Tony Perkins’ sophomore season with the Iowa men’s basketball team will be better than his freshman one, if only because he won’t have to get up every morning for his COVID-19 test.
It was a daily job last season, getting up at 7 a.m. for his COVID test.
“Maybe you had no classes that day,” Perkins said. “But you still had to get up, come over, have that thing stuck up your nose, and you’re like, ‘Ahhhhhh.’ It was just a weird year.”
It was a weird season for everyone, certainly for a freshman trying to adjust to college life, and life in college basketball, during a pandemic.
Perkins said he is a player who likes to play with energy. That was a problem playing in gyms that were either completely empty, or had crowds of just friends and family.
That’s why at the end of the season, when some fans were allowed in for the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments, Perkins thought he played some of his best basketball.
“Playing in front of fans, even though it wasn’t a lot of fans, it kind of brought me back to my old self,” said Perkins, a 6-foot-4 guard from Indianapolis. “I just liked hearing the crowd.”
Perkins slowly worked his way into a role in Iowa’s rotation. He played 148 minutes in 24 games, averaging 1.6 points. He had a season-high five points in 13 minutes in Iowa’s NCAA Tournament loss to Oregon, something to build on in an upcoming season in which Perkins is expected to have a more significant role.
“It really did boost my confidence,” he said of his play in the second half of the season. “At the beginning of the year, I didn’t have a lot of confidence. Toward the middle of the season, and once the end of the season started, my energy and my confidence started boosting really high.
“I wasn’t very confident last year because I was new to college. It was just kind of hard to adjust as fast as I wanted to.”
Iowa’s roster looks much different from last season. Center Luka Garza, the consensus national player of the year, is gone. So is guard Joe Wieskamp, who has entered his name in the NBA Draft. Guard CJ Fredrick has transferred to Kentucky.
That has freed plenty of minutes, but Perkins knows the roster, even with its inexperience, has significant depth, and there’s going to be a battle for playing time.
“It’s always been motivation for me, even last year,” Perkins said. “I wanted to earn minutes. So I do what I have to do. My minutes now aren’t guaranteed.”
With Fredrick gone, Perkins can fit into that role as a perimeter defender. But he wants a more complete resumé.
“Personally, I’ve been working on being more confident shooting, scoring, on defense, rebounding,” he said. “Just helping the team out in all areas I can.
“I think I improved a lot in summer workouts, especially from last year. I’m just ready for this year.”
Perkins said he has wanted to be more vocal during summer workouts. Experience, he said, helps.
“Because I’ve been there,” he said. “I look at (other teams), and I’m like, ‘I know what you’re going to do. Let me get you the ball, so you can do what you do.’ On defense, I’m always there.”
And there’s even more motivation because of who the Hawkeyes lost. The expectations, Perkins knows, aren’t high.
“People don’t believe in us, because we lost Luka, because we lost (Wieskamp), CJ leaving,” Perkins said. “We know what we are. We know what kind of family we’ve got. Everybody’s connected.”
“I’m just happy to get this year started.”