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2022-23 Player Preview: Kaden Perry

NCAA Basketball: Northern Arizona at Gonzaga James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Kaden Perry was an absolute menace when he was on the floor. The problem, however, is that he wasn’t on the floor enough during his freshman season. That is no fault of Perry’s, as a balky back related to an injury suffered during Perry’s senior year of high school derailed his first season at Gonzaga and limited him to 8 games—none after the new year.

Perry logged minutes in 6 of Gonzaga’s first 7 games of the season and flashed incredible athleticism that led to some Brandon Clarke comparisons while also displaying a motor that endeared him to both coaches and fans alike. That Perry did all that despite being limited in his ability to prepare for the season because of his lingering back injury from the end of his high school career is a testament to his physical prowess and his tenacity.

Unfortunately, Perry’s back woes flared up during pre-game warmups against Tarleton State on November 29. After a three-week rest, Perry returned for a pair of games late in December but was shut down and eventually underwent back surgery in mid-April to address three herniated discs.

That timeline may lead some to wonder why four months lapsed between Perry’s final game of the season and surgery since that time could have been used to rehab and ensure he’d be ready for the start of the 2022-23 season. I’m certainly not a doctor, but prudence and a conservative non-surgical approach certainly makes sense from afar, particularly when your patient is a hyper-athletic college freshman. Surgical procedures on the back are generally not the first option, and while Perry eventually went under the knife, there was good news afterwards.

Perry told The Spokesman-Review during an interview in June that he felt almost instantly better after the surgery and reported a marked improvement in his quality of life. Setting the basketball implications aside for a moment, that Perry was suffering for so long and finally found relief is both heartbreaking and encouraging.

There haven’t been any formal updates on Perry’s status since that June story, but a glance through the photos and clips posted on the basketball team’s social media from the team’s first practice on Monday showed Perry dressed for practice.

Perry is likely still in a “ramp-up” stage of his rehab and working to get his strength and conditioning built up to the level it needs to be in order to protect his body and be adequately prepared for the rigors of the season. However, the signs are positive and if Perry is on a healthy trajectory and nearing unrestricted play, he provides an incredible presence around the rim at both ends of the floor that can transform Gonzaga’s game.

Without Chet Holmgren around to patrol the paint, Gonzaga could use another rim protector and rim-runner. Perry certainly fits the bill. Fortunately, for both Gonzaga and Perry, there is no need to rush his return as Gonzaga is once again swimming in riches in the front court.

Perry’s primary goal for the next few months should be to ensure that he can play without compromising his longterm health. Once he’s unleashed, the WCC is going to have some problems.