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‘I could barely walk on my own’: Gonzaga-bound Kaden Perry on the mend from back injury

UPDATED: Sat., May 29, 2021

Battle Ground’s Kaden Perry, a Gonzaga recruit pictured on Nov. 12, 2019, is on the mend from a back injury.  (Courtesy of Nathan Howard/The Columbian)
Battle Ground’s Kaden Perry, a Gonzaga recruit pictured on Nov. 12, 2019, is on the mend from a back injury. (Courtesy of Nathan Howard/The Columbian)

Kaden Perry waited months for his senior season at Battle Ground (Washington) High to begin due to COVID-19 pandemic delays. It ended too soon when he suffered a back injury in the fifth game.

Perry, one of four players in Gonzaga’s 2021 recruiting class, is slowly recovering from the noncontact injury three weeks ago.

Perry said he heard a pop when he bent down and four or five more when he tried to jump to defend a Prairie player’s shot. He was in pain immediately upon landing and crumpled to the court.

“I have a couple of herniated discs,” the 6-foot-9, 230-pound forward said in a phone interview. “They said physical therapy and rest for now and I should be able to make a full recovery.”

The first week was rough. Pain found him if he sat down or when he was on his feet for too long.

“I could barely walk on my own,” he said. “My mom has a hospital bed so when she wasn’t there I’d use it because laying in my bed was too painful. I’ve got to the point where I’m walking now. Where I’m at now is way better than that first week.”

Perry rolled his left ankle about a week before the Prairie game. He sprained his right ankle after landing on a Prairie player’s foot.

“It was swollen immediately, but I knew it was a rivalry game,” he said. “I spent a minute or two with the trainer and I said, ‘I can go back in.’ It happened right after that. I’m not sure if it had something to do with the ankle or not.”

Perry has been doing physical therapy exercises mostly at home because appointments have been hard to come by.

“We’re talking about heading to Spokane a bit earlier to have access to the facilities and have the help and care up there,” Perry said.

Perry was dominant in his four-plus games, showing off improved shooting range and ball-handling ability and added muscle from his daily lifting sessions with head coach Manny Melo at the coach’s home gym. He bent the rim with a soaring two-handed dunk against Heritage.

Melo estimated Perry was averaging 30 points, 15 rebounds and 3.5 blocks.

“I don’t think the numbers do him justice because he was triple-teamed all the time,” Melo said. “I believe he was shooting 65% and 39% from 3. Being tripled, that’s just crazy.

“He was really confident with the ball in his hands, straight-line drives, rip throughs and the 12- to 15-foot jumper. He hit three straight 3s in one game. He has the confidence to shoot it and not really think about it. Last year you could tell when he was going to shoot it, now it’s just more free flowing. And the leadership piece, he’s taken some guys under his wing.”

Perry is No. 54 in 247sports composite rankings. He joins No. 1 Chet Holmgren, No. 18 Hunter Sallis and No. 30 Nolan Hickman in the nation’s second-ranked recruiting class.

Battle Ground is entering the final week of an abridged season. Melo said Perry won’t play even if he made a speedy recovery. The team’s trainer told Perry the same thing.

Battle Ground and several programs in their district held Senior Night early to make sure it wasn’t lost to the pandemic.

Perry is looking forward to joining Gonzaga’s program and his former AAU teammates Hickman and Ben Gregg. Perry hopes he’s at full strength when he arrives on campus, but it will depend on how quickly he recovers.

“I keep telling people I went from working out 2½ hours every day, maybe taking a day off to recover once in a while, to when I first got injured I could barely get to the bathroom,” he said.

The Zags are getting more than just a talented player, Melo said.

“He’s just a big, lovable teddy bear, outgoing, funny kid,” Melo said. “He’s a talkative kid, great communicator. He brings a spark and light to every room he walks into.”

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