USF freshman forward Chris Perry may have been a three-star prospect according to Rivals.com and Scout.com in the 2013 high school class, but Bulls coach Stan Heath said Perry had “Conference Player of the Year potential” before his freshman season began.
While American Athletic Conference (AAC) Player of the Year probably isn’t realistic this season, Perry has been named AAC Rookie of the Week four times as he posted 9.6 points and 5.8 rebounds per game, both are third among USF players.
Like Heath, USF senior forward Victor Rudd realized Perry’s potential, and has taken the 6-foot-8, 266-pound, big man under his wing to an extent.
Rudd said he tries to speak with Perry as much as he can, and pass along anything he’s learned from former USF players, something that has helped him already, Perry said.
“He looks for me on the court,” he said. “I really appreciate playing with him.”
But there was a time when Rudd forgot Perry’s real name, because everywhere he goes, people call him ‘Skippy Walnuts,’ Perry said.
“Over at the athletics building they said ‘Chris does this’ and Victor said, ‘Who?’ They said ‘Skippy,’ then he knew they were talking about me,” Perry said.
“Skippy Walnuts” wasn’t a nickname given to him by a relative, guardian, or friend. It’s a name he adopted in honor of a friend he built a bond with through video games.
“I played PS3 online all the time,” he said. “I had a friend about five years ago named ‘Skippy Walnuts’ when I was playing Call of Duty, back when I had no life. I played with him every day. Then about two years ago, he stopped getting online to play and I never talked to him again. He was one of my best friends. It’s kind of like an ‘RIP’ thing because I don’t know where he is now. But that was his PS3 ID, and I took it because he was real cool.”
With a nickname like Skippy Walnuts, Perry was bound to be a character. Rudd said Perry and the freshmen keep the team laughing all the time, something that has helped the team stay loose while they reached 10 wins in 16 games, two shy of last season’s total.
Aside from his personality, Perry has given the Bulls a low post offensive threat. His .577 shooting percentage from the floor is fourth in the AAC. In comparison, legendary NBA big man Shaquille O’Neal shot .573 from the field in his freshman season at Louisiana State University.
Rudd said low post scoring is rare from a freshman.
“A lot of people don’t come in as a freshman with a post game,” Rudd said. “If he keeps developing I can see him
playing at the next level.”
And by ‘next level,’ Rudd means the NBA, where Perry said he looks up to traditional big men.
“I like Tim Duncan, for his fundamentals,” Perry said. “I want to model my game as a DeMarcus Cousins type of player or a LaMarcus Aldridge who can do everything: shoot, rebound, score and defend. Cousins is my favorite player right now.”
Duncan, Aldridge and Cousins are known to knock down the 15-foot jump shot, and Perry said he shoots
jumpers in practice quite a bit in hopes of improving his
mid-range shot, but said he hasn’t shot from that distance in a game yet because he doesn’t want to miss.
“The coaches know I can make the shot, but I just feel like we have a better chance with Victor Rudd or someone else shooting,” he said. “But I’ll get the confidence soon and start shooting.”
Perry said he’s noticed tall players in modern day
basketball like to shoot from long distance, whereas Perry, a more traditional low post scorer, likes to battle in the paint.
“When they shoot from long distance they forget what their real position is, as in going in the post and getting some points inside,” he said. “I don’t want to be a 4-man who shoots threes and forgets that he’s a low post player. That’s what I see a lot — big men who learn to shoot threes and never go in the post again. I want to be able to do everything but know that my bread and butter is in the post.”
Perry said he started playing physically in his senior year of high school. Prior to that, he was a finesse player.
Rudd may have had something to do with the change.
“I mentioned something to him when he was here (at USF) for a tournament,” Rudd said. “I said, ‘Man, you’re playing soft.’ He said ‘OK, watch this,’ then he came out and dominated.”
Perry said getting bigger and stronger is partly responsible for his eagerness to get physical near the basket now, and so far, it’s working out for him.
As Perry adjusts to college life, he’s learned that it’s all about time management, but he still doesn’t get much sleep staying true to his gaming roots from years ago.
“We have an Xbox One, and it’s never off,” he said. “Between that and homework and coming in here to the gym, there’s not too much time for sleep.”
Perry and the Bulls play at SMU on Wednesday at 7 p.m.