Gonzaga has established its men’s basketball team as one of the premier programs in the NCAA, in big part due to their strong recruiting pipeline both nationally and internationally. As far reaching as their recruiting has become, some of their best and most valuable players come from inside the state of Washington. First team All-American Corey Kispert of Edmonds further cemented that fact, this season; additionally, another valuable player on this year’s team, sophomore Anton Watson, played four years at Gonzaga Prep in the Zags’ backyard. Kaden Perry out of Battle Ground High School (WA) is likely to add to Gonzaga’s in-state success rate as he gets to campus in the fall as part of the 2021 recruiting class.
At 6’8+ with a college-ready frame that should add quite a bit more muscle once he’s exposed to a college strength program, Perry brings above the rim explosive athleticism. He should be a factor as a rebounder immediately, while bringing timing as a rim protector and some versatility as an interior defender, as well. A skilled passer and finisher near the basket, the intangible things you can’t help but notice when you watch Perry play are his attitude and communication skills. His intensity and motor on the floor is often infectious and he certainly has potential in terms of continuing to add to his budding offensive arsenal.
A relatively last-minute addition to the 2019 USA Basketball October minicamp, Perry impressed and has shown enough improvement to garner the recognition of being named as a 2021 Nike Hoop Summit USA team honoree. While the event will not be taking place this year, it is still a great honor and shows that the work he has been putting in is being noticed. Player development has been an absolute calling card for Gonzaga and with Kaden Perry, they have a top-level athlete who is willing to work and learn. This projects as another win for Gonzaga, which should help maintain their perch toward the top of the national landscape.
In this interview, we discuss the latest with Kaden Perry’s season and development, his response to his selection to the Nike Hoop Summit, his take on his place in the rankings, how he feels about Gonzaga’s past season, what might happen with the rest of their 2021 recruitment, and much more.
For the next installment of the Pro Insight Q&A series, we present 2021 prospect Kaden Perry, from Battle Ground, Washington:
PI: Since our last interview together last spring, how has your game developed?
KP: Confidence. I’ve always been confident in the post and I feel like if I get the ball in the paint I’m going to be the best guy and no one’s stopping me, but recently with COVID, I’ve been working a lot on my shot. Now when I catch the ball on the court I just feel like I can do anything, from anywhere. I’ve just skyrocketed with my confidence on the court.
PI: Where do you still need to make the biggest strides before stepping onto the floor in The Kennel?
KP: Honestly, I think everything can improve. I don’t want to sell myself short — I still think I’m a great player — but with the way that the Zags are playing right now (note: interview was filmed after Gonzaga’s Elite 8 win), I just want to keep elevating everything. I don’t want to settle in any category. I just want to keep being the best player I can be and be ready for Mark Few when I get there.
PI: You recently received a pretty big honor in being named to the 2021 Nike Hoop Summit USA Team. How does that feel?
KP: It’s honestly amazing. I was added to the JNT minicamp roster last second in 2019, only getting a couple days notice. So to be a part of the USA team now is truly incredible. It really adds on to my confidence as a player and I just want to keep building on it until college.
PI: How would you personally define ‘confidence?’
KP: Just my ability to play my game. My freshman year, I was terrified to put the ball on the court! I’d only dribble once or twice and it’d be for a spin move. So, seeing the player I am from there to now, where I’ll even take the ball up the court if I need to — my ability to play the game the way I know how to play it and do what I know I need to do. That’s how I’d describe my confidence [on the court].
PI: Do you feel like you’re underrated nationally in the 2021 class?
KP: I don’t want to say ‘underrated’ because I’ve gotten attention. I don’t think I’m super well known, but I’m not even really big on rankings, or anything. I think when people see me play, people take notice. So I’m not super worried about it. People will know once I get where I’m going.
PI: What is your take on ‘rankings’ in general? Are they important?
KP: I think rankings are important. I know I have guys ahead of me that I want to beat ‘em...I want to be number-one. So I think they’re good for competition. It pushes a lot of guys...and that might be all they push for...they aren’t super important to me. I haven’t always had the opportunity to be in the spotlight, but I’m gifted with what I was given and I’ve gotten the attention I needed to get to Gonzaga, so, yeah.
PI: What are your hopes and expectations going into your delayed senior season with Battle Ground?
KP: Honestly, I just want to seem like a different player when I step onto the court. I hit zero threes last season. I was ‘0-for’ a decent amount of three-pointers. But I’m shooting with confidence, now. I want people to see me on the three-point line and just be like “oh, let him shoot,” and then I just hit three or four of them in their face and then make them respect me from the perimeter.
PI: When you guys are in the gym together, what’s the one thing you hear Coach [Manny] Melo tell you most often while he’s coaching you up?
KP: There’s a lot of things that he says to me [laughs]. If I had to say one thing, though, I’d say “focus.” That just kind of rounds up everything he says. I mean, there are times where I’m tired in a workout and he’ll just tell me to focus, tighten up, go a little harder. He knows the way that I shoot when I get lackadaisical and my body’s getting tired, so he’s there to snap be back into focus and correct those little things that are affecting my shot.
PI: You played a handful of tournaments and events with Seattle Rotary throughout COVID. What was that like?
KP: I mean, that was awesome...you know, playing with Paolo [Banchero] and all them. I had always heard of Paolo, but for a while all I knew about him was that he was the guy that was above me [in the rankings] in Washington. I used to be like “maybe I’ll pass him!” But, playing with him, he’s a different type of player than me, he’s earned everything that he’s gotten. When we had Nol