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South Pasadena High's Perkins Could Become a Real Beaut for Montana : Basketball: Senior blossomed into one of the West Coast's top players over the summer. He signed a letter of intent with Montana in November.

January 10, 1991|MITCH POLIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

For much of his high school basketball career, forward Paul Perkins of South Pasadena had languished in obscurity.

As a junior last season, he started and averaged 13 points and nine rebounds for the Tigers, but wasn't regarded as a blue-chip college prospect.

Then came the annual Superstar Camp at UC Santa Barbara in Goleta, Calif., last summer.

All it took was a brilliant performance in the week-long camp, which included many of the top prospects in the Western United States. From a field of 288, Perkins, 17, finished among the camp's top 15 players.

After returning home from the camp, Perkins said he received more than 100 letters from NCAA Division I colleges, including Pacific, Montana, Cincinnati, Cal State Fullerton, San Jose State and UC Irvine.

Perkins narrowed his choices to Pacific and Montana before signing a letter of intent with Montana during the NCAA's early signing period in November.

He was also chosen to the preseason CIF Division III all-state squad and selected as one of the top 50 players in the state by Cal-High Sports News.

South Pasadena Coach Jeff Klein said the outlook for 6-foot-6, 220-pound Perkins may have turned around last season while he was competing in spring leagues.

"In the spring you could just see him starting to develop before your eyes," Klein said.

But Perkins said it wasn't until the Superstar Camp that he started to come into his own as a player.

"(That's) when I really started to play well and feel comfortable with myself because I was 16 and I was just starting to learn my body," he said. "I had more body control and I was just learning to play hard and play aggressive all the time."

Perkins said he was motivated by the lack of interest that colleges had showed in him before the camp.

"Before then I was writing to colleges back east where I was born and grew up and I didn't get much response," said Perkins, who was born in Akron, Ohio. "I sent tapes to them but they said they didn't know if I could play at that (Di vision I) level.

"I guess that's what started to motivate me, when teams started telling me I couldn't play at the Division I level. I wanted to show them that I could."

Perkins may have saved his best for the camp, but Klein said the player's performance was hardly a one-time effort.

"During the whole summer he was just dominant," Klein said. "We played 40 games and he was dominant every game."

His play appeared to reach a crescendo at the camp, though.

"I could feel a change in the way I played, especially with my mobility," Perkins said. "It seemed like I was just an aggressive player be fore then but over the summer everything changed. All of a sudden I had a lot of mobility. It's like I had a big weight off my back and it came off at Superstar Camp playing against the top talent.

"I felt more sure of myself, that I could play with anyone. Over the summer I just felt more confidence in myself and everyone around me felt that way."

It was a stark contrast to the frustration that Perkins had felt after transferring from Muir High and playing for the Tigers as a junior.

"I started as a junior but it was a hard transition for me because they (South Pasadena) play a Loyola Marymount style of play and at Muir they just run somebody into the ground and then let up," he said. "It was a new style of play and by the time I got used to it the season was over."

Perkins has used his strong performance in the summer as a springboard. As a senior, he is averaging 16 points and a team-leading 12 rebounds for the Tigers.

Klein said there is no comparison between his performance last season and this season.

"Last year if you saw him he was just a lumbering big kid who could only play center," he said. "During the summer he was definitely a power forward-type and he might eventually turn into a small forward. It just depends on what format the team (he plays on) is using. But his skills are constantly improving."

Perkins said he still needs to work more on his body control to maintain the improvement.

"I want to know my body better and raise my game to another level," he said. "I want to hit that fifth gear and keep on going and my coaches and teammates are helping me a lot with that."

From Klein's perspective, Perkins does not have many faults as a player.

"He's just a soft-spoken kid who will do whatever he's asked," Klein said. "When you talk about him as a player there just aren't a lot of negative things you can say against him."

About the only negative comment Perkins has heard is that he doesn't score enough points.

Only Klein doesn't see that as a negative point.

"What makes him so good is that he's very unselfish," Klein said. "He could take 20 or 25 shots a game but he doesn't take nearly that many. He'll take maybe 15 to 17 and that may not be enough.

"But the thing about Paul is he's not just looking to take shots. He doesn't care about that as much as some players. He just wants the team to do well and he's willing to sacrifice his scoring average if he has to."

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