A perfect fit: Ex-Michigan guard Laval Lucas-Perry comfortable at Oakland
If he had to do it all over again, Laval Lucas-Perry's final destination would've been his original choice.
There would've been no lengthy trip to the desert and no re-emergence in the Big Ten — everything would've been much simpler.
A basketball career that began in Flint before stops in Tucson and Ann Arbor has come to rest at Oakland.
And the well-traveled author of this story couldn't seem happier.
"It's definitely home," said Lucas-Perry, who will face his old Wolverine teammates Saturday (4 p.m., FSD) at The Palace of Auburn Hills. "Everything happens for a reason, and I think this is the best place for me."
As a transfer at Michigan from 2008-10, Lucas-Perry never settled into the system.
But now, as a senior on Greg Kampe’s Oakland squad, things have fallen into place.
For once, everything fits.
"In recruiting, we talk so much about fit," Kampe said. "Laval fits what we do. He fits our system offensively, he fits my personality, he fits.
"That doesn't make our system right or better, it just makes it better for him. Because he fits."
‘A lot of irony’
The last time Michigan and Oakland played a game in Auburn Hills, Lucas-Perry stole the show.
On Dec. 20, 2008, wearing maize and blue rather than the black and gold attire he now sports, Lucas-Perry turned in a gem of a performance in his debut as a Wolverine.
A 6-foot-3, 185-pound guard with the ability to beat people off the dribble and make them pay from deep, Lucas-Perry came off the bench to knock down four 3-pointers on his way to 14 points in 16 minutes, helping his then-current team (Michigan) knock off his future team (Oakland), 89-76.
“There's a lot of irony there," Lucas-Perry says now, remembering the day.
The game looked like a bright sign of things to come for Lucas-Perry, who gained second-semester eligibility at Michigan during the 2008-09 season following a transfer from Arizona.
His star would continue to rise from there, as he went on to hit double-figure scoring numbers in his first six games as a Wolverine, finally backing up his billing as one of Rivals.com's Top 150 players in the country in 2007.
“I was happy for him,” said Kampe, who gave Lucas-Perry his first scholarship offer while in high school at Flint Powers Catholic. “I was sad for Oakland, but I was happy for him.”
The early success eventually turned into fool’s gold, though, as Lucas-Perry turned in just seven more double-figure scoring efforts in his final 52 games at Michigan.
A free-wheeling, athletic guard, Lucas-Perry never found a full comfort level in Michigan coach John Beilein’s intricate offensive system, and in turn, ended his brief Michigan career as a 36 percent shooter with a 5.6 point per game scoring average.
He never fit.
Eventually, Lucas-Perry’s disappointing run on the floor resulted in an unfortunate end off the court, as Beilein dismissed him from the program during the summer of 2010 for repeated, unspecified, violations of “team standards.”
Left without a place to play once again, Lucas-Perry headed home.
And since then, he’s never left.
A family friend
Greg Kampe’s relationship with Lucas-Perry didn’t start as a typical coach-recruit connection. Instead, it was more of a friend of the family-type bond.
Kampe’s son Branch, now a freshman linebacker at LSU, played youth basketball with Lucas-Perry’s younger brother Patrick, now a freshman guard at Pennsylvania.
While attending his son’s games as a parent, rather than a coach, Kampe got to know Lucas-Perry’s parents, Laval and Patricia Ann.
So while “violation of team standards” may put a scare into most prospective coaches, it never affected Kampe.
In Laval Lucas-Perry, he knew what he was getting.
"There was nothing that was said about him, there was nothing that was assumed about him through his college days that I cared about because I had unique knowledge of the family,” Kampe said. “If he was just some recruit, then maybe that would've been different.
"But because of my relationship as a parent with his parents, and watching Laval grow up as much as I saw him. I knew who he was, what he was and what I was getting."
So after failing to reel him in out of high school, and again as a first-time transfer, Kampe finally landed Lucas-Perry.
And with that, the player who never seemed to fit, finally appears comfortable again.
“Our style of play is way different than Michigan’s,” Kampe says. “And he fits it. We spread the floor, we run dribble-drive, we let him go and put the ball on the floor and make one-on-one plays.
“It’s just not as structured. In their system, everything is calculated in their offense. In ours, nothing’s calculated, it’s ‘just play.’ “
Lucas-Perry, who sat out the 2010-11 season as a transfer, is averaging 10.9 points and 25.3 minutes per game in Kampe’s fast-paced dribble-drive offense this season.
Another guard who can create and shoot, the former Michigan and Arizona product looks to play a key role as the Golden Grizzlies will aim for their third-straight Summit League crown and advance to their third-straight NCAA Tournament in the process.
He’s got one more shot at the glory he seemed destined for during his prep days in Flint, and from where he sits now, he owes it all to Kampe.
"I've learned a lot from Coach Beilein, (former Arizona coaches) Kevin O'Neil and Lute Olsen, and those are all great coaches," Lucas-Perry said. "But I'm here with Coach Kampe now, and he's one of the best in the country. He knows how to bring out the best in his players, and he knows how to bring out the best in me.
"That's why I'm playing for him and I'm playing for Oakland — I'm playing for something bigger than myself."
Just another game
More than a full season removed from his last appearance in a Michigan uniform, Lucas-Perry says he doesn’t keep in contact with his former teammates.
It’s not because of any ill-will, but more due to the fact that he’s moved on — both personally and athletically.
Lucas-Perry says he has no regrets and harbors no hard feelings toward anyone at Michigan. And when he returns to The Palace floor Saturday to face his old team, he won’t be out for blood or revenge.
“I'm with Oakland now, and we’re playing Michigan,” said Lucas-Perry, who says he's expecting a large number of friends and family from Flint on Saturday in Auburn Hills. “We're taking it as a game we've got to win to complete our mission (this season).
"It's just another game."
He won’t allow Saturday to be about him.
Because, for once, he’s found his fit.
That's all he ever really wanted in the first place.
Want to stay connected to Wolverine basketball in your Facebook newsfeed? “Like” AnnArbor.com's Michigan Basketball News & Views.