When coach Orlando Antigua came in to meet the few players that remained on the roster after former coach Stan Heath left, he knew he had found a special player in sophomore forward Chris Perry.
“Once we got here and had a chance to work with him, I was really impressed with his ability and skill set,” Antigua said.
In his freshman season, the 6-foot-8-inch forward played at 266 pounds and said he was too slow to keep up with some of the quicker players, but is now ready to compete after losing 24 pounds.
He said he lost the weight by watching the quantity of what he ate and changing how he ate. Perry said Antigua’s workouts also helped expedite the process.
“If I would go to the cafe or something, I would go three times,” Perry said. “Now when I go, I can eat enough once and I have better eating habits, adding vegetables and fruit to my diet more.”
The slimmed-down sophomore said his new physique will change how he plays the game, especially by making him more effective on defense.
“I think it will allow me to play more and I definitely won’t foul as much,” Perry said. “Last year, I was a lot slower; I couldn’t get into the right position. I’m more
The motivation to lose weight came from Antigua, who told him that in order for Perry to be an effective player, he would have to be able to keep up with the rest of the team.
The decision for Perry to slim down was aided by the sophomore’s motivation to expand on his game and be able to be quick enough to move out of the post.
“Meeting with him and asking him what he wanted out of this experience, and him wanting to extend his game, we put the challenge to him about changing his body,” Antigua said.
Senior guard Corey Allen Jr., one of the three remaining starters from last season, said Perry’s new build is exactly what the Bulls’ new up-tempo play style calls for.
“When we’re playing fast, we’re going to need a big that can run the floor with us to contest shots,” senior guard Corey Allen Jr. said. “So him slimming down is going to fit in real well with how we’re going to play this year.”
Part of being out of shape for his freshman season came from not knowing what to expect at the collegiate level. Perry said while he was expecting to play against top-tier talent in college, he wasn’t physically ready for the game because of how easy it was for him to dominate in high school.
“(Was it easy to dominate) in Polk County? Of course,” Perry said. “We didn’t have a lot of competition, but I like the training we’re getting now because it’s preparing me for what’s coming this season.”
Last season, Perry hit a freshman slump in mid-February. The forward scored eight points or fewer for three weeks after scoring at least 10 points in 17 of 24 games.
“It was harder than what I expected, but at the same time, I knew going into college that I was going to have to go against A1 players every game,” Perry said. “So that freshman slump kind of hit me. It all comes from learning the game and experience.”
Perry said the frustration of going through a slump has only given him more motivation to become a more versatile player. This new mobility and versatility is leading Perry to extend his game beyond
“I’ve been focusing on dribbling and being able to work from the perimeter so now I won’t be limited in the post,” Perry said.
Allen said that from what he’s seen in practice, Perry’s added outside shot will be a reliable weapon that can open up the offense.
“The bigs will have to come out and guard him so it will give more space for the guards to drive,” Allen said.
But adding an outside shot didn’t come easy to the forward. Perry said he will come to the practice facilities at least two to three times per week around midnight to put up 500 shots.
“It all comes down to confidence and putting in work after hours,” Perry said. “But I know I have to put in that work if I want (junior guard Anthony Collins) to pass me the ball.”
Perry’s transformation as a player has already garnered national attention. Sports Illustrated ranked the forward as a top-five candidate to breakout in his sophomore season.
“My whole mindset is just to get better as a team and the individual accolades always just seem to fall into place when your team does well,” Perry said.
But USF faces a difficult challenge in turning around a team that went 12-20 last season and lost all but three players who saw the court.
The Bulls were ranked eighth in the preseason coaches’ poll for the AAC and Perry said that’s only added motivation.
“I didn’t like that too much,” Perry said. “Seeing that people think of us as number eight, it gives us a drive because we have something to prove this year.”