January 25, 2007

Ten Questions with Claire Perry

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In between a home-and-home series with Columbia, senior captain Claire Perry of the women’s basketball team swatted away some of Paul Testa’s best shots.

1. I’m sort of the Chris Matthews of The Sun, so I hope you’re ready for some hardball. How was your break?

Short, but very nice.

Now I heard you stayed in Ithaca with the team. That must have been terribly exciting.

Extremely exciting. A bunch of girls stayed at my house and a bunch of girls stayed at the Ramada and it was a lot of fun.

I thought they put you up in the Statler?

No, we don’t get the benefit of staying in the Statler.

Was the team rocking out the room service at the Ramada?

I didn’t stay at the Ramada, but all of the freshmen stayed at the Ramada and we went over and visited a couple of times. It was a lot fun because a lot of the teams are over there.

So how does the Ramada rank? How many stars would you give it?

My freshman year, it was not the best experience, but apparently there’s been a complete turnaround. Five stars.

Five stars?!

We had some good times hanging out.

I would imagine.

2. Besides staying at the fabulous Ramada Inn, you had a pretty amazing break as a team. You started off the season 0-7 and have won six of your last seven games, you are 3-0 in the Ivies. How’d this turnaround happen?

We had that win right before we went home against Colgate, and then we took a break. I think we just needed a break to collect ourselves, to see where we were at and what we wanted to accomplish. Our coaches purposely set up a schedule where we would start off playing hard teams and hopefully gain confidence in the end.

So even though the results weren’t there, could you see the progression in the team?

I could definitely see the progression. We started out not playing as a team, and as everyone has said to us, we’ve just been becoming more of a team.

I feel like a lot of players who were hitting shots last year weren’t hitting them earlier this year.

Myself included. I completely agree.

Is there a defining moment where it was like, “This is the turning point in our season?”

I guess right after break. That win with Colgate helped and afterwards getting so many wins — we just went on a roll.

Talk to me about the Princeton game. They were picked to win the Ivy League this year. How huge was that 70-66 win?

Of all the Ivy League teams, we really wanted to beat Princeton.

Are you saying there’s some beef between the two teams?

There’s no beef. It’s just everyone thinks they’re all good, and they are actually a very good team, but we played better as a team that night. It was probably the best win that I’ve ever had in my Cornell career.

Going forward this season where do you see the team headed?

[Laughing] Oh, all the way.

All the way?! You’re kidding me.

No, definitely not. We’re going to win this.

Last year the team was picked to finish last in the Ivies and I think you surprised a lot of people with your fifth place finish.

I think we did surprise people with our win against Princeton and the fact that we swept the weekend and beat Columbia. Hopefully we can beat Columbia again. As long as we continue this run, I think we’ll keep surprising people and keep winning.

3. I know most people don’t like to talk about their age, but you’re the only senior on the team. Has that been awkward? Or do you relish your role as team leader?

Initially, it was weird. I mean everyone had one another to talk to. I’m not saying I wasn’t able to talk to anyone, but now seeing the season progress, I’ve definitely been able to hang out and talk more with everyone.

Do you see yourself as sort of a team mom?

[While baking a pie] A team mom? I mean, people come to me just because…

[Interrupts] You can buy them alcohol?

No. We can all hang out and have a good time. There’s no seniority and I’m not about to tear them down. We’re all good friends.

There have to be some benefits of being the only senior. Do you ever carry your own bag anymore?

I always carry my own bag.

Sure you do.

I don’t know. I cut in line. You can’t really do much, or it will be hazing.

4. Do you have any pre-game superstitions?

Before each game I have to read a card of stuff that’s written down. Just like common sense kind of things that make me focus.

Like tie your shoes, remember to breathe.

Totally. Step-by-step, loop and swoop.

I have the same card I read before every interview telling me to make jokes about balls.

Good one. So … superstitions, there’s that and every foul shot I think of a particular thing that helps me focus.

Which is?

I can’t tell you. One time a ref actually saw me staring and he was like “What are you thinking about,” and I was like “I can’t tell you.”

Is this like a birthday wish that won’t come true if you tell it?

No, no, I can’t tell you about it.

Just whisper it. We won’t print it.

No, I have to be focused and no one else can know about it.

Is it bigger than a breadbox?

A breadbox? Yes, but that’s all I’m telling you.

Come on, I get at least ten questions.

Sorry.

5. You’re a starting guard on the team. How would you describe yourself as a player?

I used to be a shooter. I still think I am a shooter, but my percentages are a little low right now.

You’re in the backcourt bringing the ball up, running plays. I take it you enjoy handling balls?

This is so bad — I’m not the primarily ball handler.

But you can get the job done. Do prefer to play with synthetic or natural balls?

Natural.

Naturally. Is it a problem when the balls are too soft?

I really don’t like that. [Laughing] My parents are reading this!

Tell them I say hello.

Will do.

Do you like to work the backdoor or are you more about pounding it inside?

[Pause] Well, I would like to say both. Currently, I’m on this drive to go backdoor all the time, and my teammates totally see it, so it’s great.

Tell me about it. I’m a huge fan of taking it backdoor.

Really? Princeton backdoor cuts?

Those too.

That’s how we beat Princeton. It was nice. I like to drive, I like to do backdoor cuts.

But how do you respond to people who say women can’t drive?

I’d say let’s play 1-on-1.

Well, if you were to take on senior tri-captain and guard Graham Dow of the men’s basketball team, in a little game of 1-on-1 who do you think would win? Do you have the height advantage?

No, he’s still a little taller than me. He’s been shooting a lot more lately. He’s pretty stealth-like on defense.

He’s got that shady Canadian guile. I think this whole college thing is just a cover so he can make millions exchanging Canadian quarters for their more valuable American counterparts. But go on.

I’m from outside Philly, Doylestown, so I’ve never played against Canadians. He may have an edge on me.

6. You spent the summer in Harlem, working with the Harlem RBI program which teaches reading and writing to kids. Coming from a small town in Pennsylvania, how big of an adjustment was that?

It was an adjustment to say the least. My parents were very hesitant to say yes. My brother moved to Brooklyn, so I was able to live with him and commute to Harlem. Even living in Brooklyn was a big change.

What age group were you working with?

I was working with 11 and 12-year-old boys.

That had to be rough. I was pretty much a huge dick when I was 11-to-12 years old.

I probably would have smacked you across the face.

I wish someone had set me straight.

We can’t actually do that, but we did make them do pushups. We taught them reading and writing in the morning and then in the afternoon we did baseball in Central Park. It was awesome.

Do you have any baseball experience?

No, I was co-coach with another guy, who definitely knew more about the game, so I was more like, “Yay team!”

You were cutting the orange slices.

Yes, exactly. But it was just an awesome experience.

7. I’ve heard rumors from a few unnamed sources on the team that you have a certain problem stealing food on team buses, especially crusts of pizza. Is this true?

I don’t steal crusts of pizza. I just ask people if they want their crusts. I don’t go picking it off other people’s plates.

Hey, it’s totally cool. I’m the raccoon in my house. I feel if it’s left on the table overnight it’s fair game.

There you go. I’ll ask them and if they don’t hear, I’ll be like “All right, I asked.”

I could live on day-old Chinese food.

[Disgusted] Really? Day-old Chinese food?

Soy sauce, like fine wine, needs to age. It softens the tannins.

[Muttering] I don’t steal food.

Well, how would you describe your actions then?

I keep my eyes open. I do eat a lot; so I’m just looking out see if everyone else is done.

Who’s your favorite target on the team?

For food? I don’t have a target. I ask [junior] Megan Hughes a lot because I know she doesn’t eat her crusts, and anyone else, they all know pretty much that I’ll eat their crusts.

Are you just standing outside CTP at closing time riffling through the dumpsters?

Well if there’s free food. I mean closing time they’ll have some going away stuff.

8. What if I was to offer you some chicken noodle soup?

Chicken noodle soup?

With a soda on the side, is that something you might be interested in?

What about it?

Well, I think you may have a career ahead of you on Dancing with the Stars. And so I brought my laptop along, and on it we have Webstar and Young B’s breakout single “Chicken Noodle Soup.”

Oh my God, the actual chicken noodle soup song from Harlem you mean?

Can you do the chicken noodle soup dance?

I cannot.

That’s not true!

I really can’t.

That’s not true. I’ve heard from very good sources that you can. Let me just refresh your memory. I’m just going to put it on and if you want to let it rain, I’ll clear it out. [Turns on iTunes]

[Jazz hands moving down from shoulders] Let it rain and [Hands sweep away from hips] clear it out. Let it rain and clear it out. [Epileptic seizure] Let’s get it. Let’s get it. Let’s get it.

See, you can do it.

No! I can do the top half. My boys taught me the dance from Harlem. They would do it every day.

I don’t understand it. I like chicken soup and all.

It’s huge in Harlem. All my boys would do it, and they would make fun of me because I can’t do it.

No, you can!

You do it!

I’ll do it if you’ll do it.

I don’t know it. All right. So hands go like this and you let it rain and clear it out. Then your hands go like this — I don’t know how you’re going to write about this — and then your legs go like opposite. I don’t know. There are videos. Go to YouTube.

Was that you in the back on 106 and Park?

Totally. I mean I didn’t want my name in it.

So this summer was really about your education in dance.

I thought I was going to go in and teach everybody, and I learned way more than I taught.

9. As you probably know, Tuesday was my birthday.

Happy birthday! How old are you?

Twenty-two. It’s depressing as hell.

Join the ranks. It’s especially bad when I’m hanging out with my 18-year-old teammates.

My roommate just joined the AARP. No joke, he gets the magazine and everything. It’s probably mail fraud.

Probably.

Anyway, I know you have a game Saturday, but I would be thoroughly honored if you and the basketball team would be my guests of honor that night for a little grape-based beverage and cheese party.

Really?

Some ball sports may be played as well?

Where’s it at?

[Dialogue lost behind noise of CTB smoothie machine]

That would be awesome.

Really?! Awesome! We’ll have a velvet-roped off area where the team can sign autographs.

As long as we can secure some ball game action, that would be wonderful.

Excellent. Bring your A-game.

10. What’s the hottest male varsity team at Cornell?

I have to think about it. I have some friends on some teams…

Listen, this is objective and scientific. Your answer gets collected into a database.

I’m going to go with men’s lacrosse and football.

I need one.

No.

I’m sorry I can’t accept that. If junior Luke Siwula of the football team and senior David Mitchell of the men’s lacrosse team both showed up on your doorstep carrying a dozen roses begging for a date, who would you pick?

I’d say “Let’s all go out and have fun together.”

You can’t do that and we can’t print those kinds of stories. I need a definitive answer.

Why?

Because hottest is a superlative. If you’re going to be indecisive, tell me what’s hot about lacrosse and what’s hot about football, and I’ll make the decision for you.

Well, I have more friends on the football team.

So it’s a pity selection. You’re picking football to make your friends happy?

No, it’s a tie.

It can’t be a tie. It seems like you like the guys on the football team because you know them, but you think the lacrosse team is objectively hot. We could make a distinction for attractiveness some other time, but we’re talking pure animal lust. Who takes it?

I’ll go with football.

Are you being honest or are you being nice?

Both. I’m being honest because they’re very nice people.

I know a lot of nice girls, but not all nice girls are hot.

In this case it works out because they’re nice guys and they’re cute and hot.

Paul Testa is a Sun Assistant Sports Editor. 10 Questions will appear every Thursday unless Testa drinks too many grape-based beverages this weekend. Comments and suggestions may be sent to pft4@cornell.edu.