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Coronavirus Hits Close to Home for Hawkeye Recruit Tony Perkins

April 1, 2020

Written by Rob Howe

Hawkeye Nation

Indianapolis native Tony Perkins saw first-hand how the coronavirus pandemic impacted sports. The Big Ten Tournament being played in his hometown was shut down last month. It came a day after the Indiana Pacers and NBA went dark.

“I always took it seriously after the cancellation of the NBA and NCAA (Tournament),” he told HN.

COVID-19 became even more personal to the 2020 Iowa basketball signee in recent days. His assistant coach at Lawrence North High, Jim DeSalle, is gravely ill after contracting the virus.

“He’s a father figure,” Perkins said. “He has always loved giving advice and joking with me and my teammates.”

The Lawrence North family lost one of its “super fans” to coronavirus. Larry Rush, a member of the group affectionately known as “The Four Horsemen”, passed away last weekend.

“He was caring, loving, goofy and filled with nothing but happiness and joy,” Perkins said of Rush.

The bad news comes on the heels of a breakout senior season for Perkins. He won his conference’s player of the year award in leading his team to a sectional title and finishing with 1,200 career points. Then, like sports around the globe, his campaign was canceled.

Perkins (6-4, 185) placed himself in the conversation for Indiana’s Mr. Basketball despite not being on the radar before the season. Iowa was the only high major program to offer him a scholarship.

Unfortunately, he never got to finish what he started.

“I was about to prove I can do whatever people thought I couldn’t do,” he said.

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Even with the season cut short, Perkins impressed onlookers and showed he was among the best players in a state known for basketball. The Indiana Basketball Coaches Association named him to its Supreme 15.

A storied Lawrence North program captured its first sectional title in five years. Perkins helped it move through that loaded field. That trumped anything he did as an individual.

“I’m always leaving the court with a win because I’m a winning guy,” he said.

Perkins netted 20 points in Lawrence North’s 61-59 win over Warren Central in the Section 10 title game. He scored 26 points in a 76-73 win against Crispus Attucks during the semifinals and totaled 13 points and 11 rebounds in a 68-57 victory versus Lawrence Central. He averaged a little over 20 points per game this season.

Known as a guy who succeeded in large part because of excellent athleticism, Perkins became a more well-rounded player this winter.

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“I think I improved in shooting from long range distance and with my leadership. I also got better with my driving game and on defense,” he said.

The bond between the Iowa staff and Perkins has grown during the recruiting process and even more after the commitment. He’s become particularly close with head coach Fran McCaffery.

“I would say it’s a great and loving relationship. He’s always been caring and supportive since he watched me in Illinois in the summer. He just treats everyone like family,” Perkins said

The Hawkeye coaches are providing Perkins with tips on how to improve his game. He’s hoping he can impact the squad as a true freshman.

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“I think I can bring energy and a defensive boost to the team. I also think I can bring leadership and a scoring mindset. I’d like to get to the National Championship,” he said.

Perkins loved what he saw from Iowa this season. The Hawkeyes exceeded expectations and spend most of the campaign in the Top 25 with star center Luka Garza leading the way.

“I was most impressed with the hustle and the grind they put into every game. They never gave up and always showed great chemistry,” he said.

“I’m really looking forward winning and experiencing playing on a big stage with the finest Big Ten players.”

Perkins is attending on-line classes while his school remains closed during the pandemic. He’s also training and is counting down the days until college.

“I want to be the best student and young man I can be. I want to become a legendary player for the Hawkeyes,” he said.

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