Perry McDonald – Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame
George Washington Carver HS/Georgetown University
Critics said he couldn’t shoot. But, oh, could he score!
A sensational four-year high-school basketball career propelled Perry McDonald to legendary athletic status in the Desire area of New Orleans. Couple that with a collegiate career as part of one of the most successful basketball programs of the 1980s and his induction into the Allstate Sugar Bowl Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame is a no-brainer.
McDonald was a four-time all-state selection at George Washington Carver High School from 1980 to 1984. Through athleticism, determination and toughness, he amassed 2,227 points for a career average of 23.9 points a game. In 1983 and 1984, he was the Times-Picayune’s Metro Most Valuable Player.
The 1984 season was perhaps his best as he led Carver to a 23-3 record including 17 victories in a row. The Rams reached the quarterfinal round of the state playoffs, losing to eventual state runner-up Booker T. Washington.
He also played football and baseball and ran track for the Rams (and was recruited as a defensive end by Nebraska) and was an amateur boxer.
“Perry was one of the very, very few kids I’ve seen here [at Carver] who everybody liked,” his basketball coach Tom Priestley, also a member of the Greater New Orleans Sports Hall of Fame, told the Washington Post’s Michael Wilbon in a 1987 interview. “He was such a great athlete, he was an all-district defensive end in football, he hit .280 in baseball. He ran the 400- and 800-meter relays. He won 50 of 58 fights as an amateur. One year, the day after basketball season ended, our baseball coach begged Perry to play the very next day. Perry was worried he would be embarrassed because he hadn’t practiced a lick. But that first game, he hit for the cycle.”
“I feel very proud of what I achieved in high school,” McDonald said. “I just hope it has some positive influence back there. I just kept my mind on going to college and playing ball. I just wanted to keep my mind off what was happening [in Desire] and try to get out of there.”
After his sterling high school career, McDonald played his college basketball at Georgetown University under the direction of Hall of Fame coach John Thompson. He played in all 38 games during his freshman season, helping the Hoyas reach the Final Four where they were upset in an unforgettable final by Villanova.
The 1985-86 Georgetown media guide described McDonald thusly: “an absolutely fearless competitor, he will take the ball inside against anyone.”
After a back injury limited his sophomore season, 1986 was his breakthrough year. Though standing only six-four, McDonald was moved from the backcourt to the frontcourt and he averaged 13 points (16.3 points per game in Big East games) and six rebounds and was named Second Team All-Big East as well as honorable mention All America.
Perry McDonald with Sugar Bowl President David Melius at his 2009 Hall of Fame induction. Photo by Wally Porter.
McDonald made his mark on the defensive end of the court at Georgetown. As the Hoyas designated “defensive stopper,” his assignments ranged from point guards to centers. In a 1987 contest against high-powered Syracuse, Thompson put McDonald in the low post against 6-11 center Rony Seikaly. Seikaly managed just four field goals and McDonald’s turnaround jumper at the buzzer in overtime gave Georgetown a thrilling two-point win.
“It doesn’t make sense that he can do some of the stuff he does,” Seikaly said after the game.
Later that season, the Hoyas again topped the Orangemen, this time at the Carrier Dome, thanks to a career-high 26 points from the New Orleans-product in a 72-71 win.
Prior to his senior season at Georgetown, McDonald was selected to represent the United States in the 1987 World University Games. He scored 18 points in the medal round win over Cuba and finished fourth in scoring ahead of future NBA stars Sean Elliott and B. J. Armstrong.
As a senior at Georgetown, McDonald, who had become a team captain, again averaged in double figures in scoring to go with six rebounds per game – leading the Hoyas on the glass for the second consecutive season. More importantly, he again led his squad to the NCAA Tournament, marking his fourth appearance in the Big Dance in four years of action.
“I don’t know how I always got stuck with the dirty work,” McDonald said. “When I was in high school, I always wanted to play wide receiver or tight end. I dreamed about being the star quarterback. I asked the coach about changing position and he said, ‘Then who’s going to block?’ I had to play offensive and defensive line. Here were all these big guys who should have been blocking, playing wide receiver or quarterback. I never got the glamor job.”
For his collegiate career, McDonald scored 1,019 points with 577 rebounds, 120 steals and 103 assists.
The NBA of the 1980s had limited room for under-sized power forwards, but McDonald was invited instead to join the new World Basketball League, a league with a height limit of 6-4 and below. The hard-nosed forward earned all-league defensive honors in each of the four years the WBL was in operation, and was named its championship tournament MVP in the league’s final season in 1992. He later played basketball in Europe before returning to Louisiana.
As part of Georgetown’s centennial basketball celebration, the school selected the top 100 players in the history of the school. McDonald was number 30 on the list. He was recognized as the epitome of the hard-nosed, physical skills of the great Georgetown teams of the 1980s.