Nebraska baseball signed five local players in its 2018 recruiting class, all five of whom have a basketball background. Two of those players would have been the best player on their high school teams this year but chose not to go out for basketball, instead focusing on preparing for their final season of high school baseball and for the next level.
That’s not Kyle Perry, however. Nothing short of injury would have kept him off the basketball court this season.
“I just wanted to go out for basketball just to kind of break that status quo of being that one-sport specialist guy,” Perry said. “Obviously when it’s in the offseason and you’re not playing competitive baseball much, it’s great to keep those competitive juices flowing throughout the offseason so there’s not that missing void there.”
Perry is a left-handed pitcher from Millard South who committed to the Huskers in October of 2016. He had a solid junior season on the basketball court, averaging 13.7 points for a 13-12 team that pulled an upset in the district final to make the state tournament, where the Patriots went one-and-done.
Perry wasn’t one of those guys just looking for something to do, however. He wasn’t going to cruise through his senior season just to have a little fun. No, he’s far too competitive for that. When he wasn’t on the mound, Perry spent time working on his game and came back one of the most improved players in the state.
This year, Perry was fourth in Class A in scoring at 21.0 points per game. He upped his 3-point percentage and free-throw attempts and cut down on his turnovers. Perry, alongside Omaha North transfer Tyrell Carroll, a point guard committed to Emporia State who averaged 18.1 points and 5.9 assists, formed arguably the best backcourt in the Metro this season.
The Patriots went 17-8 this year, returned to the Class A State Tournament as the No. 8 seed and knocked off the top-seeded Omaha Central Eagles in the first round before falling on a buzzer-beater in the semifinals against Bellevue West.
Perry scored 30 and Carroll added 26 in the first round against Central as the duo dragged the Patriots back from a 23-3 deficit to win in overtime. They scored 17 apiece in the semis against Bellevue West and had the game tied up in the final seconds before the Thunderbirds scored at the buzzer to advance and end Millard South’s season.
“I think about it every day, how proud I am of these boys,” Perry said. “It’s pretty fantastic what we did. A lot of people, they’d be satisfied with what we did against Central. Though we started slow, I think we played very well in that opening round. I think we were definitely supposed to be there. Beating Central was obviously huge and going into the second round and being one layup away from making the state championship, I think that was pretty neat. The coaching staff was just thrilled that we made it that far and what we accomplished in one season. As a team we’re disappointed still that we didn’t make it to the state championship, but at the same time it’s pretty amazing what we were able to accomplish in one season.”
Making the experience even better for Perry was the fact that Drew Gilin, another 2018 Nebraska baseball commit, has been by his side every step of the way. Gilin was the team’s sharp-shooter on the wing who became the school’s all-time leader in 3-point field goals this season.
“It was great always having Drew by my side,” Perry said. “It seems like everywhere I go he’s always right there. It was great having that support with me in Drew, knowing that he’s going to Nebraska to play ball and how he’s playing basketball too right there with me. I think that’s pretty freaking cool, just out there playing two sports while everybody is usually specializing in one, just to have us as a duo out there playing basketball and baseball is pretty cool to set a good example for kids not to just play one sport and specialize, but to play as many sports as you can and still excel in both of them.”
Though the two sports are drastically different, Perry said there is still plenty of things that happen on the court that help him on the diamond.
“There are so many movements in basketball that you make that might not translate to baseball, but just a lot of strength and whatever you build, jumping, horizontal movements, that type of stuff that you do in basketball will translate to baseball for sure,” Perry said. “You get a lot of that stuff and obviously the competitive stuff that I talked about. You get so much out of both sports. I think they really complement each other very well.”
The basketball season ended less than two weeks ago, but there’s no rest for the weary. Baseball season has already begun and the Patriots — a perennial high school baseball power in Nebraska — are ready to chase a state championship behind their future Huskers.
“We’re looking solid,” Perry said. “We’ve got a senior-led group coming in and our defense is probably what stands out on this squad. We’re very deep when it comes to defense, so I’m pretty excited to take the field, finally, because our first game got rained out on Friday. I’m really excited and we’re going to be looking pretty solid. Our pitchers just need to fill up the strike zone and if we can do that we’ll be a pretty good team.”
As for Perry himself, he described his pitching style as “super-weird.” He said he models his game after Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman.
“He’s like the Tyrell of pitching” said Perry, comparing Stroman to his high school teammate. “He’s very crafty and everything, and I try to model a lot of what I do after him. My competitive nature on the mound is pretty freaking crazy, too. I don’t like to have someone get a hit off me; I like striking them out. I like to do a lot of different things on the mound to try to get them out. When it comes to my pitches, I like to either work backwards or just go after a hitter; it depends on who you are. My go-to pitch is probably my fastball.”
Perry said his fastball topped out at 89 mils per hour last fall.
“I couldn’t get to the big 9-0, but I’m working back now,” Perry said. “Coming back after a hoops season is pretty difficult, honestly. I threw a pen the other day and was topping out at 85, so that’s a good sign.”
For the time being, Perry said he’s not looking ahead to Nebraska. He’s trying to take things one day at a time and enjoy his final high school season. That being said, Perry said there are “a lot of things” he wants to work on.
“More strikes — obviously you can never have too many strikes so I’m going to work on my command in the zone,” Perry said. “Just trying to get people out, pretty much, because Coach [Ted] Silva at Nebraska really likes when you get people out, so I’ll keep trying to do that.”
As for basketball, Perry’s competitive career appears to be over. The incoming local commits — Perry, Gilin, Papillion-La Vista’s Caleb Feekin, Millard West’s Colby Gomes and Grand Island’s Shay Schanaman — could field one heck of an intramural basketball squad, but that doesn’t appear to be in the cards.
“We’d be pretty freaking good, wouldn’t you say?” Perry said. “That’d be pretty sweet. But I think Coach [Darin] Erstad said he’s not a fan of playing basketball when you’re a baseball player because there’s been multiple injuries from people playing basketball. They’ve got something called no-jump basketball where you can’t even leave the floor or it’s a change of possession. It’s weird but I guess we could play some no-jump basketball. I’m sure we’d still be pretty solid.”
Whether it’s basketball (jump or no) or baseball or whatever else, one would be hard-pressed to find a more competitive person than Kyle Perry. That drive should serve him well once he gets to campus in Lincoln.
Jacob is in his third year with Hail Varsity covering Husker athletics. He has also written extensively for SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun and The Creightonian. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.