Senior Vashnie Perry catalyst behind UMass success

  • UMass senior guard Vashnie Perry dribbles against Hartford in the second quarter, Nov. 17 at the Mullins Center. Perry has sparked the Minutewomen to a 4-1 start in Atlantic 10 Conference play. J. ANTHONY ROBERTS

Staff Writer
Published: 1/21/2020 9:51:21 PM

AMHERST — When Vashnie Perry returned to campus from the holiday break, there was something different about her.

Everything from the way she carried herself to her demeanor was just slightly better, as if the time at home ignited a spark under her. It was one of the first things UMass coach Tory Verdi said about Perry after the Minutewomen’s 86-43 blowout of Southern Connecticut State in their first game back from the break.

But as a senior point guard, Perry knew what it meant for college basketball players when they come back to campus from the holiday break – conference play.

“Everything right here counts more than ever,” Perry said. “All the details count more than ever, every single good shot, bad shot, you have to move on and we need to have a positive mindset now more than ever.”

The start of Atlantic 10 play has brought out another side to Perry’s game, which has helped spark the Minutewomen to a 4-1 start in the conference. At the beginning of the season, Perry took on more of a scoring role and finished in double figures seven times in 13 games. But she hasn’t had to score as often in conference and started to focus more on her role as a distributor.

She’s tied for fifth in the conference with 4.2 assists per game while leading the conference with a 5.3:1 assist-to-turnover ratio. And when she isn’t being credited with an assist in the scorebook, she’s helping her teammates in other ways.

“She makes us go, she’s getting everyone in position and she’s a leader on the floor for us,” Verdi said. “We need her to have that energy and focus and want to each and every single game. I feel like her passion and her commitment from the break has definitely been better.”

“She brings a lot of energy and she pushes and motivates us,” junior guard Bre Hampton-Bey added. “She brings that edge where it’s like ‘Let’s go, get it together right now.’ She doesn’t let any one of us slip up and she’s always keeping us on our toes.”

Perry is comfortable scoring if required and already has a pair of 15-point performances in conference action. Yet when she’s not scoring, she’s finding other ways to contribute whether it be with assists, steals or rebounds. Through 18 games, she’s already surpassed her totals in every single major statistical category from last season when she played in 28 games for UMass.

Where Perry exerts most of her effort changes from game to game, but she said it’s always based on how that particular game is progressing. If she knows she has to be more aggressive on offense herself, she’ll do it with the same gusto as she would give on the defensive end should the Minutewomen need that from her.

“I never go into a game saying I need to score 50 points,” Perry said. “If I score 20 and that helps us win, that’s great. If I get 10 steals and that helps us win, that’s what I’m going to do. I just need to do whatever it takes to get that dub with my team.”

Verdi said he had hoped Perry would develop into a leader for UMass when he recruited her as a midyear transfer from Florida Atlantic after her first semester there. What he knew from her tape is that she could score points and she was very tough, but he said it took Perry some time to adjust to life in Amherst. It started to click for the Norcross, Georgia, native toward the end of last season and it’s burgeoning into a career year as a senior.

“We knew she was a scoring guard, tiny but mighty,” Verdi said. “We saw a lot of that from her when watching film, and it just took a good year for her to really adjust to our expectations and how we do things here at the University of Massachusetts. It’s just going and giving 110 percent each and every single day. A lot of times players want it to be easy, and I don’t think she hadn’t figured that part out. There was a maturation process for her there and now she’s figured that out.”

The clock is ticking on Perry’s collegiate career as there are just 12 more regular season games for UMass (14-4, 4-1 Atlantic 10), starting Wednesday at 5 p.m. against VCU (9-8, 4-0), the preseason conference favorite, at the Mullins Center. Perry wouldn’t say the end of her career altered her mindset, but she admitted it is definitely at the forefront of her brain every time she puts on the UMass jersey.

“That definitely crosses my mind every single day,” Perry said. “Just give it my all every single day and I’ll have no regrets after this.”




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