Hempfield graduate helping hometown team find success
By Dave Mackall
Published: Thursday, Jan. 31, 2013, 8:55 p.m.
Former Hempfield High School basketball star Nate Perry has found a college home at nearby Seton Hill University, and he's proving to be an important component of coach Tony Morocco's team.
After two seasons at Youngstown State, Perry transferred and is playing in his backyard for a coach who's been around the world.
“I really give a lot of credit to him and to the assistants. Those guys are trying to guide me, and I feel like I'm adjusting to it,” said Perry, Hempfield's all-time leading scorer with 1,662 career points.
The veteran Morocco, a Trafford native known for his international recruiting expertise, has coached professionally in the U.S. and Puerto Rico, and has served as a college assistant at UNLV, Iowa, Long Beach State, St. Francis (Pa.), St. Vincent and Point Park prior to his first college head coaching job at Seton Hill.
He has been the Griffins' only coach since the school established a men's program in 2002. In his 10th season at Seton Hill, Morocco continues to seek a postseason bid. He says the NCAA Division II level, at which Seton Hill competes, is a major challenge every time out.
“The league is brutal,” Morocco said of the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, in which the Griffins are playing in their final season before moving to the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference. “We're a program, though, that's turning the corner. We're getting a good reputation.”
Seton Hill (10-8, 7-7 prior to Thursday's scheduled WVIAC home game against Davis & Elkins) recently upset No. 23 Charleston (W.Va.), which knocked WVIAC-leading West Liberty from its previous No. 1 national ranking.
Prior to that, Morocco's club gave West Liberty, now ranked No. 4, a scare when the Hilltoppers were top ranked, before the Seton Hill lost, 82-71.
While Seton Hill has produced a number of professional players, none have made it to the NBA, though 7-foot-1 center Ales Chan played for the New York Knicks' summer league team in 2004 and currently is with a professional team in Cyprus.
Guard Chris Giles, a West Mifflin High School product who graduated from Seton Hill last season, is playing professionally in Israel.
“This is a tough level of basketball, believe me,” said Perry, a junior. “I played sparingly at (Division I) Youngstown State behind a Kendrick Perry (no relation). He's got a chance to be the Horizon League Player of the Year and he's going to get a shot at the NBA. I didn't play that much. Basically, I haven't played much in the last two years.”
In 15 games at Seton Hill — four as a starter — the 6-2 Perry is averaging 9.1 points, 2.1 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game. He scored a season-high 20 points against Bluefield State on Jan. 12 and was coming off a 15-point performance in a 68-56 victory over Concord on Saturday.
Perry, Morocco said, “is like a freshman” because he's learning about different aspects of basketball.
“This kid came in raw,” Morocco said. “He was always known as a good shooter, a scorer. To his credit, he's really bit into trying to become a complete player. We have developed him and now, he's playing good defense, he's passing the ball, he's making a contribution in a lot of ways.
“There are games where he didn't score a point or make a shot, but his hustle on defense was invaluable. The other guys love him. He's made a 360-degree turnaround and is conforming into what a basketball player is supposed to be. He's doing well in the classroom, too. I'm very proud of him.”
Two other juniors — guard/forward Max Kenyi (13.7 ppg.) and forward Malachi Leonard (12.3) — were leading Seton Hill in scoring. Perry, among others, was not far behind, though he's nowhere near the pace of his high school days, when he averaged 23.1 points as a senior and 25.7 as a junior.
“In high school, I was a scorer,” Perry said. “I just looked at it like my team needed me to score points to win. I always thought I was a team player, but the way I'm playing now, it's changing my game. I always controlled the ball before. I always wanted the ball in my hand. I never really ran the wings hard. I never really cut hard. I never seemed to really have to.
”It's different here. Every time I make a mistake, I hear about it. We watch the films.”
With Morocco in charge, Perry is learning so much, he said. He's trying to help Seton Hill make a run at a WVIAC playoff spot with an eye toward the promise of next season.
“I'm having a great time. We're on our way up. We're building for the future,” Perry said. “People are starting to know about Seton Hill.”
Dave Mackall is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- McKillop is model of excellence, on and off the mat
- District college football preview: Slippery Rock’s playoff game leads this week’s action
- District college notes: Hempfield grad earns NAIA Award
- Gateway grads to meet on college court
- Fox Chapel’s Papich pushing Gannon women’s team to top
- PS New Ken falls to Slippery Rock
- Penn State New Kensington men fall in opener of road trip
- PSNK beat by strong-shooting Penn State York
- Cal U volleyball to play for regional title
- St. Vincent guard Turner ties free throw record
- PSNK snaps losing skid in win over Penn State Dubois