The high school coach of Iowa men’s basketball recruit Tony Perkins says Perkins was the best high school player in Indiana this season.
Biased? Sure, Jack Keefer might be. But here’s who he is: A winner of over 800 games in 34 seasons as the only boys’ basketball coach Lawrence North High in Indianapolis has ever had, an Indiana Basketball Hall of Famer, and a coach of four state-championship teams. Keefer said he thinks the voting for Indiana’s Mr. Basketball award this spring will come down to Perkins and Indiana recruit Anthony Leal.
“(Perkins) is the most-rounded of all,” Keefer said in a Monday phone interview.
“He averaged 19 or 20 points, five or six assists, seven rebounds a game,” said Keefer about his 6-foot-4 shooting guard. “He definitely was the leader of the team.”
An example: Perkins scored 30 points in the season’s third game, an 83-73 win at then-No. 1 Lawrence Central. “We were ranked No. 1 most of the year,” Keefer said.
The 25-2, No. 3-ranked Wildcats saved their best for the postseason. They won three tight games against ranked teams in Class 4A’s Sectional 10, widely believed to be the toughest in the state. The sectional final was a 61-59 win over Warren Central, which entered the game with a 10-game win streak. Perkins had 20 points.
“He performed unbelievably well in big games,” said Keefer, who coached future NBA players Eric Montross, Greg Oden and Mike Conley.”
Keefer said he told Iowa assistant coach Sherman Dillard to “get up here and take a look (at Perkins). He’s as good as we get.”
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Perkins committed to Iowa last October, a few months after the Hawkeyes started recruiting him. The player had offers from Ball State, Bradley and Toledo, but Iowa got him before other major programs joined the fray.
“He jumps well,” Keefer said. “We had about 110 dunks as a team and he was the dunker of all dunkers. He was a flyer. He plays good defense because he knows if gets a steal he can go dunk it.
“He’s a good shooter. He was at 43 percent of his threes, but he had a midseason shoulder injury and he ended at 36. He’s well-schooled. He knows his fundamentals.”
Lawrence North’s season was ended prematurely when Indiana halted its prep basketball season because of concern about the COVID-19 virus.
“We were extremely disappointed,” said Keefer. “We felt we were going to get our fifth (state-title) this year and got shut down. We got through the toughest level and beat three ranked teams. The next few were not going to be as hard as what we lived through.”
Perkins was named the Player of the Year in the Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference, regarded as Indiana’s toughest. His team won the conference title.
“We’re not state-champions, but we feel like we should be.”
As for Perkins’ future at Iowa, the coach said “You’ll like him.”
Iowa’s other 2020 recruits are 6-2 point guard Ahron Ulis of Chicago Heights, Ill., center Josh Ogundele of London via Worcester (Mass.) Academy, and Cedar Rapids natives Kris and Keegan Murray, stretch forwards from Cedar Rapids Prairie who spent the past season at DME Academy in Daytona Beach, Fla.
Ulis’ Marian Catholic High team (25-8) was also still playing when the season was halted. It upset top-ranked Bloom Township 47-45 in a Class 4A sectional final after losing to Bloom by 17 points in each of their first two meetings. Ulis had 19 points and nine rebounds.
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Ulis was named to Associated Press’ Class 4A first-team all-state squad. He is second on Marian Catholic’s all-time scoring list to his brother, former Kentucky and NBA player Tyler Ulis, and was his conference’s Player of the Year.
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