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The hand that guides Gonzaga

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Gonzaga’s senior point guard Josh Perkins is having himself a career year at the right time.

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NCAA Basketball: St. Mary’s at Gonzaga James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Josh Perkins, the Gonzaga Bulldogs’ senior point guard, quite possibly is the least talked about major player on the team. It is bound to happen, considering the starting rotation features the likes of potential first round draft picks in Rui Hachimura and Brandon Clarke, as well as the big time shot taker of Zach Norvell Jr.

Perkins, also known as Perk, is the fourth leading scorer on the squad, averaging 10.4 points per game in the nation’s highest-scoring offense. Although he might not directly produce the most offense on the squad, he does facilitate the team, and if you want to point at any player and nod at Gonzaga’s success this season, Perkins should be first in line.

At some point in the next week or two, Perkins will break Matt Santagelo’s Gonzaga record of 668 career assists, set in 2000. Perkins currently sits at 648 career assists. Perkins also has a very good chance to break Santagelo’s Gonzaga single season record of 225 assists. Perkins currently has 170 assists on the season, and he is averaging a career-best 6.8 assists per game.

Perkins has always had amazing court vision. The question early on was whether or not his teammates had the same ability to see five steps ahead. Often times, this turned into dumb turnovers. Perkins was deemed turnover-prone, despite the fact that during the two seasons of 2015-16 and 2017-18 season, when he was the only primary ball handler on the roster, he averaged two turnovers per game—the same number Nigel Williams-Goss averaged in the 2016-17 season.

People would say that those stats don’t reflect eye test, that Perkins passes would be bobbled and the turnover would land on someone else’s stat line. Perkins, who was thrust into a freshman starting guard role without any sort of seasoning or help in the 2015-16 season, established, justifiably with his play, a preconceived notion of his flaws as a basketball player, and those notions have dogged him ever since.

Just last week, The Athletic posted an anonymous coaches’ thoughts post, and low and behold, here is what some unknown WCC coach has to say about Perk:

I’m not a fan of Josh Perkins, man. I don’t think you can win at a high level with him. He’s got guts, but he’s not a pure point guard. He’s prone to have a bad one at the wrong time. Late in the game, he wants to take over and he’s streaky. He can make four or five in a row, but he can turn it over twice and miss three in a row.

This is coming from a coach who has watched the Gonzaga Bulldogs annihilate their conference foes at an unprecedented level. In 19 of the Zags 25 games this season, Perkins has committed two turnovers or less (10 games with one turnover or less). This season, as far as bad games goes, Perkins has had two: a win over Illinois (when he was the only option at point guard), and the loss at North Carolina (in which Gonzaga as a team lost that game). In the past four games, he has an assist to turnover ratio of 4:1.

Somehow, Perkins, who will go down in school history as one of the best passing point guards, is not a true point guard, because.....?

The point being here that in the game of basketball, you can’t rely solely on stats, in the same way you can’t rely solely on the eye-test. For those of us who have watched the Gonzaga Bulldogs all of these years, we have been waiting patiently for this sort of season to arrive from Perkins. At the beginning of the year, we stated this team would go as far as Perk could lead them. Right now, that is looking like quite the distance.