October 10, 2009 11:30:00 PM
Danny P Smith -
STARKVILLE -- Rashad Perkins has worked on every part of his game in the offseason to become a better basketball player for Starkville High School.
He hopes those improvements also will help him at the next level.
On Thursday, Perkins gave a verbal commitment to play basketball at the University of Southern Mississippi.
As a 6-foot-5 player, who usually hangs around in the post, Perkins has relied on hard work to get where he needs to be. He focused in the offseason on improving his ballhandling and his footwork on defense to become a player who is versatile enough to play the three (small forward) and the four (power forward).
Starkville High School coach Greg Carter said Perkins'' skills have come a long way.
"He''s made tremendous strides," Carter said. "When he was in the 10th grade, all he could do was dunk. Now he can dribble, he can step out and shoot and he can make passes. He''s understanding the game better. He''s gotten quicker and he''s better defensively on the perimeter."
After averaging 19 points and 10 rebounds as a junior, Carter believes Perkins has a chance to record even better numbers for the Yellow Jackets this season, which starts Nov. 7 at the West Point Classic.
"He''ll be one of our best returning players and has a little bit more responsibility than the rest of them," Carter said.
As for as his commitment to the Golden Eagles, Perkins likes that Hattiesburg isn''t too far away from home. He said it was far enough for him to enjoy some "independence." He said the persistence and kindness of the Southern Miss coaches impressed him the most.
"They showed they really wanted me by calling and staying in touch any way they could," Perkins said. "They let me know they were serious about me."
Perkins also considered Mississippi State, the University of Alabama, Texas-El Paso, Tennessee-Chattanooga, Southeastern Louisiana, Middle Tennessee, and Murrah University of Kentucky.
Perkins said he was impressed that he received so much attention from colleges. He hopes it''s an indication of his potential.
Carter said Perkins consulted him about his decision. He said he encouraged Perkins to pick a school where he could fit in and be most comfortable.
Perkins told Carter that Southern Miss met both of those needs.
Carter likes the timing of Perkins'' decision. He said it will alleviate "any pressure" Perkins might face in his senior season.
Whether he had committed now or later, Perkins wasn''t going to let it distract him. He''s determined to do what he can to help Starkville High win a state championship.
"I wasn''t really worried about it," Perkins said of pressure. "(USM) seemed like the right place to be, so instead of waiting around like some people, I just went ahead and did it."