When I did my preseason preview on the Saint John Paul the Great Catholic High School (SJPG) (Dumfries, VA) varsity team back in October, I pointed out my own already-established connection with the program that started back in the summer of 2016. I was in the middle of my own college playing days during that time and frequently worked out up in Northern parts of the state, just looking for any available gym. When I came across the SJPG Wolves’ head coach Angelo Hunt, who explained how he and his staff held skill/open gym sessions several times throughout the week for their own members and other invited collegiate players, that’s all it took for me to jump on board. SJPG’s always been great to me; I consider it a second-home and found it fairly ironic to cover the team’s home opener against Trinity Episcopal School (Richmond, VA) as my first spectated game of this season. One particular player, who I noticed always showed up to those SJPG summer workouts a few years, has really stepped up his game as a go-to guy: Jared Perry ’19. It’s been great to see the evolution of Perry’s game since when I first met him right before his sophomore year. I’m sure his peers and coaches all saw the development bound to happen due to his lifestyle as a gym rat.
On a team mainly full of perimeter scorers, Perry leads the pack as a versatile 6’2” combo guard. He’s always had a good amount of skill but now looks more confident than ever in exploiting defenses. With a long wingspan, he can stretch out to the rim after attacking an opening; finishing in either direction. Perry’s always been a solid shooter, as he can knock it down from both midrange and long distance. His handle’s arguably improved the most, something I noticed during his team’s fall workout months ago. He has a good string on the ball and confidently protects it to get to all sorts of spots on the floor. This all shows a complete game in his offensive package. However, his patience/pace in doing everything separates him from most guards I’ve seen. Perry’s not going to kill you with quick speed or anything, like some ball-handlers may play. Still, his pace and ability to read opposing defenses has proven nothing short of deadly. Defensively, the veteran guard uses his IQ/reaction time to intercept lazy passes; he led the Wolves in steals last season.
“Personally, I’ve been feeling good and doing pretty well,” Perry stated. “Scoring a bit, playing solid defense, and things like that. But, honestly I still feel I could do more by making plays for my teammates. I know I’ll need to play hard at all times.”
SJPG didn’t have the most ideal start to their winter, as they found themselves at 3-5 mid-December. However, the New Year has proven an entirely different story. Things look like they’ve begun to click, as the Wolves have won six out of their last seven and currently stand at 12-7 overall. Earlier this week, they bumped up their ranking to #10 in the VISAA Division I classification.
“Our focus started to improve. It took a group effort, which started in practice. That focus on defense has been the difference, honestly. We just need to keep getting it better and better. Doing that, we should be alright. Along with the focus part, Coach Hunt always tells us that we need to give effort for the entire length of a game. Keeping our foot on the opponents’ neck; can’t afford to let up. Our coaches are big on putting a ‘dog mentality’ in their players.”
The high school (or any level, for that matter) season sure can be a long one. It can definitely become difficult to sustain such a focus for several months. Regardless, SJPG has done all of the necessary things and at the right time; this ‘last quarter’ of the season always requires the most focus. One could note a turnaround looking to emerge when the Wolves took home the gold at the ‘Mt. Vernon Holiday Tournament,’ which Perry noted as his favorite moment of the season so far. His best individual moment happened in another tournament two weeks prior to, however. Perry hit a contested buzzer-beating three-pointer off of the bounce in overtime to give his team a 77-74 victory over Mercersburg Academy (Mercersburg, PA). His clutch game-winner earned the #1 spot in ‘The Washington Post High School Sports’ top ten plays.
This SJPG group looks more than likely to make a solid run in the playoffs, something they’ve have their sights set on for the last couple of seasons. Still, they know nothing will come easy… playing in VISAA Division I brings challenges night in and night out.
“It’s never easy playing in this league. It’s really good with a LOT of competition. You cannot afford to slack. You must bring your A game and play hard each night, because every other team you face will do the same and more.”
As he stressed upon earlier, Perry again acknowledges that the team will only go as far as their focus takes them.
“I don’t think there’s really any one, or two, things we need to keep building on to get playoff-ready. It’s all about the focus, really. You can’t have lapses in the playoffs, especially our state tournament. I just feel everything else will take care of itself as long as we do our best in that area of focus. We have to be locked in at all times, during practice and games.”
A strong team showing in the postseason may also result positively in the senior leader’s recruitment. He caught the eye of several next-level programs back in the summer during his standout play with New World Blue 17u AAU.
“Things are going alright. I have offers from Marymount University, Hampden-Sydney College, Hood College, and Northern Vermont University. Interest-wise, I’ve heard from Washington Adventist University.”
Perry knows that a decision will have to come into play sometime soon, and he also knows what he’ll be seeking on a campus.
“I’m just trying to find a good school academically with a program that’ll allow me to come in and contribute. I want to make sure I attend somewhere that will set me up for success after college as well. I’m thinking about studying business or accounting.”
“This last year of school’s going well. I have a 3.3 GPA and my classes haven’t brought any issues. I’ll definitely miss my friends here when graduation day arrives.”
Aside of excelling at hoops, one may find it interesting to know that Perry does well in another activity whenever he has spare time.
“This might sound kind of weird… but I like to play chess also.”
Nothing peculiar about that. Personally, I have respect for anyone who can master their way through those types of strategic board games. Me? Well… let’s just say I’m not really on that level; maybe one day.
Perry’s intelligence both on and off the court suits him well. He has a natural leadership about him that should keep on paving the way for the Wolves’ playoffs pursuits. His calm demeanor never really switches up, but he knows what it takes to win. I see his calmness as a form of focus; something Perry and his coaches will most likely agree on. By now, one can clearly tell how much the Wolves value that area.
Everyone’s favorite question: Where does Jared Perry see himself in ten years?
“I want to play overseas. But, if that doesn’t work, I’ll probably turn to something in the accounting or business field; trying to start my career off.”
Those Wolves have been hungry all winter! Keep eating, Jared.