Mr. Football and Basketball: Pottsville’s Michael Perry is a familiar face to local sports fans

Shea Stewart Published October 27, 2013 at 5:00 a.m.
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Pottsville senior Michael Perry hopes he doesn’t get an opportunity to start defending the Apaches’ 2013 Class 4A boys state basketball championship until early December. That’s when the championship game of the Class 4A football playoffs is, and Perry, Pottsville’s starting quarterback and the River Valley & Ozark Edition Football Player to Watch for 2013, has got some unfinished business left on the football field.

Going into an Oct. 18 game against Dover High School, the Apaches were 6-0 overall and 3-0 in the 4A-4 Conference, and Perry said, “Football is going pretty great right now.

“We are trying to get better every week and not take any steps back. We’re playing with a lot of young guys. We are trying to keep improving.”

But Perry, who was selected as a member of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Preseason All-Arkansas football team as a defensive back, is finding time for the basketball gym even in the midst of football season. The 5-10 point guard said he has football workouts Sundays through Wednesdays, with Thursday as a day of rest, Friday as game day and Saturday as another day of rest. On Sundays and Thursdays, he works on basketball at home and the gym, even conducting basketball drills with his mother, a former college basketball player.

Juggling the two sports is something Perry is used to. Last football season, the Apaches finished 10-2, losing to the Prairie Grove Tigers in the second round of the playoffs. Following the Friday night loss, Perry was playing a basketball game on Tuesday.

When Perry does return to the basketball court, he and fellow senior Travis Cole will be the only two returning starters from last season’s Class 4A state championship team. But coach Shane Thurman knows that in Perry he has a cornerstone for building another successful basketball season.

“Michael combines great athleticism with intelligence, leadership and mental toughness,” Thurman said. “He can accelerate, stop on a dime, change direction and accelerate again as quick as anyone I have seen. He is strong, can shoot the 3 and has an outstanding mid-range game, but it is his approach and work ethic that set him apart and make him a complete package.”

Last season, Perry averaged 18.5 points, 5 assists and 3 steals per game, earning a spot on the third team of the All-Arkansas Preps basketball team. He was also named to the Class 4A All-State team and was named the Most Valuable Player of the Class 4A tournament. And then there was that state championship game, a thrilling 54-50 victory over the Pine Bluff Dollarway Cardinals in front of 5,853 fans at Little Rock’s Barton Coliseum. The championship was the first state basketball title for Pottsville as the Apaches finished the season 27-6.

With the bar set so high, Perry looks forward to basketball season and his last moments as an Apache athlete.

“We won the state championship last year, so expectations can’t get any higher,” Perry said. “This year our team is young. The only two returning starters are me and Travis Cole, a shooting guard. It’ll be tough at first, especially going on the road. A lot of the guys who will be starting are playing on the football team, and they’ve matured and grown up since this summer. They’ve changed completely. I think they’ll be better prepared just from football season. I feel like we could have a similar year like last year.”

Perry understands that the Apaches are counting on him to be a leader, and he’s worked hard in the offseason to improve as a basketball player, especially working on his 3-point shot. He’s also spent time working on his ballhandling skills.

Following the Apaches’ 2013-14 basketball season, Perry will once again turn to football. While he’s received basketball-scholarship offers from several Division II schools, Perry has his sights on playing football in college. Football Championship Subdivision schools, including the University of Central Arkansas, and Division II schools have offered him football scholarships, but Perry has larger dreams for his college football career. Both the University of Arkansas and the University of Missouri have expressed interest in adding Perry as a football player.

And once in college, Perry, who carried a 4.2 grade-point average coming into his senior year, knows he wants to major in biomedical engineering, having recently changed his mind from pursuing mechanical engineering.

“Really, biomedical engineering is kind of taking the same classes as mechanical engineering, but by the end of it, you are getting paid a lot more,” Perry said. “If I’m going to take the same courses, why not [go into biomedical engineering]? It seems like a job I can always be interested in and not get bored.”

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