Travis Perry will be playing college basketball at the University of Kentucky.
That declarative statement means an already legendary basketball career in the commonwealth will continue in Kentucky, and at the state’s flagship university.
On Sunday afternoon during a live-streamed ceremony from his high school gym, Perry — a star guard at Lyon County High School in Eddyville who owns the all-time state boys high school basketball scoring record — committed to UK from a small list of finalists that also included Alabama, Cincinnati, Ole Miss and Western Kentucky.
Perry’s choice of UK was a surprise: Alabama, Cincinnati and Ole Miss were considered the leaders in his recruitment, and Perry technically never even took an official visit to UK.
The close proximity of UK to Eddyville (about a three-hour drive from Lexington) allowed for Perry to make plenty of unofficial visits though, including to Big Blue Madness in both 2022 and 2023.
Perry has also piloted Lyon County to consecutive appearances in the Boys’ Sweet 16 state tournament.
So playing on the big stage in Lexington won’t be new for Perry, who is ranked by the Recruiting Services Consensus Index (RSCI) — which combines the rankings from the nation’s top recruiting services into one single metric — as the No. 81 player in the 2024 recruiting class.
But playing for Kentucky and head coach John Calipari will be a major step up for Perry, who is the top Kentucky-based prospect in the 2024 recruiting class and saw his recruitment take off following a strong showing on the summer travel basketball circuit in 2022.
What can Perry — the third member of UK’s 2024 recruiting class along with guard Boogie Fland and center Somto Cyril — bring to UK?
A player that can not only score the ball at an astonishing rate, but also a playmaker who may not get enough credit for his all-around game.
“He may not be a very explosive athlete or possess advantageous size for the high-major level,” Alex Brown, a senior analyst for Pro Insight Basketball, told the Herald-Leader in March.
“But there is a ton to like in the offensive threat that Travis Perry presents moving forward.”
Basketball intelligence, passing
Perry’s reputation as a scorer is undeniable.
He’s been a varsity starter for Lyon County since he was a seventh grader and will begin his senior season with 4,359 career points, the most of any player in Kentucky high school basketball history.
He also owns the all-time scoring mark in Lyon County history: Perry scored 61 points in a game in February in front of Calipari. Perry is also the state’s career leader in 3-pointers made.
But other signature features of Perry’s game are his basketball intelligence and passing ability, something that helps offset his relatively small size as a 6-foot-2 guard.
“He’s not just a specialist, he’s not camping out on the perimeter catching and shooting, he’s not a driveway shooter. He can create his own shot. He’s a fantastic passer,” Rob Cassidy, national prep basketball recruiting insider for Rivals, told the Herald-Leader last year.
“I think that gets overlooked a little bit when you’re so good at one thing, people tend to hone in on that and then they forget that you have other skills to your game. He’s a fantastic passer too. I think he makes his teammates better.”
Part of making your teammates better is understanding your role. Perry’s ability to fit in and elevate his teammates around him has been a major factor in Lyon County’s consecutive trips to the state tournament.
The Lyons have won on that stage as well, advancing to the state quarterfinals on both occasions.
While Perry is joined on the Lyon County team by another future Division I player in 6-foot-6 standout Brady Shoulders (Tennessee-Martin), there’s no question Perry’s basketball understanding has helped lift the Lyons to new heights.
“In terms of translatability, Travis is going to shoot it and find ways to put the ball in the bucket at the next level,” Max Feldman, a national grassroots basketball scout for MADE Hoops, told the Herald-Leader this year. “... He knows both how to fit in or stand out within a team construct. He has a high floor at the next level. Defense and finishing at the rim will be barriers early on, just as he adjusts to the level of athleticism.”
When asked what kind of college basketball system would best suit Perry, Feldman said Perry has the ability to fit in with a variety of different settings.
“At his best, I think he’s playing in a heavy motion-based setting,” Feldman added. “He’s good in ball screens, he’s smart off the ball, he can shoot off movement. (I) think he’d be best utilized next to another guard who can really put pressure on the rim.”
The good news for UK?
The Wildcats already have a guard for next season with the ability to do that.
Plenty of roster turnover in the backcourt is expected this offseason in Lexington — Antonio Reeves is out of eligibility and the likes of Rob Dillingham and D.J. Wagner are both likely one-and-done players — but the arrival of Boogie Fland will give UK a dynamic guard that can score from all over the court.
Travis Perry is latest in-state commit for John Calipari
Obvious questions exist about Perry’s ability to translate from the high school level to the college ranks.
Lyon County plays in the 2nd Region in far Western Kentucky, and doesn’t face anywhere close to the level of competition that other top UK recruits go up against.
But Perry has shown well on the travel basketball circuit with Indiana Elite, a team that plays on the Adidas circuit.
Perry has also risen to the occasion when he faces his toughest competition: In January, Perry and Lyon County came to Lexington and defeated a North Laurel High School team that was led by current UK freshman Reed Sheppard.
Perry scored 45 points in that win. Sheppard himself has also impressed in the early stages of his Kentucky career.
And by picking UK, Perry has continued a recent surge in in-state recruiting for the Wildcats under Calipari.
The only in-state players Calipari had offered and signed straight out of high school had been Bullitt East’s Derek Willis (class of 2013), Madison Central’s Dominique Hawkins (2013) and Pendleton County’s Dontaie Allen (2019).
The aforementioned Sheppard followed this year from North Laurel. Now Perry of Lyon County is set to become a Wildcat in 2024.
Down the line in 2025, former Woodford County High School standout guard Jasper Johnson is a top target for UK. The Wildcats have also extended a scholarship offer to center Malachi Moreno of Great Crossing High School.
But shifting the focus back to Perry, nobody is in a better position to describe what he can bring to UK that the talented scorer himself.
He answered that question as part of his commitment Sunday, which was live streamed on the 247Sports YouTube channel.
“The main thing that I want to bring is a lot of heart. A guy that plays the game of basketball the right way and goes in to win,” Perry said. “Like I’ve said many times, the coaches that you play for really have their careers based on winning. So just going in there and being a guy that can come in and help winning, playing for the state of Kentucky. Like I said, you want to go in there and help Kentucky win. So that’s the main thing.”