Left Without Team, Chana Perry Picks San Diego State

Times Staff Writer

Chana Perry, who had been an All-American basketball player without a team, announced Thursday she will attend San Diego State in the fall.

She will be eligible to play immediately because the NCAA prohibited her from competing most of last season--as well as her junior and senior seasons--at Northeast Louisiana.

Ten games into the 1985-86 season, her sophomore year, Perry was ruled ineligible by the NCAA because it had found Northeast in violations of six regulations in its handling of Perry. She appealed to stay (and play) at Northeast, but the third and last of those appeals was denied Tuesday by the NCAA.

"A few weeks ago, when I considered dropping my appeal, I contacted Coach (Earnest) Riggins and expressed my interest in attending SDSU," Perry said in a prepared statement Thursday. "They have a lot of talent coming back, I'll be close to my father (who lives in Los Angeles), and it's the best place to be right now."

Perry began drawing the attention of numerous colleges her junior season at Brookhaven (Miss.) High School when she led her team to a 35-4 record. As a senior, she averaged 19 points and 12 rebounds and led Brookhaven to the state championship. She was the Mississippi Most Valuable Player in basketball for two seasons.

Hundreds of colleges were interested in Perry, a 6-foot 4-inch center. On the advice of Perry's high school coach, Tommy Goodson, she narrowed her list, selecting Louisiana State, Louisiana Tech, Northeast and USC.

When Perry decided to attend Northeast, her mother, Ruth Smith, refused to sign the letter of intent. Eventually, Perry's father, Curtis, flew to Monroe, La., to sign the letter.

As a freshman at Northeast, Perry averaged 18.3 points and 12.5 rebounds and set a school record with 387 rebounds. She had 31 points and 14 rebounds in the NCAA Midwest Regional Final against Louisiana Tech and was named MVP of the regional. Northeast lost to eventual NCAA champion, Old Dominion, in the semifinals of the Final Four.

Perry was averaging 15.1 points and 10.2 rebounds through 10 games of her sophomore season. Then, the NCAA ruled she could no longer play because of the violations Northeast had committed.

Perry's first appeal to the NCAA in January was dropped. Her second appeal, in the same month, was denied. Tuesday's appeal was her last recourse. Perry's stepmother, Barbara Perry, phoned Riggins Wednesday night to inform him that Chana would be attending San Diego State.

"Chana and I discussed this," Curtis Perry said. "It was Chana's decision. That (San Diego State) was my choice initially. She chose Northeast originally. When the problems arose, Chana asked me if I would contact the university (San Diego State) and see if it was still interested in her. With Chana being the caliber of player she is, they still wanted her.

"When we heard rumors that her appeal would be denied, she wanted to go to San Diego State. She didn't want to go through the recruiting war she went through in 1983. That's why I told her to announce today (Thursday) that she was going to San Diego State."

Linda Harper, Northeast's coach, said six schools made inquiries in regard to Perry--Mississippi, Western Kentucky, New Orleans, Iowa, Kentucky and San Diego State.

"I'm not surprised she decided to go to the West Coast," said Linda Sharp, USC coach. "But I'm a little surprised she's announcing it so soon. I thought she would investigate more. I think Chana Perry is a very nice, young lady. She has kind of been a victim. I enjoyed recruiting her out of high school. If she had been interested in coming to USC (in the fall), sure, I would've talked to her."

Riggins said he was originally contacted by Curtis Perry after the first appeal in January. Riggins said that shortly after he received a call from Chana Perry.

"I told her I couldn't talk to her until we got a release from Northeast," Riggins said. "I talked to my athletic director (Fred Miller), and he wrote a letter to Northeast on the 29th (of January). They replied and said they wouldn't give Chana a release. I sent a copy of that letter to her father and said it was up to him. From that point on, I heard nothing until now. I still haven't spoken with Chana."

Riggins said he met Curtis Perry three years ago at a Basketball Congress International tournament in Phoenix. During their first conversation, they talked at length about their Mississippi backgrounds, both said.

"I have high respect for him (Riggins)," Perry said. "He was one of the coaches who didn't say negative things when he originally didn't get Chana. She respects him and has a good rapport with him."

Chana was recruited to Northeast by Joy Shamburger, an assistant coach and a former Louisiana Tech player. That is when her troubles at Northeast began.

Her mother filed a $500,000 lawsuit in 1984, claiming the relationship between Chana and Shamburger went from professional to personal. The suit alleges that Shamburger and Perry became lovers in the spring of 1984. Shamburger was fired by Northeast in May, 1985.

Perry was confronted by other problems. In November, 1984, as Perry prepared to return to Mississippi for the first time, Northeast received phone threats against her. After consulting with her coach and father, Perry decided not to make the trip. Northeast beat Mississippi College, 100-81, in Clinton, Miss.

When Northeast played in Mississippi in November, 1985, there were more threats. Harper said she did not inform Perry of the threats. There were no incidents.

Shortly thereafter, the NCAA announced six violations against Northeast involving unethical conduct, automobile transportation, lodging, a recruiting inducement, improper recruiting contact and an illegal tryout.

The NCAA's sanctions against Northeast were the first given to a women's program. Furthermore, the NCAA ruled Perry could not play her final two seasons at Northeast.

"Chana's not bitter," her father said. "She wishes this never would have happened. She's not a vindictive type of person. She's easy going and personable. I'd like her if she wasn't my daughter. I'm impressed with how she has persevered."

Perry is leaving today for Colorado Springs, Colo., where she will try out for the World University Games team. She made the U.S. team last year.

"I tell you, she's an All-American," Riggins said. "She earned those honors as a freshman. Not too many women have done that as freshmen, except Cheryl Miller (of USC). She could very well be on her way to where Cheryl is, unless drastic things such as injuries happen."

Just how good is Perry?

"She can take us to the Final Four," Riggins said. "No doubt about it."

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