In her first full season for the women’s basketball team, junior guard Clarissa Perez finished second in the nation in scoring at 24.1 points per game.
Perez previously played at a community college in Utah, and the University of Antelope Valley where she played under current head coach Jason Pruitt.
“Her maturity level and work ethic has gotten better every year,” Pruitt said. “What she was able to do this year she deserved because she put the work in during the offseason.”
Perez grew up playing multiple sports, in fact, her first love was actually football. But after a serious injury to her elbow, her mother did not allow her to play anymore. From middle school and on, basketball was her main focus.
After playing four years at St. Paul High School in Santa Fe Springs, Pruitt recruited Perez but she decided to attended Utah State Eastern instead. After things did not work out there, she came back home to California and reached out to Pruitt and ended up at the Antelope Valley.
Pruitt decided to leave Antelope Valley after they won a conference championship last year and become the next head coach at La Verne, and Perez wanted to stick with him.
“I asked for my release from the school,” Perez said. “When I got released I asked him if I could go along and he said yeah.”
Coming to her third school in three years, Perez is still settling in to the school and the community. She said she enjoys the mixture of students and cultures.
La Verne was coming off of three wins in the previous season with not many expectations this season. Pruitt brought along a new energy and a different style of play. Perez flourished in her first season at La Verne in Pruitt’s system, leading the conference in scoring and coming in second nationally.
One of the things that Perez cited for her success was how she watches more film this year. She is able to see how she performs during games and can critique herself and watch film of the teams she will face which can better prepare her for the next game.
“She was very important to our team,” junior guard Bailey Kurahashi said. “She led us in the right direction.
Assistant coach Michael Walker, who was with Perez and Pruitt at UAV, says he also noticed the work Perez had put in before this season.
“She is way more skilled now than she was back then,” Walker said. “I am really impressed by her ability to get to the basket because before she was mostly a perimeter shooter at UAV.”
Walker said that the coaching staff has had to ask Perez to dial back training at times because they do not want her to overexert herself. Perez played over 30 minutes a game for the team this year.
The team improved this season, going from three wins to five. It is not only the wins, but some of the losses that have Perez encouraged for next season.
“As a team, we improved so much and I think we shocked a lot people with how we played,” Perez said. “Even competing with some of the teams we competed with.”
With the season now behind her, Perez says she plans to stay with the same routine that got her to where she is now.
In the off-season, she has a trainer for conditioning and also one specifically for improving her basketball skills. Her focus is to stay healthy and have fun until during the off-season until the start of next season.
“Next season the goal is to win a national title,” Perez said. “I am going to be a senior so this is it, and I do not want to settle for anything less.”
Mark Acosta can be reached at email@example.com.