Date story published: Saturday, November 26, 2005
After Kentucky's practices this week, Bobby Perry put in overtime working on his inside scoring. Older brother Trans, an inspirational figure who lost 80 pounds since last season, interrupted his late-night workouts in Memorial Coliseum to serve as low-post competition.
His father, Robert, recalled the dunks Perry threw down as a ninth grader in AAU ball. "Why aren't you doing that now?" dad asked.
UK coaches demanded he make contested shots around the basket. That same message filtered through the constant background hum of Big Blue fandom.
Perry's response came in Kentucky's 81-51 victory over Liberty last night.
"That stuff is going to come out now," he said. No one asked if he meant a pun.
A first-half stuff dramatically showed that Perry meant business around the basket. As he took a feed from point guard Rajon Rondo along the baseline to the right of the basket, surely the 22,717 fans thought of Perry's miss at the basket in the final minute against Iowa on Monday. Would UK's basketball's Renaissance Man (he plays the piano and acted in high school theatre) miss another basketball moment of self-expression?
"I really didn't think of it," he said of the critical miss that helped doom Kentucky to defeat against Iowa. "I was just thinking of dunking and making it, no matter what."
With this give-me-Liberty-or-give-me-death attitude, Perry rose through retreating defenders and threw down a two-handed dunk. The shot gave UK its first double-digit lead, moved Perry past his previous career high (12 against West Virginia on Tuesday) barely 11 minutes into the game and onward to a 22-point night.
The miss against Iowa may not have flashed through Perry's mind as he neared the basket, but he acknowledged that it had been on his mind.
"Going into the West Virginia game (the next night), I told myself, I can't let that happen again," he said.
Enter input from Trans, who works at a Lexington drug store, and Robert, an attorney in Durham, N.C.
Then there have been UK managers and/or coaches to bang over-stuffed pads into the bodies of players who attempt close-range shots in practice drills.
"It's not about being the strongest," Perry said. "It's about getting it through the net
"Mainly," he added, "you just have to concentrate. Getting it through your mind, you've got to finish."
Coach Tubby Smith noted how Perry came to Kentucky as a tweener. At 6-foot-6 and about 200 pounds, he had been a low-post player for HIllside High School in Durham: Not skilled enough to be a perimeter player in college, not strong enough to bang inside.
"He's probably made the biggest adjustment of any player we've recruited in the last three years . . . ," Smith said. "He's been committed and dedicated to getting better."
A few moments later, the UK coach added, "We'd kid him about being a Phi Beta Kappa in the classroom, but not knowing the game."
In addition to the good-natured kidding, Smith hoped that practicing against Chuck Hayes the last two years would help toughen Perry.
"We always tell him, you banged against one of the best players in the country," the UK coach said. "You need to learn from that."
As for the perimeter, Perry made a career-high three three-point shots against Liberty. He made his first five shots, three from beyond the arc, and finished with career-highs in makes (eight), attempts (12) and three-point shots (five).
Renewed confidence explained this breakout game "a lot," Perry said. "That and experience. In the last few games I've gotten 20-some minutes. You get confidence and get in a groove. I think that's a big key."
Perry played a career-high 27 minutes.