Portland State embracing uncertainty with nine new players

Photo courtesy of Portland State.

Interview with Barret Peery the head coach of Portland State.

If there is one thing that is certain about college basketball, its uncertainty.

There are few teams in all of college basketball who will enter the 2020-21 season with as much uncertainty as the Portland State Vikings

49 year-old Barret Peery will enter his fourth year as the head coach of Portland State with nine new players on his roster. However, in true west coast fashion, Peery has a laid back approach to coaching and recruiting that is a refreshing change in comparison to many.

If you’re familiar with the book “Don’t sweat the small stuff,” Peery seems to embody that persona which has helped elevate him up the coaching ranks to head coach from long time assistant at the likes of Utah, Arizona State, Santa Clara, Southern Utah and Utah State as well as previous head coaching experience at two excellent Juco programs at Indian Hills and Southern Idaho.

The Vikings put together a solid season going 18-14 which included a six game winning streak to finish off the year. They were headed to the Big Sky Conference tournament with a boat load of momentum before it was eventually cancelled due to the outbreak of COVID-19.

Peery said, “The last five or six weeks of the season, people saw our real team when everybody was healthy and we had great momentum headed into the tournament and then as everybody will tell you; it all came crashing down.” 

After losing a significant chunk of his roster to graduation and transfer, Perry has had to reload with a whole new cast of characters drawing inspiration from John Calipari at Kentucky who has had to bring in 10 new players ahead of the 2020-21 season. 

Although the thought of completely revamping a roster may seem like a daunting task to most coaches, Peery didn’t seem fazed at the idea in the slightest.

He said, “I’ve been fortunate enough to be a head coach at two really good junior college programs so that (turnover) is normal and that probably helps me sleep at night.” 

Peery continued, “With how college basketball is now, I don’t think its that far fetched because I was out on a run today listening to a podcast about how Kentucky has lost 94 percent of their scoring and missing their top seven or eight guys so I think no matter what level you’re at there is going to be changeover. “

While Calipari is having to replace several future NBA players and former five-star recruits, Peery too has been faced with the task of replacing his leading scorer Holland Woods who recently transferred to Arizona State after being named first team All-Big Sky. 

Portland State does return five players from last year including senior Daniel Giannosa who is a 6-foot-10 center who joined the basketball team in December after playing football for the past four years as a tight end, offensive lineman and long snapper. 

Of the newcomers to Portland State, four of them are from high major programs including Elijah Hardy who is a 6-foot-2 junior guard who played in 40 games for Washington over the past two years. 

Charles Jones is a grad transfer who is expected to be another key piece for Portland State after spending last year at Utah playing in 27 games.

Senior guard James Scott averaged 7.2 points per game last year at Temple and also spent two years at Kennesaw State where he was named to the ASUN All-Freshman team and averaged 17.3 PPG as a sophomore. 

Khalid Thomas is a 6-foot-9 forward who is a grad transfer from Arizona State who played in 23 games last year for the Sun Devils. 

Peery said, “We think we always have a chance to get good players through the transfer portal just because we’re right in Portland; it’s an NBA city.” He added, “I’m not really uncomfortable having a guy for a year; or four or five years.”

While Peery’s outlook and approach to coaching may seem more laid back than his predecessors his focus remains steadfast heading into the 2020-21 season and that is to win the Big Sky and make it to the NCAA Tournament. 

The Vikings haven’t been to the NCAA tournament since going in back-to-back years in 2008 and 2009 but the winds of change are blowing at Portland State.

Look for Peery and his squad to be contenders in the Big Sky for 2020-21.

* Article was originally posted May 27, 2020 but had to be re-posted due to our server crashing.