning curve even with guys that good," Stansbury said. "It's not about ability. It's more about the mentality of the college game and you can't change that overnight.

"But don't get me wrong. You would much rather have those talented freshmen than not have them because once you get that talent some experience, that's win you have a chance to be really, really good.

Visiting: Receiver-defensive back E.J. Adams of Suwanee, Ga, will be visiting Kentucky this weekend. Last week his high school teammate, tight end Ross Bogue, committed to Kentucky. However, Adams has an even bigger connection to the Wildcats - his cousin, tight end Eric Scott, plays for UK.

Adams, who runs the 40-yard dash in 4.55 seconds, also has a scholarship offer from South Carolina.

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