The transition from junior college to Division I basketball started with the jarring nature of 6 a.m. weight lifting sessions.
It continued when Javonte Perkins realized he needed to be better conditioned after experiencing his first individual workout at St. Louis University.
Then came a look at the physicality he would encounter when he blindly ran into a screen set by 6-foot-10, 270-pound Jimmy Bell.
“Some teams in junior college were physical but not like every day when you go to practice and know you’re about to get hit a lot,” Perkins said. “I wasn’t used to that. I had a sense of it, but then you get hit the first time and you weren’t expecting it but knew it was coming sometime.”
Perkins transferred to SLU from Southwestern Illinois College after playing in high school at Miller Career Academy. He spent the summer working out alone before arriving on campus for the start of the fall semester.
The past month has been a crash course in preparation for the official start of practice, on Oct. 1.
The next step: Trading in those SWIC shorts for some SLU gear. Otherwise, Perkins thinks he’s about ready to enter the rigors of a coach Travis Ford preseason.
The hope at SLU is that Perkins’ offensive game will translate to the D-I level after he left SWIC as the program’s all-time leading scorer. The 6-foot-5 guard/forward averaged 26.4 points last season after averaging 20 as a freshman.
“Coach (Ford) told me I’m a scorer so just try to score the ball and be aggressive,” Perkins said. “Coming from SWIC, it’s not going to be as easy. It depended on the game, but most of the time it felt like I could get shots whenever I wanted to. It doesn’t matter as long as we win.”
The transition to play at the highest level of college basketball actually started when Perkins departed high school as a 145-pounder. He has added about 50 pounds and is approaching 200.
At that time, he didn’t grasp just how spindly he was or how that might limit his effectiveness as he moved to a higher level. But he recalls that he shied away from contact, fading away from some shots instead of inviting a collision.
Coaches at SWIC immediately had him consuming many protein drinks and eating as much as possible.
“They made me drink a lot of Muscle Milk and eat like six times a day,” Perkins said. “I wasn’t watching what I ate, I was just trying to gain weight. My shoulders started filling out more and people would tell me I looked like I was getting bigger.”
After averaging 20.8 points as as senior in high school, he immediately found he could do the same at the junior college level. Then came his breakout season as a sophomore as he finished third in the country in scoring.
Perkins shot 53.7 percent overall and made 36 percent of his 3-pointers after finishing at 60 percent and 42.6 percent as a freshman. He topped 40 points in several games last season.
Upon arriving at SLU, he was challenged in early drills. He recalled one in particular that involves dribbling the length of the floor while being hit by coaches with large pads and then repeating the course.
“I thought I was all right but we had individuals and it was . . . very tough actually,” he said. “That’s the drill that got me. By the time I got back, the first person was going again.”
Perkins felt like he acclimated quickly, however.
Now he has to figure out how to get his points against bigger, longer and more physical defenders. He is getting a taste of the challenge by facing Fred Thatch Jr. in drills.
“I feel I’m getting it now, but everyone’s longer,” he said. “There are really no 5-9 or 5-10 point guards. Someone is always helping (on defense), so I have to learn to jump stop. There’s small stuff to adjust. I’m not one of the tallest players anymore or the biggest so I can go to my natural position and maybe affect the game the same way.”
Perkins played some power forward last year, a spot that his body really didn’t fit. But he averaged eight rebounds. He figures to spend more time on the perimeter for the Billikens.
And his scoring potential is important on a roster that doesn’t include much scoring among the returning players.
Getting to the rim could prove to be more difficult, so Perkins acknowledged he will have to develop more of a mid-range game to go with his threat from beyond the arc.
But after experiencing some early challenges, Perkins thinks he’s about ready for full team practices.
“I’m pretty confident so far,” he said. “When coach gives me the chance, I just have to prove I can do it.”