SPACE COAST SPORTS HALL OF FAME: Merritt Island High’s Will Perdue Four-Time NBA Champion
By Space Coast Daily // November 25, 2022
Perdue played in 792 NBA games, collecting 3,918 rebounds and blocking 525 shots
WATCH: Playing alongside NBA superstars Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, Perdue won three world championship rings in 1991, 1992 and 1993 as a center for the Chicago Bulls. Before the 1994-1995 season opened, Perdue claimed the starting center position for Chicago, averaging 8 points and almost seven rebounds per game.
WILL PERDUE – 2013 INDUCTEE: Four-Time NBA Champion, SEC Player of the Year, High School All-American
ALL AMERICAN AT MERRITT ISLAND HIGH
BREVARD CONY, FLORIDA – Accomplishing big things in life has become the norm for Merritt Island’s Will Perdue.
From his earliest days as a tall, gangly kid trying out for the JV basketball team at Merritt Island High School, the 7-foot-1 Perdue’s talent grew almost as rapidly as he did in filling out his size 21 sneakers.
His large size came from his mother’s side of the family. She’s 6-foot-1 while his father is 5-foot-11. By the time Will turned 14, he was wearing his father’s size 10½ shoes and standing up could look his mother straight in the eye.
At 15 he sprouted to 6–foot-6 and reached 6-foot-10 in the fall of his senior year at Merritt Island High School.
Dominating the court by then, Perdue averaged 25 points and 18 rebounds per game for the Mustangs in his final year. That earned him high school All-American status and All-Southern first-team team recognition.
Even with his large body, Perdue never dunked the basketball until doing it in a practice during his sophomore year at Merritt Island, and he never attempted one in game for three more years to come.
“I never did it in a game until then because I was always afraid I would miss,” Perdue told his teammates.
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TAKING HIS GAME TO THE NEXT LEVEL
When the time rolled around to choose a college, Perdue decided to play basketball at Vanderbilt University for legendary coach C.M. Newton, passing up scholarship offers from the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, the Virginia Cavaliers, the Purdue Boilermakers and the Florida Gators.
Perdue struggled against college competition for his first season at Vanderbilt and then was red-shirted by Newton before his junior year to help him develop his skills more and work on improving his grades.
The move paid off.
Something clicked for Perdue by the time he was a junior on and off the court. His grades shot up significantly and suddenly he became a powerful force on the basketball floor helping the Vanderbilt Commodores become a nationally ranked top-25 squad.
His development was furthered by the arrival of Vanderbilt assistant coach Ed Martin, who worked with him to take his game to the next level.
“Will finally got to the point where he wanted to be somebody,” Martin said.
“He learned to read post defenses and free himself. He improved his hand and foot speed. Now he’s a good low-post scorer with a nice shooting touch. He reminds of Robert Parish the way he runs the court.
“He’s the type of center who can make other players around him better,” he said.
He was honored as Southeastern Conference Player of the Year and the SEC Male Athlete of the Year in 1988. His inspired play led to his selection by the Chicago Bulls as the 11th overall pick in the 1988 NBA Draft.
‘WILL THE THRILL’ HAS FOUR NBA RINGS
Playing alongside NBA superstars Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, Perdue won three world championship rings in 1991, 1992 and 1993 as a center for the Bulls. Before the 1994-1995 season opened, Perdue claimed the starting center position for Chicago, averaging 8 points and almost seven rebounds per game.
In 1996, the Bulls traded him to San Antonio and playing with NBA All-Star David Robinson, Perdue won his fourth NBA championship as a member of the Spurs in 1999.
He later returned to play for the Bulls as a free agent and wrapped up his professional career as a member of the Portland Trail Blazers.
Will “The Thrill” was the nickname given to him in the NBA by announcers for the Bulls and it stuck with him throughout his professional career stops.
Michael Jordan decided to call Perdue “Will Vanderbilt” after his alma mater though because he said Perdue “didn’t deserve to be named after a Big Ten school.”
During the span of his 13-year professional basketball career, Perdue averaged 4.7 points and 4.9 rebounds per game. Perdue played in 792 NBA games, collecting 3,918 rebounds and blocking 525 shots.
His achievements in professional basketball have earned him induction as a member of this year’s class of the Space Coast Sports Hall of Fame.
Perdue is now a radio and television commentator and analyst reporting about college and NBA basketball games.
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