Battle Ground standout wants to honor his mother with his performance
BATTLE GROUND — He knows he is in the spotlight. He understands, in a way, it is just beginning, too.
After all, Kaden Perry is only a sophomore for the Battle Ground boys basketball team. Already, he has had coaches from Gonzaga in the gym to watch him play. Already he has had coaches from Pac-12 schools in the gym to watch him play.
At 6-feet, 9-inches and with a skillset to go with his athleticism, he is the next big thing in high school basketball from Southwest Washington.
He appreciates the attention, too, because it was not that long ago he was not sure of his own ability.
So when college coaches show up for a game, it does mean a lot to Perry.
It means a lot more, though, when another person is in the gym to see him play.
DeLena Perry, Kaden’s mother, has been to most of Battle Ground’s games this season. She can be seen using a walker to get in position to cheer on her son.
“My mom’s always been my No. 1 supporter,” Kaden Perry said. “I always want to put everything out there on the court. But when she’s there, it makes it so much more special. I want to show off for her and do better things.”
Last winter, the Perry family almost lost DeLena.
Soon after a bout with the flu, DeLena started to feel numbness in her legs. Then she couldn’t move. Then she couldn’t talk.
“If she wouldn’t have went to the doctor when she did, she could have died,” Kaden Perry said. “We’re fortunate to still have her.”
Diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a disorder that attacks the nerves, DeLena would spend the next seven months away from home, first in a hospital in intensive care, and then in an assisted living center for rehabilitation.
Kaden remembers the first game he played after his mother was stricken.
“I didn’t really want to be there. I was out of my head,” he said. “Just get this game done. I went into the locker room and broke down in tears. My mom wasn’t going to be home. I was scared.”
DeLena’s instincts as a mother took over during those tough times. She insisted that her two sons, Kaden and Kyren, an eighth-grader, continue with their daily routines as best as possible.
“She always put us kids ahead of herself,” Kaden said. “She would say, ‘Are you OK?’ We’d tell her, ‘We’re here to see you.’”
Mom is going to get better, she would tell her boys. Mom is going to be home soon, she’d say.
“She just encouraged us whenever we needed it,” he said.
Nearly a year later, life is far from normal for the Perry family, but basketball sure helps. The game gives DeLena even more reason to work on rehabilitation.
“My goal was I wanted to be able to walk into Kaden’s first game,” DeLena Perry said. “I was able to do that with an assistance of a walker.”
She said she is about 50 percent of normal. She is still waiting for her arms and hands to come back around. But she can move now. She can talk. She went 46 days without a voice. Now she is loud and proud, cheering on the Tigers.
“I always say basketball is life. It is definitely my highlight. I live for this stuff,” DeLena Perry said. “Come hell or high water, I’m getting my butt in that car (and going to the game). It gives me something to look forward to, and it gives me goals to shoot for, and it distracts my mind.”
Competing in the Class 4A Greater St. Helens League, Union and Skyview have been the top teams in recent seasons. Kaden Perry and the Tigers would like be in the discussion, though.
“With our group of guys I want to make it somewhere this year. We want to make Battle Ground a more known name,” Perry said. “We have that group.”
No grand predictions of beating the Storm nor the Titans. Just a promise that the Tigers won’t back down from the challenge.
“I say we’re going to surprise them. Even if we don’t beat them, we’ll hang with them,” Perry said. “Battle Ground is doing something this year. We’re going to be able to hang with them. We’re going to give them a good fight.”
In fact, the Tigers got their first chance earlier this week and almost got the Titans. Battle Ground led by 16 in the first half. Perry, who was playing through an injury, had an inspiring first half, but he was unable to go in the second half. The Tigers struggled without him, losing the lead in the fourth quarter. Still, they made a statement: They are good enough to play with the best.
Perry proved to himself last season that he truly belonged among the elite.
“I’d been told all my life, ‘You’re not good at basketball. You’re just tall,’” Perry said.
Then he played varsity as a freshman and crushed it, earning first-team, all-league status.
“Any time I’d do something good, I’m just tall,” Perry recalled. “Can’t really say that now. I’m not just tall. I’m able to do some things.”
His mom always knew.
“He’s still a very humble kid. He doesn’t recognize what a special talent that he has,” she said.
“I never had confidence. I’m starting to get some now,” Kaden noted.
He wants to play well for his teammates, his school. He wants to impress the college coaches who come to Battle Ground to evaluate him. And of course, he wants to give that little extra something when he sees his mom at the game.
It is more than a game for the Perry family. It is a way of life. And a way to help get through life’s challenges.