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Insider

Chris Perry fourth in-state recruit for USF

10/3/2012

ESPN 100 low post player Chris Perry from Bartow (Fla.) High has chosen the University of South Florida over UCF, Cincinnati, Temple, Miami and Tulsa.

This is a big get for South Florida ... literally. Perry stands at 6-foot-8 and weighs 245 pounds and possesses a 7-foot-4 wingspan. You just don't land players like that every day. Paired with center John Egbunu (Fort Walton Beach, Fla./Fort Walton Beach), who has been committed since December, the Bulls now have two ESPN 100 players and a front line that, as it develops, can compete with anyone in the Big East.

If you take a deeper look into the decisions by both players, it's worth noting that they play their high school basketball in Florida, which means South Florida's recent success and the hard work by coach Stan Heath and his staff on the recruiting trail is paying dividends in the state. All four of the Bulls' committed 2013 prospects play their high school ball in Florida.

Perry's commitment happened because the Bulls identified him early, zeroed in on him and made him a priority. In doing so they had to fight off dozens of programs but stayed the course and landed the post player.

"They were one of my earliest offers," Perry said of the Bulls. "I saw head coach Stan Heath at every one of my events. That meant a lot to me. Also I have a very good relationship with assistant coach Andy Hipsher. He recruited me hard."

Perry said he now feels like the weight of the world is off his shoulders.

"This is the biggest decision of my life so far," he said. "As the recruiting process went on, USF made it personal with me and I like that."

Perry brings to USF a legit center who can blossom into a power forward and be an adept passer. He possesses a shooting touch outside that few have seen because an injury to dominating big man Dakari Johnson, who Perry played summer AAU ball with, forced Perry to strictly play inside, focusing on scoring with his back to the basket with both hands and on being defensive presence by rebounding and blocking shots. But when Johnson was playing at center while healthy, Perry played at the power forward spot and displayed his driving, shooting and passing skills from the high post. A proven rebounder in his space, Perry must make an effort to move his feet to get misses outside of his area in the future.

In his early days in high school, Perry was a baseball pitcher. But as his high school coach Terrance McGriff says, "He was playing baseball as a pitcher, and good one, but we just knew he wasn't going to be Randy Johnson or Nolan Ryan.

"We could see the basketball developing, and once we told his mother, Delphinn Stephens, who is a fourth-grade elementary school teacher, that her son could get a scholarship playing basketball and not baseball, that's when he made the switch."

This past spring and summer he competed for AAU team Each One Teach One. The experience gave him a chance to get some much-needed exposure he wasn't going to with his high school team, as Bartow is a small town, and allowed him to size himself up against the best competition. Once he felt he could hold his own against the competition, that motivated him even more to work harder leading up to the start of the high school season.

Heath is the reigning Big East Coach of the Year, but the road has been long and hard for him. He and his staff are making more inroads in their backyard than ever before. The fruits of their labor are paying off on the recruiting trail, which usually translates to more wins on the court.