GILBERT – With the winter season approaching this week, the high school boy’s basketball season is in full swing across the nation. Powerhouses Centennial (CA), Bishop Gorman (NV) and Harvard-Westlake (CA) entered the 2022-23 season ranked nationally in the top 15, but one team to keep an eye on this season is Perry High School.
Perry High School, currently ranked No. 12 in the country and No. 1 in the state, won its first-ever 6A boys state championship last year and seeks to repeat this season.
Even after losing 7-foot senior Dylan Anderson, who now plays for the University of Arizona, Perry has yet to lose a step. The Pumas sit at 11-0, winning the first three games by more than 50 points and winning each game by at least 14 points. They face Federal Way (4-0) Tuesday night in a battle of unbeatens.
“We have a lot of confidence and have returners that have been through the whole deal,” said Perry coach Sam Duane Jr. about the team entering the season. “They know what it takes to win a championship now so we’re hoping they can step up as leaders. They’ve been there through the grind of the region and state and know what it takes to win.”
Duane has coached at Perry for seven years. Last season marked his fifth state championship after winning four straight as the head coach of Corona del Sol for 12 years. After leaving Corona, he was not sure if he would return to coaching, but that changed when he arrived at Perry.
“I came to Perry after a year off because the job was open,” Duane said. “It’s a great community, but I wasn’t sure I wanted to coach. I was going to be an AD, then I missed coaching and missed the relationships and this was an up-and-coming area.”
Duane has been a huge part of the success at Perry over the past few years, but the team last year consisted of a few stars and a very well-balanced roster that led the Pumas to a title alongside Duane’s coaching. Cody Williams, Koa Peat and Anderson carried the bulk of the team, and Duane carries high praise for all of them.
“Both Cody and Koa are great players but are also very unselfish and care about winning,” said Duane. “They’re good people and outstanding leaders for us. We’ll go as they go but I think they really help make their teammates better.”
Williams, a senior small forward, is a University of Colorado commit and the No. 21 player in the nation in the 2023 class, according to 247sports. Peat, a sophomore power forward, is the No. 3 player in the class of 2025. He already has double-digit scholarship offers, including from Arizona, Kansas, Illinois, Indiana and Texas.
“On the floor we let them do their thing, and I don’t put any limitations on them,” Duane said. “They can both shoot it, both get to the rim, both are good defensively, and that’s why they’re highly ranked players.”
The Perry coach raved on the young stars off the court as well.
“Both Koa and Cody are awesome and positive off the floor,” Duane said. “Both are tremendous students and very well-liked on campus and by the administration and they’re the perfect role models.”
Losing Anderson obviously hurts the team’s offensive and defensive presence, and the team will need guys to make up for his ability to stretch the floor and have them play different roles. Duane pointed to the team playing more up-tempo, pressing more, and spreading the floor as the keys to a repeat this season. The Pumas lay their hats on defense every year, and being a good shooting team only helps.
But Williams and Peat will need everyone to chip in.
“[Ben] Egbo (Sr.) is such an underrated player,” Duane said. “I think he is the best defender in the state, and he has gotten better offensively. Barren [Silsby] (Jr.) has really stepped up as a guard for us and Nono Brown (So.) has been another great young player. We’re gonna count on D’Andre Harrison (So.), too.”
Williams has played basketball since the age of four. His brother, Jalen, played at Perry through 2019 before joining the Santa Clara Broncos and eventually becoming a first-round pick in the 2022 NBA draft with the Oklahoma City Thunder’s first selection.
Williams shakes off his national ranking and the state title from last season.
“Obviously it was great, but everything we did last year we gotta throw out the window,” Williams said. “My ranking, state ranking, doesn’t matter. We have to go out and perform every day … take it day by day and obviously the end goal is to win a championship.”
Williams said his biggest strength is his versatility, which allows him to guard multiple positions. He and his teammates working to get each other open is a huge advantage, and he wants to work on being a more consistent shooter, getting stronger and being the leader of the team.
“I want to improve upon being a leader as a senior because going back-to-back isn’t easy,” Williams said. “So for me just stepping up, being that leader and being the best I can for my teammates”
Williams touched on what it means to lose Anderson and stressed that they need to be a strong rebounding team.
“We can’t rely on a 7-footer anymore,” Williams said. “It was nice having him there to clean up every rebound, but as a team I think we need to rebound together. We’ll be faster so we gotta push the ball and move up faster. Defensively it’s nice we can all switch and guard any position; we have a lot of versatility on this team.”
Rebounding, shooting and high pace basketball will be values that the Pumas will stress. Thankfully, Peat is a young star that will be able to help his team in these aspects.
Peat, a five-star prospect, played a huge role as he started as a freshman last season. As a sophomore, Peat wants to be an even better player and take up a good leadership role.
“I definitely just want to stay and be one of the best versions of myself as well as a teammate and just go out there and have fun,” Peat said.
The 6’8”, 210-pound forward has been playing basketball since he was three or four years old, and his physical attributes are amazing for a player his age.
“I use my god-given talents and physicality and skills to my advantage when I need to and just take what the defense gives me,” Peat said.
Peat said winning state felt great, having come into his freshman year with big expectations and knowing that he and his team were able to exceed them. “Coach putting me in spots and both he and my teammates trusting me helped me carve a role as a freshman,” said Peat. “This year I think I’ll have even more of a bigger role with Anderson gone, taking more shots, getting more plays run through me and Cody. I’ll know when to shoot and when to pass and get my teammates involved.”
Having the offers that Peat received as just a sophomore in high school is an incredible accomplishment, but he won’t let that get in his head just yet.
“You can’t get complacent with schools looking at me at such an early age,” Peat said. “I’ve got to keep working and stay grounded, gotta stay humble about it and work hard every day.”
Winning state titles in back-back-back years, let alone one, is not an easy feat for any team. But Perry’s well-rounded roster gives a very good chance for them to do just that in the 2022-2023 season.
The Pumas know they have a long way to go, but they are well on their way.