Through scenery changes, ASU journeyman Jose Perez has always been a ‘winner’ on the court

With an average of 12.9 points per game, Jose Perez is one of the on-court leaders for the Arizona State men’s basketball program. (Photo by Alyssa Buruato/Cronkite News)

TEMPE – Many can relate to the feeling of the first day of school, especially that of a new school environment. New opportunities, relationships or, in some cases, a fresh slate of teammates and coaches. For Sun Devils guard Jose Perez, ASU marks his fourth location of on-court action in five seasons.

“It’s just adjusting to a new system, and that’s what is going to happen in life. You have to adjust to new people,” Perez said.

Last year, Perez posted an impressive season with the Manhattan Jaspers in the Bronx, where he averaged almost 19 points per game, followed by a change to West Virginia where he enrolled in the spring 2023 semester but did not compete.

Before his time at Manhattan, Perez got his start at Gardner Webb University in North Carolina for his freshman and sophomore stints from 2018 to 2020 prior to his single season as an Eagle at Marquette University during his junior year.

So what’s with the change of scenery?

In the earlier stages of Perez’s collegiate career, his goal was to play at a “higher level” to better showcase his skills, which was the primary motivator in his decision to switch from Gardner Webb to Marquette.

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Unfortunately, having the opportunity to level up from the Big South to the Big East did not unfold how Perez imagined, getting unlucky with programs experiencing turmoil and churn on multiple occasions. Perez says that misfortune with his previous coaches has contributed to his “hard-knock life.”

Specifically, it’s the inability of Perez’s coaches to continue coaching within the programs that he has been involved in, with coach Steve Wojciechowski of Marquette and coach Steve Masiello of Manhattan parting ways with those teams at the end of Perez’s respective first seasons.

The loss of Masiello as a coach was especially hard for Perez, but that has not stopped the two from keeping in touch throughout his collegiate journey.

“Masiello I’m still really close to,” Perez said. “He checks up on me before every game, I check up on him … that’s like basically my father.”

In his final season, Perez said he is overjoyed to be working with ASU coach Bobby Hurley, who has given him an opportunity to shine now in the Pac-12.

“I’ve adjusted so well to him, just the person who he is,” Perez said. “He’s been able to put me in spots on and off the court where I’m able to be myself and thrive and just be able to put up with everything that’s going on.”

Even within his new squad, it has not been easy on Perez, as the team has had to adjust the rotation of players in reaction to injuries.

Perez lacks height in the majority of his matchups on both sides of the ball. Standing at 6-foot-5, Perez has been given a less than favorable hand this season, having to step up for ASU in more of a frontcourt role while players such as Zane Meeks and Shawn Phillips Jr. have dealt with injuries. One aspect of Perez’s game that has translated well is his ability to draw contact.

Perez leads the team in foul shots by a large margin. His 151 free throw attempts are nearly double that of the next-best player, junior guard Frankie Collins, who has taken 77 shots from the line.

Sun Devils guard Jose Perez refers to his collegiate basketball journey as a "hard-knock life" due to misfortune with his previous coaches. (Photo by Alyssa Buruato/Cronkite News)

Sun Devils guard Jose Perez refers to his collegiate basketball journey as a “hard-knock life” due to misfortune with his previous coaches. (Photo by Alyssa Buruato/Cronkite News)

For Perez, this is nothing new. It’s simply a part of his game.

“It’s a unique skill set of getting a guy off balance, and being able to get him out of position and get to the free throw line,” Hurley said.

Aside from earning free points, Perez is also able to use his physicality to catch the ball in the post and create offensive sets for the Sun Devils that are only otherwise possible when a player like Phillips Jr. is in proper physical condition. While Hurley has praised this ability, he is far from the only coach who has utilized Perez in this role.

“As you know, he has that old man’s game, backs you down, and that’s never changed,” said Thomas Espinosa, Perez’s former coach at Putnam Science Academy.

Putnam Science Academy, a Connecticut prep school, has produced a gallery of talent that includes Perez as well as three players who performed at the highest level of NCAA basketball last year in the Final Four during March Madness. Although Perez only played a single season at the school, it helped shape him into the player he is today, and yielded some legendary moments.

Since the 2018 season, Puntam has won four national championships, but Espinosa explained how influential that first victory was in creating a legacy for the program. Naturally, Perez’s fingerprints were all over that championship as Espinosa recounted how Perez hit the “biggest shot in Putnam Science history” to send the game into overtime.

With only about a minute and a half left in regulation of the National Prep Championship game between Putnam Science and Northfield Mt. Hermon, Putnam trailed 60-57. After Osun Osunniyi, who would go on to have a successful collegiate career at St. Bonaventure University, missed the two-point attempt to cut the lead to one, gathering his own offensive board gave Perez the opportunity for a three.

The rest is history.

Tied 60-60 following Perez’s three-pointer, Putnam stopped the opposition on the other end of the floor to force overtime and won the game by a final of 74-66 after stealing away all of the momentum.

“The place erupted and it changed the whole thing,” Espinosa said. “If he didn’t make that, there’s a good chance we lose the game.”

Perez’s confidence has not waivered over the years and is part of the reason why he has reached this point in his career. Espinosa says this is because Perez is simply a “winner.” Each game, his ability to score gives the Sun Devils an added boost on the offensive end.

“A guy who’s been in college for a couple of years, he understands the game, and he can help us in different positions,” ASU guard Frankie Collins said. “He brings a lot to the table. He scores and he passes the ball well.”

Perez compared the corner three that he made during a recent ASU victory 85-77 over Utah to that legendary Putnam Science shot from long ago because of the use of his lethal pump fake. Hurley added that the shot was “huge” in the context of tallying a win in a harsh road environment.

As a Sun Devil, Perez averages the second most points on the team, scoring 12.9 per game, which has been a major help to a squad that has not been without offensive struggles throughout the season. Perez has the opportunity to tack on a few more to his season total tonight when ASU (13-13 overall, 7-8 conference) hosts Washington (14-12, 6-9) at home.

Perez has been quite the journeyman during his collegiate years and brings a plethora of experience to ASU in his final season of eligibility. Looking ahead, the only thing on his mind is making the most out of the rest of the season, and that means winning.

“I feel like right now my last year is not going as planned, that’s why I’ve been frustrated … and the only way to change is to get hot in February and March and go dancing that way,” Perez said.

Sports Reporter, Phoenix

Maxwell Williams expects to graduate in Spring 2026 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism and a minor in Spanish linguistic studies. Williams has written for the East Valley Tribune.

Sports Visual Journalist, Phoenix

Alyssa Buruato expects to graduate in May 2025 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism. Buruato has interned as a photographer at Phoenix Magazine and is a photo intern with Sun Devil Athletics.