Fifteen minutes before the end of a recent Sunday afternoon practice, Holy Cross Guard Ronnie Perry (above) missed a shot. It was no big deal and the scrimmage went on, but everyone in the gym knew what Student Manager Pat Padden whispered to a latecomer on the sidelines: "That was the first shot Ronnie missed in almost two hours." It was also the last he would miss that afternoon.
Perry was merely the best freshman guard in the country last year. He had a 23.0 scoring average, shooting 50% from the field and 88% from the foul line, which he visited more often than all but one of the top foul shooters in the country. And he committed just 45 turnovers in 25 games, and he had the ball a lot.
"You look for things Ronnie does wrong, just to make sure he's human," says Coach George Blaney. "No, we haven't found anything yet." Not only is Perry the coach's kind of player, but so are all his teammates, whose basketball comes straight from a textbook. The defense is intrepid, forcing turnovers that allow the Crusaders to score on the run. The set offense is patient, almost archaic, with careful passes, picks and cuts. In a game last year against Manhattan, 31 of Holy Cross' 33 field goals came on layups. "Of course, it makes coaching easier when your top seven players have grade-point averages over 3.0," says Blaney.
Unselfishness helps make Blaney's life more pleasant, too. Though Perry ran the show for Holy Cross last season, he neither had the most assists nor took the most shots, which is proof that this is no one-man show. In fact, Blaney would have you believe that Perry is not the Crusaders' best player. That distinction, he says, belongs to 6'8" Chris Potter, who is about as complete as a player can be. How often does a forward lead a team in rebounds (9.7) and assists (5.4) while averaging 19.1 points on 52% shooting? Then there is Forward Michael Vicens, 6'5" on tiptoe, who was the leading scorer the two seasons before Perry arrived. Now Vicens is content to terrorize the opposition's best big man, as he did while holding Michigan's Phil Hubbard to one first-half basket in the Cross' 92-81 season-ending loss to the Wolverines in the Mideast Regional.
The action might not have ended then had Perry played in that game. In fact, after exhaustive research, it turns out that tearing an ankle ligament four games earlier was the only thing Perry has ever done wrong.