It’s peculiar to leave a perennial powerhouse located in warm, sunny Tuscon, Ariz., four months after arriving there. And it’s even stranger to return to a Great Lakes-sized rebuilding project in the frigid, snow-ridden winters of Michigan.
But freshman Laval Lucas-Perry did just that. The Flint native made the perplexing decision to transfer from Arizona in December to help fellow Michiganders, sophomore DeShawn Sims and freshmen Manny Harris and Kelvin Grady, bring the Wolverines back to glory on the hardwood.
But unlike Sims, Harris and Grady, Lucas-Perry can only watch as Michigan struggles through its worst season in nearly 50 years. According to NCAA transfer rules, Lucas-Perry must sit out a full year before becoming eligible to play again.
Because he transferred in December, his debut in maize and blue will have to wait until Big Ten season next January. But having to sit and wait just makes the current debacle on the court – the Wolverines are 5-17 overall and have lost 10 of the 11 games since Lucas-Perry arrived on campus – that much tougher to handle.
“I’ve never lost this much in my life,” said Lucas-Perry following Michigan’s 77-65 defeat to Minnesota last weekend.
Michigan coach John Beilein shares his frustration. Both player and coach know he would be a significant contributor if he were allowed to suit up. Lucas-Perry, a three-star recruit out of Flint Powers High School according to Rivals.com, averaged 26 points, seven rebounds and six assists as a senior. He played in five games for Arizona this season, averaging four points per contest.
“I think he’s been terrific,” Beilein said. “When he makes plays in practices, there’s things where I say, ‘Darn it,’ .I wish we would guard him better. So, yes, he’s going to help us in the backcourt in the future.”
Luckily for Lucas-Perry, getting to know his teammates in the middle of the season hasn’t been much of an issue. A standout on both the Michigan high school and AAU circuits, Lucas-Perry was already familiar with many of the Wolverines’ in-state players. They were the main reason he transferred to Michigan.
He also knew a lot about the Michigan program after being heavily pursued by former coach Tommy Amaker a year ago.
“It wasn’t anything in particular about Arizona,” Lucas-Perry said. “It was just me not feeling comfortable there. I was just trying to find somewhere comfortable, where I can be myself.”
But now, the only times Lucas-Perry can show himself on the court is in practice, where he usually emulates the opponents’ best player on the scout team.
It’s been a tricky situation for the coaching staff to handle. While it’s obvious Lucas-Perry has star potential, the coaches have to concentrate on the players they can use now. To avoid losing practice time with other players, Beilein and assistant coach Mike Jackson have started doing individual drills with Lucas-Perry after the team’s practices are over.
They both make it a point to remind Lucas-Perry the waiting is almost over. There are just nine games remaining this season and Beilein estimates there will be six to eight games before Big Ten play begins next January.
“I don’t have regrets,” Lucas-Perry said. “I wanted to get out of Arizona, I wanted to be here and I’m going to be the best guard I can.”