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Perry’s hardcourt return boosts Cazenovia College hoops turnaround

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CAZENOVIA - It may have taken a few years, but the Cazenovia College men’s basketball program is benefitting from the talents of former Massena Central standout Matthew Perry.

Now a senior, Perry opted not to compete for the Wildcats in his first two years due to personal reasons. He made the decision to resume his scholastic playing career before the start of the 2011-12 school year and quickly emerged as a team leader in what turned out to be a turnaround season for the Cazenovia cagers.

“I was only 17 when I first starting going to school here and it was a huge change. There were some other things going on but more than anything, I was homesick and I had to step away from basketball for a little bit,” said Perry, who is slated to graduate with a degree in elementary education this spring.

“I missed playing so much but I always wanted to stay involved with it. I still practiced on my own whenever I could in the gym. I had my own training program, lifting weights and doing drills. I played intramurals and I played summer league with friends back home. I guess I always had it in the back of my mind that I’d play (for Cazenovia) and I wanted to be ready,” he added.

Perry, a three-year varsity player at Massena where he helped lead the Raiders to three straight Section 10 Class A titles and the Overall Sectional Championship as a senior in 2009, was recruited by more than a dozen schools including Cazenovia head coach Michael “Doc” Bowser. “I decided to go to school here because I liked everything about the school and coach Bowser,” said Perry. “He’s just been great about the whole process. Even though I wasn’t playing, I was talking with him all the time. He understood that I was having a hard time adjusting to college but he always told me that whatever decisions I made, he would back me up.”

“I was going into my junior year and I was ready. I called him and told him, ‘I’m all in. We just took it from there,” he noted.

Despite never having played a collegiate game, the 6’4” Perry made an immediate impact at forward for the Wildcats, who put together an 8-16 overall record last season. “We only won eight games but that was still more games than the team won the two years combined before that and we lost 10 games by six points or less so we were much more competitive than our record showed,” noted Perry, who wound up starting 23 of the 24 games and finished as the team’s leading scorer averaging 13.8 points per game.

Perry also averaged a team-high 30.7 minutes of playing time per game and was the second-leading rebounder averaging 6.6 boards per outing. He also set a team record for most points scored in a home game with 31 in a 75-68 win over SUNYIT on January 18th.

“By the end of the season, we were playing in front of a packed gym for our home games. The program took off to a new level ,” he added. “I was out of the game for two years and I just wanted to give myself something to build from last year. It was amazing to me to be able to do as well as I did.”

For his efforts, Perry was named a team captain for the upcoming season where he hopes to maintain a productive balance between playing basketball, working as a student teacher in the nearby Morrisville School District and attending class.

“My plate is pretty much full right now,” he noted.

While Perry’s immediate goal this season is to help keep the Wildcats going on the right track, down the road he is hoping to break into the coaching ranks.

“I really want to get into coaching,” he said. “After this year, I would still have another year of eligibility so I would be able to play if I decide to go to grad school. At this point, I’m more interested in finding a graduate assistant coaching job somewhere. Either way, I want to stay involved with basketball next year.”

NOTES: Cazenovia is located 15 miles southeast of Syracuse and competes in the North Eastern Athletic Conference, which consists of schools from New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Washington, DC.....The Wildcats make their season debut this Friday at the Vassar Tip-Off Tournament against Hunter College....Coach Bowser took an unconventional path to coach the Wildcats. A graduate of College of the Holy Cross in ‘66, Bowser returned to the Syracuse area, shortly after, to receive a degree in internal medicine and cardiology from SUNY Upstate. After years as a successful cardiologist, Bowser returned to his first love, basketball, by becoming Cazenovia’s assistant coach in 2001. He took the head job in 2004 and has put a unique spin on Cazenovia’s game. Incorporating speed, Bowser employs a fast-paced, deep bench strategy......Perry is the son of Tony and Marie Perry of Massena and has a younger sister, Paige, who is a seventh-grader at Massena Central.

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