It didn’t take long for John Calipari’s fascination with in-state basketball star Travis Perry to reach its next step.
Less than a week after Calipari watched Perry play at a high school showcase in Shelbyville, the Lyon County guard received a scholarship offer to play for his home-state school.
Perry — a 6-foot-2 prospect in the 2024 recruiting class — earned the Kentucky offer during a visit to Lexington on Saturday afternoon. The trip was hastily organized in the immediate aftermath of last weekend’s Titans-Rockets Summer Shootout, where Calipari showed up to watch five-star senior forward Xavier Booker and became infatuated with Perry, who put up 36 points on Booker’s Cathedral High, reigning Indiana state champions.
Perry, who is not ranked in the top 50 nationally by any of the top recruiting services, is just the fifth player from that 2024 class to receive a UK scholarship offer. A week earlier, Calipari extended offers to Ian Jackson, Tre Johnson, Isaiah Elohim and Karter Knox — all top-10 players in the rising junior class.
Perry, meanwhile, is ranked No. 56 nationally by ESPN, No. 66 by Rivals.com, and not at all by 247Sports and On3.com. 247Sports analyst Travis Branham told the Herald-Leader earlier in the week that the standout from western Kentucky would definitely be included in the next rankings update from that website.
“I really love watching Travis Perry play,” Branham said. “He’s a tough kid who really, really knows how to play the game. Very good passer who gets his teammates involved and makes the game easy for everybody out on the court. He’s not the most gifted physical player that you’re going to see, but he is a tremendously high IQ kid. Great passer. Great vision.
“And he is a knockdown shooter, which I know Kentucky fans love to hear. Every time he shoots that basketball, you think it’s going in. And, honestly, just about every time he shoots that basketball, it does go in.”
As a sophomore this past season, Perry shot 38.2 percent from three-point range. On the Adidas circuit this spring, he’s hitting 40.3 percent of his threes.
Perry is on pace to be the most prolific scorer in Kentucky high school history. He started playing varsity ball as a seventh-grader, averaging an astounding 20.6 points per game that season. With two more years of high school in front of him, Perry has already accumulated 3,189 career points. If he simply matches his scoring total from his sophomore season (990 points), he would go into his senior year in second place on Kentucky’s all-time list.
And he’s on a trajectory to shatter “King” Kelly Coleman’s state record of 4,337 points, a mark that was set in 1956.
Plenty of college coaches outside of Kentucky have taken notice.
Between the annual June 15 date allowing coaches to directly contact rising juniors and last weekend’s breakout showing at the Shelbyville event, it has been a double whammy of scholarship offers flowing Perry’s way. Over the past two weeks alone, he has picked up new offers from Bradley, Cincinnati, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, Purdue and Wake Forest. Those to go along with previous offers from the likes of Creighton, Mississippi and Western Kentucky.
And now UK has entered the mix.
Calipari signed just two in-state players in his first 10 recruiting cycles as Kentucky’s coach — Dominique Hawkins and Derek Willis, both in the 2013 class — but he has picked up commitments from Dontaie Allen (2019) and Reed Sheppard (2023) in recent years. And there’s clearly a hope that Perry could be next in that local pipeline.
Perry’s father, Lyon County head coach Ryan Perry, said his son has been taking a clinical approach to his recruitment since colleges started showing serious interest and extending scholarship offers. The teenager has studied playing styles of the schools pursuing him, watched to see how those coaches interact with their players.
Perry’s father said his son is a “fan of good basketball” when asked if Travis had a particular rooting interest growing up. He also acknowledged the obvious.
“He lives in Kentucky,” Ryan Perry said. “Me and his mom both graduated from UK, so he’s probably seen more Kentucky games than anything else — because we watch Kentucky games, and we’re Kentucky fans.”
Perry will clearly have no shortage of college options, but it can’t get any bigger than a Kentucky offer for the in-state phenom. And it’s becoming quite clear that coaches at the highest level of college basketball think he can play against that type of competition.
On paper, a UK offer — or any high-major offer, really — looks like a curiosity next to the name of a 6-2 kid from Eddyville. Perry is a special case.
“Anybody that’s (6-2), not super long and not explosive at the rim — they do tend to struggle finishing at the rim, especially against size in the paint,” Branham said. “But this kid is tough, and he’s so skilled that he helps make up for whatever shortcomings might be there.
“It’s surprising to see a kid from Lyon County emerge as a national recruit. But from watching him play, it’s not surprising at all. He is a guy that translates to the high-major level, just because of how skilled, how tough, how smart and how good of a shooter he is.”