ETSU home finale proves special for Childress, Perry
  
By Matt Hill

STAR STAFF

   JOHNSON CITY -- Jon Perry and Dimeco Childress have totally different roles on East Tennessee State's basketball team, but they go together like sugar goes with tea.
   Together, they've brought some refreshment to the ETSU basketball program.
   Perry and Childress played their last game in Memorial Center Saturday, and both enjoyed their greatest day as a Buccaneer.
   Childress set a Memorial Center record with 42 points in ETSU's 91-77 victory over Western Carolina.
   In that same game, Perry made his first start of his collegiate career.
   It's been two totally different paths. Childress is among ETSU's career scoring leaders, while Perry is a walk-on who just wanted to play Division I basketball.
   But together, Childress and Perry have seen this program go from doormat to one of the elite programs in the Southern Conference.
   "This program has really come a long ways," Childress said. "When I came on my visit, I went in the locker room and it was terrible. That's the first thing they got changed. Now we have one the best locker rooms around.
   "Coach DeChellis just continued to get good players in every year, and I think next year they'll have an even better team than we do this year. This program has come a long ways, and it's going to keep going up."
   Perry also believes things have really turned around from the time he first walked on campus.
   "I think it's really good to see where we started when I got here, and now where we are," Perry said. We're are a dominant team in the Southern Conference."
   Perry was recruited by small colleges coming out of high school, but that's not what he wanted. The Huntingdon, W. Va. native wanted to play at a high level, and ETSU head basketball coach Ed DeChellis gave him that opportunity.
   "A friend of my dad knew Coach DeChellis," Perry said. "I had the chance to come down here, and talk to him. I thought this would be a better opportunity for me. I wanted to be on the Division I level. Even though I didn't get to play it's still been a great experience.
   Perry is actually a fifth-year senior, as he tore an ACL during the 98-99 season. He was determined to be a part of the team, and felt like his role as a practice player was very important.
   "I think I just come out everyday wanting to play," Perry said. "I love the game. I come out hard in practice getting these guys to practice. I just try to keep everybody's head together, and teach younger guys things. Even though I don't play a lot, I still see a lot and still can help these guys with their confidence."
   Childress definitely went out with a bang by breaking the Memorial Center record. He now owns a record that great players like Calvin Talford, Greg Dennis, Trazel Silvers, Keith Jennings and Greg Stephens don't have.
   Childress can now make the claim to be one of East Tennessee State's all-time great players. He recently joined the 1000-point club for his career.
   Childress hopes he is remembered in years to come.
   "It means a lot," Childress said about getting the record. "Hopefully one day I can be up there with those guys. Some great players have been through here, and maybe I can be named as one of them."
   The most ardent ETSU fans probably weren't going to forget about Childress before his 42-point effort, but the Columbia, Tenn. native just wanted to make sure no one did.
   "I wanted to set a record tonight," Childress said after Saturday's game. "I just wanted to do something big for people to remember me by."
   As you can see, Childress and Perry have had two totally different careers, but they both care about each other very much.
   "J.P. is probably my right hand man now since Cliff (Decoster) has left," Childress said. "We were tight anyway, but we really have gotten even tighter. It was great seeing him out there on the court with him. That was the first time. I had never really ever played with J.P. in a game.
   Said Perry: Meco and I have gone through a lot. We've been through a lot. We've made a life-long friendship here.
   Coach DeChellis realizes how big Childress and Perry have been to the program.
   "They're both tremendous kids," DeChellis said. "They work extremely hard. They do exactly what they're asked of them. They're great students. They've just been great ambassadors to our program for four years."
   Childress and Perry both have one more goal to make before they leave Johnson City, and that's to win the Southern Conference Tournament.
   "That's what I'm shooting for," Childress said. "I think we've got a great chance of getting it. We're going to focus on the task ahead, and that's getting to the NCAA Tournament."