Kaden Perry committed to Gonzaga in June, 2019, and it’ll be roughly a year before he joins the program.
The 6-foot-9, 220-pound Perry has spent the last 15 months adding 10 pounds of muscle, playing with and against many of the nation’s top prospects and making big strides with his game.
What’s different about the summer-of-2019 Perry to the current version?
“I’d say confidence and just knowing what I can do and being able to do it,” said Perry, a senior at Battle Ground (Washington) High. “I’m putting the ball on the floor a little more and trying to take more of a leadership role. I’m way stronger, I’m in a better state than back then.”
The COVID-19 pandemic sidelined the sports world for months, but Perry joined powerhouse Seattle Rotary for two AAU tournaments. Perry continued to blossom on the team, which includes Paolo Banchero, who recently committed to Duke, and Nolan Hickman, a Kentucky commit. Seattle Rotary went undefeated in tournaments in Utah and Indianapolis.
“I wish we would have been able to do the (Nike) EYBL (circuit) but I’m still grateful we did get in some games,” said Perry, who joins Ben Gregg in GU’s 2021 class. “I was able to play against higher-level competition than I play around here in high school.
“It just showed me playing with and against those guys what I have to do at the next level. It showed me what my offense and defense are going to need to look like.”
Perry made an impression on teammates and on recruiting analysts, rising to No. 34 in 247sports’ rankings. Banchero, ranked No. 3, had high praise for Perry while joining No. 1 Chet Holmgren on a recent Jeff Goodman podcast.
“You would love to play with him,” Banchero told Holmgren, who lists Gonzaga in his final seven. “He dunk everything, block everything. Monster.”
Perry is bouncy, athletic and has drawn comparisons to Clarke, who had a ton of dunks and blocks in his one season as a Zag before becoming a first-round NBA draft pick.
“You can’t complain about being compared to a guy like that,” Perry said.
The pandemic forced Perry to find creative ways to improve his game. With gyms closed early on, he jogged to stay in shape and used a friend’s outdoor hoop to work on his post moves and perimeter shooting.
Some restrictions remain in place, but Perry is now able to train at a gym. He tries to spend an hour every day shooting and an hour lifting weights.
“A lot of mid-range shooting, getting a jumper so I’m not just power on the inside and I can step out and hit corner jumpers and elbow jumpers,” Perry said. His focus lifting was on “(adding) muscle, getting stronger so I can be able to push guys around in the paint. I’ve been working my upper body, triceps, back, basically everything.”
Perry and his younger brother have been extremely cautious during the pandemic because his mom, DeLena, has Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a rare disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks the nerves. Perry said one of the reasons he joined Seattle Rotary was the team’s safety measures, including temperature checks and masks, and they only played in tournaments with strong protocols in place.
“Luckily we haven’t had anyone that got it (COVID-19) with my mom being medically compromised it’s way more important,” he said. “She’s very strict about the lockdown. Sometimes I have to say no to certain things.
“I always wear a mask and keep hand sanitizer with me. I’m being as careful as possible so that I don’t bring it back to the house.”
Perry and Gregg played together on the AAU Rose City Rebels in the summer of 2019. Both were among the top 100 players recently invited to the Wootten Camp next month in Mansfield, Texas, but both declined to attend.
The two have made their college choices so the exposure wasn’t as important and Perry was concerned about traveling during the pandemic. Players also were responsible for travel costs and a $180 entry fee.
The start of Perry’s senior season has been pushed back because of the virus, but he likes the team’s roster and Battle Ground figures to be a state title contender. After that, he’s looking forward to becoming a Zag and being teammates with Gregg again.
“He plays more outside and he’s a good shooter and passer. I play on the inside and clean up,” Perry said. “When he got that offer I was really excited and hoping that he’d choose Gonzaga.”
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