Jared Perry was cut from the freshman basketball team at Peoria Liberty.
That summer, he grew two inches. Two more inches came the following summer.
“That was always my growth period,” he said.
But he didn’t know he’d grow from a 5-foot-10 freshman to now 6-7 as a junior, becoming a beast on the boards, averaging a double-double in his first high school basketball season for 2A Conference-tournament bound Surprise Paradise Honors.
A C average in school rose to a high B at an academically challenging school.
“Last year was grind time for me,” said Perry, who was homeschooled his sophomore year and didn’t play on a basketball team but kept up his training.
He had help from his stepfather, Jerry Martin, a third generation military man who was in the Air Force. Perry also got involved with Powerhouse Hoops, a basketball club, where he worked on his game against top underclassmen.
“He missed his freshman team, partly because of skill and partly because of focus,” Martin said. “We made a deal. He was spending the summer running with a group of kids I was not excited about either. He took the summer away from those friends. He said, ‘Yes, I want to do this.’ We pulled him out of school, had him homeschooled (for his sophomore year).
“He worked on his focus and coachability. We got him a dietitian and a basketball trainer. He spent the whole school year bulking up and playing. He’s got a big heart. He’s really motivated, really driven.”
The growth “really helped (Perry’s) focus, seeing his dream, putting time into it,” Martin said.
After gaining 35 pounds, Perry now dominates in 2A.
Earlier this week, in a win over Flagstaff Northland Prep that guaranteed a spot in next week’s 16-team tournament, he had 20 points, 16 rebounds and seven blocked shots. He is averaging 13 points, 12.7 rebounds and 3.2 blocks on a 17-4 team.
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During Paradise Honors’ five-game winning streak, he is averaging 15 points, 16 rebounds and four blocks.
“Jared is slowly coming out of that shell,” coach Zach Hettel said. “He was saying the other night, because we have some guys banged up, ‘Coach, give me the ball more.’ ”
There are similar stories across the Valley.
At Anthem Prep, 6-9, 185-pound junior Trey Wood went from a football-passionate 6-2 freshman to 6-6 by the end of his first high school year.
Suddenly, his passion and drive was in basketball. He was constantly in the gym working, his confidence growing more with each blocked shot and dunk.
The 1A team went 9-12 this year, but Wood averaged 23.6 points, 14.6 rebounds and six blocks.
He had 42 of his team’s 56 points, and 20 rebounds and eight blocks, in a 13-point loss to Phoenix Valley Lutheran this season.
“With Trey, he grew really fast,” said Ken Wood, Trey’s father. “He was 5-10 and went to 6-2 pretty quickly. In February of his sophomore year, he’s like, ‘Dad, I’m going to dedicate myself to basketball. I’m not going to play football anymore.’ For seven years, it was football. I said, ‘Son, whatever you want.’ All of sudden, Trey is asking to go to the gym every day.
“He gets a little taller, his shot goes off. But he would constantly work in the gym and adjust it again.”
Wood adjusted last June, when he broke his shoulder playing for his high school team in basketball and pins were inserted. The injury came just three hours before he was supposed to get on a plane for camps in Utah. He plays for Powerhouse Hoops, but missing all of July caused him to miss the showcase tournaments in front of college coaches.
Two surgeries later, his rehab went so well that he returned in time for the start of his junior season, more than two months ahead of schedule.
Wood was always tall for his age, but when he had the sudden growth spurt, he wasn’t able to dunk the ball at first. He needed time for his muscles to catch up.
“People were going, ‘You’re 6-6, and you can’t dunk,’ ” Ken Wood said. “He had grown incredibly fast. His muscles hadn’t caught up, his core still hadn’t caught up. But he takes that as motivation.”
Now, he regularly dunks.
“It’s nice to be tall,” Trey Wood said. “There are times when I will take over, but I like to get my teammates involved first.”
In the East Valley, Gilbert Christian junior Nick Johnson grew four inches after spinal fusion last spring for a back condition called Scheuermann’s kyphosis, he said. Overnight, he went from 6-3 to 6-7. He has grown an inch more since then.
He said his back was bent at a 90-degree angle, causing not only pain but a lack of self-esteem.
Metal rods were put in. He couldn’t go to school for two months following the surgery.
“I didn’t play sports for seven months after that,” he said. “I lost 40 pounds. I basically had to restart.”
He is now 6-8, 205 pounds and getting his confidence back.
“I don’t know if he grew as much as it straightened him out,” Gilbert Christian coach Kurt Keener said.
Johnson said he isn’t sure if the rods will stunt his growth, but he believes he could still grow. He said there could be another surgery to remove the rods to improve his mobility, because, he said, he can’t bend his back.
The main thing is he isn’t self-conscious, and it translates into good grades in the classroom.
And club coaches are calling.
“He sometimes gets amazed that people are interested in him,” Keener said. “When club teams started looking at him, he was surprised. He said, ‘Coach, nobody has ever recruited me.’ ”