When the name “Anthony Perry” is mentioned among long-time Grizzly fans, one thought always seems to come to the forefront of the conversation: He was the one constant in an inconsistent 1995-1996 season at Southwest Missouri State University-West Plains (Missouri State University-West Plains).
“Anthony was the most consistent player for the Grizzlies that season and one of the most consistent players the program has ever had,” recalled Dean Smith, color commentator for the Grizzly basketball radio broadcasts. “We had other great players on that team, but every game, you could always count on him to score 10 or 15 points for you.”
In fact, Perry averaged a team-leading 17 points a game during the 1995-96 season, one that many dubbed “a roller coaster ride.” While Missouri State University - WP wavered back and forth between winning and losing streaks, Perry, a member of the Grizzlies’ second recruiting class, did his best to keep the third installment of the Grizzly basketball team on an even keel. Out of the 33 games Missouri State University-West Plains played during that season, the 6-2 guard scored in double figures in 28 of them. That consistency helped him earn All-Region 16 honors his sophomore year.
Perry brought his knack for consistency to Missouri State University-West Plains from Fort Smith, AR, where he helped lead his Northside High School Grizzly team to a conference championship and the Arkansas state playoffs. Along the way, he earned several individual honors, including two all-conference selections, one all-area selection and one all-state selection, the latter of which earned him a spot in the Arkansas All-Star game his senior season.
Perry quickly made a name for himself after joining the Grizzlies. He received his first call as a starter on Nov. 19, 1994, in the final night of the Physical Therapy Specialists Clinic Basketball Classic, and he scored in double figures in five of the Grizzlies’ first six games after the holiday break that season.
A lot was expected of Perry during his sophomore season. One of only four returning players with experience during the 1995-96 season, he stepped into the role of team leader, showing the new class of recruits what it took to be a Grizzly in deed more than word. “Anthony led by example, but when he said something, everyone listened,” Smith said.
“He was one of the hardest workers in Grizzly Basketball history,” added Jay Gentry, play-by-play announcer for the Missouri State University - WP radio broadcasts. “You could never question how hard he worked, and that made an impact on his teammates.”
Perry said he picked up his work ethic from the sophomores of the 1994-95 season, David Augustine, Ben Avery, Donovan Brown, Spencer Filer and Marty Henderson. “That group of sophomores, they were tough players. They played hard, and they never quit. I tried to carry that on during my sophomore season. I did everything I could to make sure their legacy carried on,” he said. “I wasn’t very skillful, but I worked hard and played hard, and I think that helped create the tough, competitive tradition of Grizzly Basketball.”
After graduating from Missouri State University-West Plains with an Associate of Arts in General Studies degree in May 1996, Perry took his talents to the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC), where he led the Kangaroos in three-point field goal percentage in each of his two seasons there and was named the team’s most valuable player his first season with the program. He finished his career at UMKC ranked 31st in career scoring with 388 points in 53 games, a 7.3 point-per-game average, and fifth in career three-point field goal percentage at .387 (65-for-168).
Perry received his Bachelor of Arts in Physical Education degree from UMKC in May 2000 and was hired by former Grizzly Assistant Coach Jason Tinsley, who by that time had moved on to be the head coach at Bossier Parrish Community College in Bossier City, LA, to be Tinsley’s assistant coach.
It didn’t take long for Perry to move up to his own head coaching position, though. A year after taking the Bossier Parrish job, the athletic director at Park Hills High School in Kansas City called and asked Perry to take over head coaching duties there. The fit was an easy one, since Perry had served as an assistant coach at Park Hills while still attending classes at UMKC.
Coaching success has come quickly for the former Grizzly. In just his third year as head coach at Park Hills, his team, which started off 2-9 in the 2003-2004 season, came back to win 15 straight games and earn a district title.
Perry credits this success to the discipline and structure he learned while he was at Missouri State University-West Plains, explaining the coaching staff instilled discipline and self-responsibility in each player and taught them how to be productive young men and responsible citizens. “At the time, I didn’t understand it. But I’m very grateful for it now. To this day, I try to emulate those things with my kids,” he said.
On Dec. 17, 2004, Perry, who married his high school sweetheart, Michelle, and is now the father of a 10-year-old daughter, Brittany, and a two-year-old son, Jalen, graduated from UMKC with a Master in Administration degree and is now working on his Specialist in Educational Administration degree.
Although he has moved on, Perry still fondly remembers his time at Missouri State University-West Plains. “It was awesome. Those two years were the greatest years of my life. No game at UMKC even came close to my years at Missouri State University-West Plains and the fan support I and my teammates received there.”