Miami Dade College’s Darius Perkins puts tough year behind him

 

Special to the Miami Herald

As a local prep standout at Chaminade, Darius Perkins grew accustomed to the spotlight. But after he was ruled academically ineligible last season, Perkins found himself behind the camera.

“That was a humbling experience,” said Perkins, a 6-2 sophomore guard at Miami Dade College. “I missed the second semester, and I had to film the games [for the MDC coaches]. It was embarrassing.”

MDC coach Stephen Cowherd didn’t feel any better about it, especially after his team lost 12 consecutive games without Perkins, who was averaging a team-high 18 points before he was stripped of his roster spot.

“I know Coach was pretty upset with me, and I understand why,” said Perkins, whose grade-point average had slipped to a 1.4. “I just got lackadaisical [academically]. I was away from home for the first time, and I didn’t handle all that free time very well.”

Perkins said he realizes he disappointed his father, Tony, who is a high school teacher and coach in Fort Myers.

In addition, several four-year universities that had been recruiting him — such as Minnesota, Kent State and Iona — all lost interest because of Perkins’ grades issues.

Fortunately for Perkins, Utah State, a rising Division I program that has made the NCAA Tournament eight times in the past 15 years, stuck with the MDC prospect.

On Nov. 13, Perkins signed with Utah State, which has won 74 percent of its games in 15 years under coach Stew Morrill.

“I’m really relieved,” Perkins said after signing. “That took a lot of stress off of me, knowing that I will have another home after Miami Dade.”

Perkins has helped MDC get off to an 8-2 start. He is averaging 21.5 points and has made 46 percent of his three-point shots.

As a team, MDC ranks second in the nation among junior colleges in three-pointers made.

Perkins has also raised his GPA by a full point and is on pace to be eligible next season — a minimum of a 2.5 is required.

He took a visit to Logan, Utah, on Oct. 12 and enjoyed the campus, saying he liked the slower pace.

“Miami’s too fast for me,” said Perkins, a Fort Myers native.

Perkins will play in one of the nation’s best leagues, the Mountain West Conference, and is part of a Utah State recruiting class that includes three other guards.

But as long as he can play ball, Perkins said he will deal with the cold weather, the increased competition and the tough academic grind of a business-administration major at a four-year school.

“I’m just happy I didn’t have to go get a 9-to-5 job,” Perkins said. “I didn’t want to be that kid who everyone said had talent but didn’t take care of business in school.”

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