He might be the greatest scorer in Kentucky history. And now John Calipari is calling.

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·6 min read
James Crisp
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In the days leading up to this past weekend’s high school basketball showcase in Shelbyville, it didn’t look like Lyon County star Travis Perry would even see the court.

The 6-foot-2 guard was hobbled by an ankle injury so bad that — after watching him go through the first part of open gym Friday — his father, Lyon County head coach Ryan Perry, told him to remove his brace and take the tape off his ankles, because he wasn’t playing. “He looked bad,” dad told the Herald-Leader on Tuesday.

But the teenager had his heart set on hitting the court for the Titans-Rockets Summer Shootout, which started the following day. Relatively new changes to the NCAA recruiting calendar designate the month of June as a time for players to spend with their high schools, taking them away from the AAU/grassroots schedule but still allowing college coaches to see them in person.

And several of those coaches had told Perry they planned to make the trip to Shelbyville to check him out. In fact, he’d told one coach just before Friday’s open gym started that he would indeed be playing, and he wanted to stick to his word.

“He absolutely loves it,” Ryan Perry said of the opportunity to play in front of college coaches. “He wants to be the best, and he loves it when people are there watching him play. He kind of thrives on it, and he enjoyed it a lot this weekend.

“There were a lot of coaches there who had either offered or been in real high-interest contact with him. So it always makes you excited when coaches show up and go out of their way to make sure to be there and make you a priority. And Travis respects and recognizes all of that, so he loves playing in front of those guys.”

Those who showed up surely left impressed.

Perry led Lyon County to a 3-1 record across the two days of games, scoring 42 points — with 10 three-pointers — in one game and 36 points in the team’s only loss, a 63-62 defeat to Indianapolis Cathedral, reigning state champions from Indiana.

The scholarship offers have been flowing in.

Over the past week or so alone, Perry has picked up new offers from Purdue, Nebraska, Iowa, Cincinnati, Missouri and Wake Forest. Those were added to an offer list that already included Western Kentucky, Mississippi and Creighton.

This past weekend also spawned a major new development in Perry’s recruitment.

John Calipari was in attendance Sunday to see Cathedral standout Xavier Booker, a star power forward in the 2023 class who just last week rose to the No. 2 overall spot in the Rivals.com rankings. Given the opportunity to play in front of UK’s coach, Perry — ranked No. 66 nationally by Rivals.com for the 2024 class — clearly left a lasting impression.

Ryan Perry said Tuesday morning that Calipari had been in contact with both he and his son “quite a bit” over the previous 24 hours, and things were moving so quickly that the Perrys are planning to travel from western Kentucky to Lexington this weekend so they can sit down with the UK coach face to face and take a recruiting tour of campus.

Both of Travis Perry’s parents are UK graduates and fans of the Wildcats’ basketball program, according to his father, who said Travis has been taking a meticulous approach to his recruitment, trying to learn about each school and coach that extends a scholarship offer.

“It’s all been intense,” Ryan Perry said. “But it’s really neat. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Travis. And we’re just trying to help him navigate through all that.”

Kentucky scoring champ?

To fans of Kentucky high school basketball, Perry’s name is not a new one.

He burst onto the state preps scene as a seventh-grader, averaging 20.6 points per game that year. He hasn’t slowed down, accumulating 3,189 career points so far and this past season leading the Lyons to their first Sweet Sixteen appearance in 71 years.

As long as he stays healthy, Perry is on pace to shatter “King” Kelly Coleman’s state record of 4,337 career points, a mark that has stood since 1956.

Ryan Perry says his son is asked all the time about possibly breaking that record. On multiple occasions, he’s heard Travis reply: “I’m just trying to get one more point than the other team, because I gotta ride home with my dad. And that’s the coach, and I don’t want to have to listen to him complain the whole way.”

The elder Perry relays that response with a big laugh, but he says his son’s nature is wired toward winning basketball.

“I don’t think you realize what all Travis does for you on the court until you take him off the court,” his coach/father said. “You don’t realize how much general-ing he does out on the court. He does a lot of coaching on the court for us. He’s a high-IQ player. He wants to win as bad as anybody I’ve ever seen. At anything he does — but especially at basketball.

“But he’s a pretty dynamic player, too. When you watch him walk in the gym, you’re not going to think so. If he needs to try and take over a game — and score and score and score — he can do that. Or if guys have mismatches, he’s smart enough to know to isolate those guys. He’s a good player to have on your team.”

Over the past few months, he’s put a special focus on becoming a better defender, and he’s been one of the leaders in steals during Adidas play this spring. Perry has been working on his foot speed, his lateral quickness, his leaping ability. He’s already trying to get in peak shape physically.

“He’s really, really working hard on his body to try to get it ready for when he goes to college, so he can hopefully have an impact immediately,” his dad said.

And, accomplished as he is as a scorer, Perry still works on his shot. A lot. As a sophomore, he hit at a 38-percent clip from three-point range, knocking down 116 threes in 36 games. During Adidas league play this spring, he’s shooting better than 40 percent from deep.

The Perrys have a court set up at home with a shooting machine, and Ryan Perry says his son will head straight there and put up shots, even after getting in late from other basketball activities.

All the extra work is obviously paying off. In addition to the new scholarship offers and burgeoning interest from Kentucky, he’s receiving calls from other major schools, including Michigan, which initiated contact Monday night after Coach Juwan Howard saw Perry play over the weekend.

“The last couple of days have been crazy,” Ryan Perry said.

On Monday, father and son tried to get away from everything after the busy weekend with a round of golf. The college coaches wouldn’t stop buzzing.

“He was on the phone pretty much the whole round,” dad said. “It’s heated up quite a bit, but that’s a good thing.”

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