There was some more news today concerning basketball transfers as Tayler Persons, the Atlantic Sun Freshman of the Year, recently announced he was leaving Northern Kentucky and would transfer. Today he announced where he would visit:
This made me giddy with excitement. First, he is a Kokomo guy, and I have seen him play a lot since he was a key reserve on Kokomo's state runner-up team in 2011. Second, the kid is tough as nails and would be an excellent fit.
Tayler brings excellent size to the position at 6'3" 230 pounds. At Kokomo he was a four-year starter as an option quarterback and an Indiana All-Star his senior season in basketball. He scored 1,131 points in his career, good for seventh in school history. What's more impressive is that he tore his ACL playing football in early September 2013. It looked like he would miss his entire senior season in basketball, but he was back on the court by late January. Kokomo went on a tear and won 10 of 12 once he was back in the lineup, including an upset 74-69 win over James Blackmon and Marion in the sectional in which Persons had 30 points. That reversed a 75-51 regular season loss to the evil Marion Giants earlier in the season when Persons was out.
So yes, Persons made the Indiana all-star team while playing half a season four months after a torn ACL, and out-played a McDonald's All-American head-to-head. That's damned impressive.
This past season he played for Northern Kentucky and was the A-Sun Freshman of the Year. He averaged 13.1 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 3.7 assists as the Norse went 13-17. His first two collegiate games were at Wisconsin and at Nebraska, where he had 13 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists against the Cornhuskers. He had 30 points at Chattanooga in mid-December and was a perfect 14 of 14 from the line. His team also played at Northwestern in December. His career high was a 31-12-6 game in an 83-75 loss in overtime at Jacksonville in February.
His turnovers were slightly concern at 2.6 per game, but he still had a positive assist/turnover ratio and he did play for a team with a losing record, where he often had to push. He shot 43.6% from the field, 18.5% from three (this was a sharp drop from Kokomo) and 76.3% from the line.
What has always stood out to me is his toughness. Kokomo's football team is a very run-heavy option attack. He not only played quarterback, but was the starting safety (sound familiar?) that probably could have played Division I on defense if he wanted to. Kokomo's offense relies a lot on pitches to wing backs so the QB does not run much, but defensively he did know how to play tough. He is not afraid to play Purdue-style defense in basketball and get on the floor after loose balls. He did average more than a steal per game this season, and at Kokomo he was a gritty team leader for a solid run where the Kats won four straight sectionals, two NCC titles, and had a state runner-up appearance.
The one downside is that unless he miraculously graduated from Northern Kentucky in a year he will have to sit out the 2015-16 season. The good news is that with three years of eligibility remaining he could be a longer term solution at the point. I can attest that he is a quality player and hard worker that would fit in nicely at Purdue. I felt like many schools overlooked him the first time around, and now that he was the best freshman in his conference he will be a much hotter commodity.