During his time at Gonzaga, Josh Perkins has been the most scrutinized player on the team. Despite his unequaled success and often spectacular play there are still fans, a seemingly decreasing number, who still question his abilities. His four seasons are the stuff of legend; missing his freshman tutelage by Pangos and Bell thanks to the “ain’t that a kick in the head” Kenny Gaines incident. The Big 3 “throw Karno the entry pass, oops he’s out for the year” next season when the offense had to be retooled as the season progressed. The backseat, role-player year alongside Nigel Williams-Goss. Then finally last season’s first team All-WCC campaign with his gaudy offensive rating of 120.3 and an assist to turnover ratio of 2.53 to 1.
Barring an injury, Josh Perkin’s will end the season as the winningest guard in Gonzaga history and could possibly pass Shem Karnowski as the winningest player in NCAA history. His team’s have competed in at least the second weekend of the NCAA tournament for four straight years. Oh yeah, this year’s squad will the highest ranked in the preseason. Love him or hate him, you can’t argue with his success.
Even with his former backcourt mates Pangos and NWG become millionaires this past summer after signing big contracts in Europe, Josh is returning for his fifth season. His off-season shoulder surgery and subsequent rehab made returning a logical choice, but no doubt Josh has built enough goodwill in his time at Gonzaga that some European team would have offered him a contract if he chose to go that route. Also by returning, Josh may be counting on another year of improvement and a deep Zag tourney run to result in a possible NBA contract. He certainly has the tools.
His jump shot (when it goes) is a thing of pure beauty. Think about two of Gonzaga’s best 3-point shooters; Kevin Pangos and Kyle Wiltjer. Both had incredible strokes, but both were more comfortable receiving the ball in a position to shoot. Not Perkins, he’ll pull up from a fast dribble 22’-25’ feet from the basket and drain the trey. When he gets hot, like he did against North Carolina or last year against Texas and Ohio State, he’s unstoppable.
Josh averaged 5.3 assists per game last season and this year’s team appears to have a more potent offense, at least on paper. Once again the Zags will have seven or eight players or can lead the team in scoring on any given night and the team averaging 15 or more assists per night is very possible. I wouldn’t be surprised if his assist numbers improve this year and as always, some will be spectacular.
What about the mistakes though? The sloppy play albatross was hung around Perkins neck his redshirt freshman year. That was the year Karnowski went down after five games completely throwing the offense into disarray. Facilitating a new offense fell squarely on Perkins’ shoulders. He tried too hard, made some terrible mistakes and received little help from Melson, Draino and Emac at the beginning of that season. Remember freshman Bryan Alberts starting 11 games? Perk and the rest of the team improved dramatically as the season progressed and the comeback the squad made that season, winning the WCC, the WCC Tournament and reaching the Sweet 16, was one of the most satisfying in recent memory. He’s continued to improve in ball handling and judgement in every subsequent season. Sometimes, it just doesn’t seem like it and here’s why.
Perk’s turnovers come in bunches. He had six in the loss at San Diego State, five in the Villanova loss and four against Texas including the horrible inbounds pass that almost cost the game. Those games were anomalies, exceptions to the rule. He played 28 games last season with 2 or less than turnovers, 15 of those with 1 or 0. The bottom line is he takes care of the ball with a few notable exceptions.
Everything I’ve read has said his shoulder is rehabbing properly and he should start the season at 100%. Let’s hope that’s the case because Perkins led the team with 32.9 minutes played per game last season. The team did noticeably sputter when he wasn’t on the floor, a situation Geno Crandall was hopefully going to prevent. With Crandall’s status uncertain, Perkins may be called upon to play even more minutes.
To paraphrase Spiderman’s Uncle Ben, with spectacular play come spectacular mistakes. Expect Josh to make a couple of errors this season forcing you to contemplate tossing a remote at your TV screen. Also look for eye-popping passes, incredible shooting, frustrating inconsistencies and last-minute drama. Josh probably enters the season among the favorites for WCC Player of the Year and could possible be one of the country’s best point guards. He’s been a great student and sports writers seem to love guys who stay in school so earning All-America is not out of the realm of possibilities. Whether he achieves these lofty goals or not, one thing is for certain. Watching Josh play never has been and never will be boring.