Being apart of one doesn’t always mean you're blood-related.
In fact, that word often means a lot more than its standard definition.
When groups of people share a common bond or a common interest, they can form that family connection, and that is as thick as their own blood relatives-- and sometimes stronger.
Over the past few years, the Boys Basketball team at Battle Ground High School has been establishing that sense of family-- And a sense of accomplishment.
Being a family is what Battle Ground Boys Basketball head coach Manny Melo is all about this season.
“We’ve tried to instill [being a family] in our program a lot this year,” Coach Melo said. “We have it on our shooting shirts this year with the word 'family' written across our back and this team definitely feels like a tight-knit group.”
Battle Ground made it to the Boys State Tournament last year for the first time in 17 years.
Within this group of six seniors and six juniors this season, there is team captain Kaden Perry who has stood out as a basketball player and as a person.
A junior, Perry stands at 6’9” and towers over his teammates. But that's not the only thing that separates Perry from being your average 17 year-old, and it has nothing to do with his athletic skill or work ethic.
Perry has been through more at his young age than some go through in a lifetime.
During Perry’s freshman year of high school, his mother, DeLena, became ill. What seemingly began as a normal bug turned into a rare disease. DeLena was diagnosed with Guillain-Barre syndrome in 2018, which is a condition where the immune system attacks the nerves. DeLena was temporarily paralyzed from the neck down.
It’s scary. It was like one day she was waking up every morning making breakfast for me, taking care of me, and then the next day it’s like I’m the one doing that role and I’m the one that has to take care of the family and stuff like that. It’s brought my family a lot closer, and it’s definitely tested our bonds. But all together, it’s made us way closer. – Tigers big man Kaden Perry
“It was a really hard time,” Perry added.
The Tigers starting big man became a master juggler. He was forced to balance the care of his mom, worrying about her constantly, to stay on top of his school work, and still had to find time to improve his hoop game.
Yet, with Perry’s mother being his number one fan, Perry was able to draw inspiration from that and balance his family, school, and basketball life.
When Perry was asked who has been his life's inspiration, he didn’t hesitate-- “That’s easily my mom. I mean she’s gone through so much and she’d always been there, always been my number one supporter no matter what she’s going through. She’s definitely been my number one inspiration.”
Perry found balance and peace with his mom receiving treatment over the last year and a half; he also found time to take calls from colleges who were trying to recruit him.
Just taking it one step at a time. It’s a lot sometimes – take care of mom here, I know I have basketball -- everything is just a set time, so just trying to find the right balance of everything and making sure that I get my priorities done to get where I want to go.
The University of Oregon, Oregon State University, and the University of Washington all showed interest in Perry.
But, Perry's heart has always been set on one school: Gonzaga University.
"That’s always been my goal. That’s been my dream college for as long as I can remember… I talked to colleges here and there, and got offers [here and] there and was like, ‘gosh, I wonder if I’m like getting to that point where I’ll get that call from Gonzaga or that talk from Gonzaga…’ When they finally offered to me, I was like, ‘oh yeah, that’s the one!’”
Gonzaga is the one for Perry. It’s apparent when talking with him that he can’t wait to be a part of Mark Few’s program in Spokane. The Bulldogs are currently the No. 1 team in the nation after their blowout win over Eastern Washington and Villanova's upset victory over the then top-ranked Kansas Jayhawks.
Of course, beyond recruiting and rankings, there's one thing that makes Perry light up even more than thinking about becoming the next great Zag: It's knowing that his mother is on the mend.
“It’s a slow recovery process, but she’s slowly getting better and she’s walking with a walker now. She’s showing up to my games.”
A smile beams across Perry's face. “It’s a slow process, but she’s getting better.”
Perry couldn’t be more thrilled to be able to look up and see his mother back in the stands cheering him on.
“She’s always been my number one fan... It’s awesome to see her out there now and especially because it means so much more because it’s a lot more difficult for her to get out there and knowing that she’s still putting in the effort to come see my games is awesome.”
It comes as no surprise the word 'family' resonates with Perry. It's one of the reasons Perry was drawn to the Gonzaga Basketball program.
"It’s a team, but it’s a family, as well. And everyone seems to have a really close connection. That’s really exciting.”
After sitting down and talking with Perry, it’s no surprise that Gonzaga recruited him. GU has been known for finding talented kids with extremely high work ethics, who put family first.
That’s Kaden Perry.
He will join the long list of Zags who have been known as extremely great basketball players and even better people.
That list includes Washington-grown Dan Dickau and Casey Calvary to Canadians Kevin Pangos and Kelly Olynyk. And let's not forget the Stockton family, John and David.
The German writer Goethe once said, "We are shaped and fashioned by what we love.”
And while there's the old addage, "You don't choose your family," try telling that to Kaden Perry.
He still has a year and a half with his mom in Battle Ground before joining the GU family, but there’s no doubt the Gonzaga program will be there with open arms to receive him when the time comes to transition from one family to the next.
Perry will suit up with his fellow Tigers in the Les Schwab Invitational beginning on December 26th at Liberty High School. More info about the tournament can be found here.