By elementary school she was playing club ball, and as she entered junior high school, was playing side-by-side with future All-Americans who would go on to suit-up for UConn, Tennessee, UCLA and Maryland.
"I didn't get intimated by them," said Perry, Montana State's starting junior point guard. "They were a lot bigger and faster and had the All-America logo on their bags. It was fun playing against them and they didn't take it lightly on us. It got me prepared for where I am today."
Perry grew up in Lynwood, Calif., to parents who excelled in track and football in Compton. Lynwood, which is halfway between Los Angeles and Long Beach, offered a variety of opportunities for the budding star.
"I loved the city," Perry said. "There was always something going on with basketball."
After two years of high school ball, Perry was recruited to attend IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. The opportunity to play at IMG would allow her to concentrate on the sport full time, while completing her high school requirements.
It was an easy decision for Perry and her parents to transition from one coast to the other.
"We lived on campus and were well taken care of," Perry commented. "We would train for a couple of hours in the morning, and then again after school. We played a lot of tournaments and had our rivals, but the thing I liked best is that the people at IMG were there because they loved the game and wanted to take it to the collegiate level."
MSU head coach Tricia Binford saw Perry during her junior season and knew instantly that she had the skills to play collegiately at the NCAA Division I level.
"I loved her speed and ability for breaking down defenses," Binford stated. "Erica had all the tools to come in and run our system, plus she could lock-it-down on defense. She was exactly what we needed for our program."
In her three years at Montana State, Perry has developed into one of the premier point guards in the Big Sky Conference. She is currently first on the team in scoring, averaging 16.2 points per game in league play. Perry also leads the Bobcats in assists and steals.
"We had two big losses in terms of scoring from last year, and I'm just trying to help fill that role this season," Perry said. "However, I love defense. You can't play offense unless you get a stop on defense."
An All-Big Sky Conference academic selection who earned a 3.06 GPA last semester, Perry knows exactly what she wants to accomplish before she graduates and what she has planned following her time in the Blue and Gold.
"A Big Sky championship," said Perry, a business major. "Then, I'm opening my own pet hotel in Beverly Hills, California."
Perry was one of four athletes to receive the Montana Campus Compact's 2008 Montana Athletes in Service Award in November. The award cited her work both as a volunteer mentor through the Bozeman Big Brothers Big Sisters and Special Olympics. Last season, Perry was the recipient of the women's basketball team's Community Service award. She spent countless hours at the Heart of the Valley Animal Shelter walking and spending time with the dogs. Perry also helped the staff relocate to its present facility.
"I love animals, especially dogs," Perry said. "It's a fun experience and a good stress release from school and sport."
At the time of her Campus Compact award, given at half time of the Cat-Griz game, Binford called Perry "the heartbeat of our basketball program."
"As a point-guard she is our leader on the floor," Binford said. "More importantly, she is a leader off the floor. Erica understands that being a student-athlete at Montana State is more than what happens on the court or in the classroom. She knows that being a complete collegiate includes giving back to the community that supports us."
Tom Schulz,994-5130, email@example.com