Denver versus Gonzaga on Friday at the McCarthey Athletic Center is something of a homecoming game for Gonzaga’s Josh Perkins.
The senior point guard is a Denver native, growing up in the Park Hill neighborhood. Perkins said he “pretty much knows (the Pioneers’) whole team.”
Perkins has spent countless hours in the gym with Denver coach Rodney Billups and older brother Chauncey, a five-time all-star who played 17 NBA seasons.
Perkins refers to himself as the prince of Park Hill and Chauncey as the king of Park Hill. And Rodney? “No official title,” Perkins said, “but something above me.”
“It’s really cool,” Perkins said. “The Billups name obviously means a lot to me, so to have Rodney in here and playing against him, it’s big time. Those guys have helped me my entire career.”
Perkins and Denver senior wing Ronnie Harrell Jr. were teammates on Chauncey Billups’ Elite AAU teams. Harrell is the Pioneers’ leading scorer (14.3 points per game) after transferring from Creighton, where he spent his first three seasons.
“I’m looking forward to coming up against familiar faces,” Perkins said, “but obviously getting a win for the Zags.”
No. 8 Gonzaga (10-2) got back on the winning track with an 89-55 rout over UT Arlington on Tuesday. Denver (5-8) handled Montana State 76-64 on the same night, hitting 15 3-pointers in the process.
Harrell made six 3s, Joe Rosga three and Ade Murkey two. Four others, including 6-foot-9, 245-pound forward Tory Stewart-Miller, each had one. Stewart-Miller is a graduate transfer from Colorado. He played in 101 games for the Buffaloes.
The 6-3 Rosga is a four-year starter with impressive career numbers: 1,414 points, a 14.6 scoring average, 206 3-pointers and 42.8-percent 3-point shooting accuracy.
The 3-ball is an important component in the Pioneers’ offense. They make 39.7 percent, 20th nationally, and that figure climbs to 44.6 in their five wins. Twelve Pioneers have made at least three 3s.
Harrell (41.9 percent), Rosga (43.1) and Murkey (47.6 percent) lead the team in made 3-pointers with 26, 25 and 10, respectively. Rosga, who missed four games with an injury, hits 2.8 per game.
Denver was picked third in the preseason Summit League poll. Billups is 36-37 in his three seasons.
The Zags are 12-0 against Summit League foes, including a 102-60 blowout over North Dakota State on Nov. 28.
Harrell “played well against us in the past,” Zags coach Mark Few said. “It’s going to be one of those days with not many students in here, so we have to create our own energy and try to finish off this run before Christmas the right way.”
Perkins leads the nation with 96 assists and ranks third at 8.0 per game. Perkins’ 574 career assists are fourth in program history. No. 3 Jeremy Pargo had 589.
Perkins needs one 3-pointer to move into sole possession of seventh place with 220. He’s tied with Gary Bell Jr.
Perkins needs five points to surpass Bell for 24th on GU’s all-time scoring list.
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