With the official start to the AIA High School Basketball season now officially underway, as high school programs across the state kicked off the season Tuesday evening, a very talented Perry High School program began their season with an exciting match-up with regional rival Hamilton High School, on the road. In what would normally be a highly anticipated contest for fans and media, instead, the environment was very stale as a result of the current COVID-19 pandemic. With the large gymnasium at beautiful Hamilton High School void of any spectators, and rather just a handful of parents and media, it was a very different experience for all involved. Perry would pull off a 57-47 road victory to begin their season.
Perry (1-0) is absolutely loaded this season in their starting lineup of players, and proves that there are still some very talented prospects in the AIA ranks. While many top-rated high school players from the AIA have made moves to the local prep school ranks, much of Perry's loaded group has stayed intact, despite the unfortunate loss of 6-foot-9 junior post Duke Brennan. Brennan left the program last spring, and has now landed at local power Hillcrest Prep, after first moving to Eduprize and then AZ Compass Prep.
Perry still returns the top overall individual prospect in the AIA - 7-foot junior post Dylan Anderson. Anderson is a big-time talent and Division-I prospect that has garnered recruiting attention from numerous high-major Division-I programs - possessing offers from North Carolina, Kansas, Gonzaga, Michigan and Arizona, just to name a few. Anderson is still worth every bit of the price of admission, as he is a very unique talent that has a very bright future ahead of him. We had not seen Anderson compete in an actual game, since the pandemic began last March, so it was exciting to see him back on the floor. Anderson ran the floor like a guard all game and with an excellent motor, his best attribute as a player. He played much of the entire contest and never looked winded - competing hard all game to help lead his team to a big road win to open the season. Anderson finished with 14 points in the 57-47 road win over a much smaller Hamilton team.
Perry also has one of the very best overall prospects in the state, regardless of classification, in 6-foot-6 sophomore wing Cody Williams. Williams, the younger brother of Santa Clara rising star Jalen Williams, is a superb talent with loads of potential and upside for the future - combined with an advanced offensive skill-set and excellent versatility. Williams will be a difficult match-up for any high school program in the AIA this high school season, as he has grown several inches since his freshman season last year, and is a future high-major Division-I prospect. Williams was superb in his first game of the season, and against a very tough defensive-minded Hamilton team that is among the best coached programs in the state. Williams finished with a game-high 20 points in the win.
Perry also got a strong performance in the victory from 6-foot-3 senior guard Christian Tucker. Tucker has grown a great deal physically since last high school season as well, and, as a result, has become one of the most athletically gifted and impressive guards in the state. Tucker, the son of longtime NBA security Kevin Tucker, has been around the game at a high level all of his life, and it is showing in his commitment to his game and body. Tucker showed an advanced skill-set and serious bounce off the floor in the victory. On one transition play in the first half, Tucker dunked over a Hamilton defender on the break, and on another strong drive to the basket, he finished high above the rim before being fouled. Tucker looks determined to have a big senior season for himself, and leading this younger Perry team with his senior leadership.
Hamilton (0-1) will have an excellent season, led by the leadership of Head Coach Doug Harris. Harris' game preparation and defensive-minded approach will have Hamilton in every game this season, and they will compete at a high level in the state's 6A Division. The Hamilton team, while not having much true size, plays tough and competes hard the entire game. They were in this contest throughout the game, and made a late run, but could not overcome the overall level of talent held by Perry.
This game was very intriguing overall, as it was an opportunity to watch two of the state's elite high school coaches and friends, Doug Harris (Hamilton) and Sam Duane Jr. (Perry), compete against one another as well. Harris was a star player in the late 1980's at Corona Del Sol HS, before going to college (Fresno State / San Diego), while Duane was a head coach at Corona Del Sol during their legendary run, and is the son of legendary Corona Del Sol Head Coach Sam Duane Sr., who coached Doug Harris in high school.
While this contest would have normally been filled with spectators, school support staff, cheerleaders and students, instead the gym was almost empty as these two programs competed in the NEW normal. The players also competed with masks on - another different aspect of the AIA environment. Even with and without these aspects, it proved that Perry High School looks ready to have a big 2021 campaign, and improve on their early season struggles from last season.