Shared from the 3/8/2017 El Dorado  eEdition

El Dorado’s Czar ruling hardwoods


Terrance Armstard/News-Times

Acrobatic: El Dorado's Czar Perry goes up and under a Texarkana defender for a reverse lay-up in the 6A West Tournament championship game at Wildcat Arena. Perry and the Wildcats will take on Jonesboro in the 6A State Championship game Friday at 3:30 p.m. at the Hot Springs Convention Center.



According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of czar is the title of rulers or emperors of Russia from the sixteenth century until the Russian Revolution. The czars ruled as absolute monarchs until the early twentieth century, when a parliament was established in Russia. Czar can also be spelled tsar.

Czar Perry is not Russian but he has been El Dorado’s ruler on the basketball court. The 6-2 senior guard can be described as a powerful leader or even an administrator with wide-ranging powers.

In other words, a czar.

“I just know it’s a king from Russia. My daddy said he named me that because it’s a king name so I can just be myself, really,” said Perry, who takes his name seriously, especially when it comes to leadership.

“Especially out of all the years I’ve been playing high school ball, I’ve become a big leader this year. It’s been improving. I’ve still got a lot to improve on but, yeah.”

The young man with the unique name brings an equally unique game to the hardwoods. The point guard is equal parts long-range shooter, slasher, high-rising dunk wizard and no-look distributor. In this year’s class, El Dorado coach Gary Simmons said Perry is the best point guard in the state.

“I don’t think there’s a point guard in the state that’s any better than he is,” Simmons said. “Somebody is missing out. People will find out in a couple of years how much they’re missing out on.”

Perry, who has signed to play at Itawamba Community College in Fulton, Miss., leads the Wildcats with 21.5 points per game, 7.1 assists, 4.5 rebounds and 3.1 steals per game. Those numbers have propelled El Dorado to a 28-4 record and the 6A State Championship game against Jonesboro on Friday at 3:30 p.m. in Hot Springs.

Perry’s talent nor his numbers were enough to garner the attention of the powerhouse NCAA Division I programs, that he sought. He ended up selecting the junior college route so the basketball big dogs could take another look at him in a year or two.

“Somebody may just play a great defensive game on him but I have yet to see anybody in this state that can stay in front of him off the dribble,” said Simmons. “The way he gives the ball up. The way he passes. The way he draws two and three defenders to him and gives it up. When Ryu (Unice) hit that first one the other night, just draw everybody to him and kicks it out for a wide-open easy look. It’s the same thing he does for Daniel (Gafford). I think people are missing out on him.”

The coach made similar comments to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette after a game in the state tournament. Perry shrugged his shoulders.

“I just read it and go on because I already know everybody is just sleeping on me, right now,” he said. “I’m just gonna let ‘em keep sleeping. Something is gonna happen one day. I’m going to shock ‘em, one day.”

Like any Czar, Perry has lofty ambitions in the basketball world and the confidence to make those dreams a reality. In his career, he’s also had his share of critics, who questioned his shot selection and wondered how far the Wildcats could go with the ball in his mercurial hands.

“I hear it all the time but I know what I gotta do to help my team. When I’ve gotta take that many shots or whatever,” said Perry. “It motivates me a lot.”

“His sophomore year, the word out was that he was a showboat, didn’t care about anything but his scoring, didn’t play defense, wouldn’t give the ball up,” said Simmons. “He comes in last year when I moved him to point guard, he breaks the school scoring record, He breaks the school assist record. He breaks the school steals record. He pretty much shut down every little avenue where people said he wasn’t there.”

This season, Perry has led the Wildcats in scoring, assists and steals. He’s also drained 56-of-176

(31.8 percent) from 3-point range.

Overall, Perry leads the team with 521 total field goal attempts, 185 more attempts than Gafford, his 6-foot-11 teammate who has signed with the University of Arkansas.

Perry has shot a lot. Fans have screamed a lot. The Wildcats have won a lot.

“The thing about Czar, he might miss a shot here but he’s going to go down and get a steal. He’s going to knock a ball loose and get it back and he’s going to come right back at you and set somebody else up or he’s going to go score,” said Simmons. “With Czar, as explosive as he is and especially the scorer that he is, you take the good with the bad.”

In El Dorado’s 56-53 quarterfinal win over Marion, Perry scored 24 of his team’s points, which included not a single 3-pointer. With Gafford on the bench in foul trouble and Unice swarmed by the Patriots’ defense, Perry put his head down and drove to the basket. His free throw gave the Wildcats the lead with 1:01 left in the game. His on-ball defense led to a steal by Gafford with 10 seconds remaining. His defense on a 3-point attempt in the final seconds helped to secure the win.

“He’s instinctive and plays by the seat of his pants. He plays on heart and emotion. That’s the kind of kid you don’t rein in,” said Simmons. “I played for people who I had to look over my shoulder at every time I took a shot. I swore if I became a coach, my kids weren’t going to do that. I would teach them what was a good one and what was a bad one. It’s the same way with him. There is no reining him in. You can’t play like that.”

All season, the goal for El Dorado’s seniors was to win a state championship. El Dorado hasn’t won a boys basketball state title in 35 years, since 1982.

Czar, the ruler, the emperor knows he can’t simply shoot the Wildcats to the championship. He has to lead.

“Czar wants a ring and he’ll do whatever it takes to get it,” said Simmons. “If it takes giving the ball up to Daniel all night long, he’ll do that. If it takes setting Ryu up for threes, he’ll do that. If it takes locking this kid down and defending and stopping him, that’s what he’ll do.”

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