Josh Perkins is the straw that stirs the drink for the Gonzaga offense, which ranks first nationally in efficiency per Ken Pomeroy. The 6-foot-3, 190-pounder is a fifth-year senior for the Zags, who are vying for a second trip to the Final Four Saturday in the West Regional final versus Texas Tech (6:09 p.m. EST, CBS).
He averages over 10 points and 6 assists per game, facilitating the elite frontcourt duo of Brandon Clarke and Rui Hachimura. He scored an efficient 14 points (on 10 shots) and dished out 5 dimes to top Florida State in the Sweet 16 (a rematch from last year’s regional semifinal).
Inevitably during the CBS broadcast, the camera will point to Josh’s father Randy, who holds an extraordinarily close bond with his son. Here’s what you need to know.
1. Randy Played Basketball at 4 Different Colleges Before Josh was Born
Josh was born August 25, 1995 in Denver to Randy and Tonia Wilson. As Dana O’Neill of The Athletic writes, Tonia was “battling issues that Randy would rather not go into.”
Before Wilson became pregnant with Josh, Randy was a journeyman college basketball player. Per O’Neill:
Could he play? Oh yes, yes he could, and he would show the world. Only the world didn’t exactly bend to his wishes. His hoops dream died an agonizingly long death, stretched out through a collection of schools, bad fits and worse breaks. His first stop, Bishop College, closed its doors amid financial malfeasance before he even enrolled. Bad ankles cost him an opportunity at Northern Colorado and sent him to Eastville Community College outside Dallas. He tried to make a go of it at North Texas, but the injuries did him in there as well.
When Tonia announced the pregnancy, Randy quit basketball “cold turkey,” bought a house in the Park Hill neighborhood in Denver and committed to raising his son. With basketball in the rearview mirror, Randy resented his lack of success for a long time.
“For a long time, I was mad, really mad, mad at basketball and mad at God,’” he says. “I’d see Dennis Rodman, a guy who partied like anybody, and here I am doing everything right. I was like, ‘God, we need to have a little talk.’”
He continued telling O’Neill that he made the right choice.
“If I had continued on, trying to play, my life would have been empty. I wouldn’t haven’t known that. I’m sure I would have thought it was enough because I loved the game so much. But that wasn’t love.’”
2. Randy Now Does Community Outreach Throughout Denver & Beyond
Randy is the director of the Colorado Miners Community Center, which offers a basketball camp to the youth of Elyria, another poor Denver Neighborhood. Per the center’s website:
The Colorado Miners Community Outreach is a collaborative venture with the City and County of Denver Department of Parks and Recreation. Through this venture, the Community Center, which was scheduled for closure, is able to remain open and serve one of Denver’s poorest inner-city communities, Elyria.
In 2016, Josh played in the NCAA Tournament at the Pepsi Center just 5 miles from his home. KREM, CBS’s Spokane affiliate, did a profile with Josh and Randy about their connection to the city.
Randy runs the Colorado Miners Community Center there and he’s proud of his work with the kids in the area.
“It’s one of the poorest communities in the metropolitan area,” said Randy. “We were not supposed to be as successful in this building as we have been.”
He’s also proud of the work he’s done with his son through the center.
“I like to say it’s kind of created a foundation for the kind of person he is today,” said Randy.
Josh graduated out of his dad’s AAU program with its academic and community service requirements.
Randy and a fellow coach also bring sneakers to give kids at a basketball camp they have worked in Fiji. They have already collected 200 pairs.
3. Randy Ate a No-Solids Diet When Josh Broke His Jaw in 2016
In the preseason NIT tournament in 2016, Josh suffered a broken jaw after a freak collision late in a win over Georgia. Randy was informed during Colorado Miners basketball practice in Denver.
“I was actually at basketball practice when it happened,” Randy said to SWX Right Now, “so actually when I got to my facility, my phone was blowing up. (People) told me ‘Hey, did you see what happened to Josh?'”
With his mouth wired shut for the recovery, Josh couldn’t chew food. Randy offered his support by committing to a no-solids diet, as well.
“It shows how much he really loves me and cares for me,” Josh said.
“I liked it to this,” Randy said. “If you’re ever walking in a dark alley, it’s really lonely and scary. He was going through a dark time, so it was really easy for me to say I’ll walk with him.”
4. Even When Josh Went to Huntington Prep in West Virginia, Randy Ran His Son’s Recruitment from Thousands of Miles Away
Josh Perkins began his high school career at Regis Jesuit High School in Aurora, Colorado. As a freshman, he helped lead his school to winning the Colorado 5A State Championship.
In the summer before his senior year, Perkins decided to transfer to Huntington Prep, the prestigious high school basketball powerhouse in West Virginia.
Randy knew the decision was important to maximize Josh’s budding potential by playing the nation’s best.
“I’m proud that (he’s) able to go out there with these kids who are ranked in front of (him),” Randy said to NextCats in 2013. “These kids who are superstars, some are considered one-and-done. And you’re able to go out there and create some offense, some system, some relationship. And get those kids to buy into it. You talk about a testament to leadership skills — this kid is special. And I’m not saying that because he’s mine. I’m in awe sometimes when I watch him play. I was at the Pangos camp and watching Stanley Johnson and those guys walking up and saying, ‘Hey Josh, let’s get together this summer.’ That’s special stuff.”
With schools such as Gonzaga, UCLA, Kansas and Kentucky pursuing the 4-star, Randy became the point of contact for a competitive recruitment. He talked extensively about a commitment to Kentucky before eventually landing with Gonzaga.
“Just because it’s Kentucky,” he said. “Every kid’s dream is to go to the NBA and you’re obviously looking at the schools that can get you there. And obviously, Kentucky is known to get kids to the NBA. And that’s his dream.”
He pledged to Mark Few and the Zags in November 2013.
5. Josh Celebrated on the Court with Josh After Gonzaga Punched a Ticket to the Sweet 16 in 2016
You’re probably wondering why his mother has not been mentioned much. She has been kept out of much of the limelight, but she did get an opportunity to celebrate the 2016 bid for the Sweet 16 in Denver. Per The Colorodan:
His mother, Tonia Wilson; grandmother, Jean Wells; brother, Cameron, 19; sisters Jade, 13, and Lauren, 8, were seated in the front row, across the court from the Gonzaga bench. His girlfriend, Sarah Kelly, was there, too. Other family members and friends were scattered throughout the Gonzaga cheering section.
And as soon as the final buzzer sounded, Josh ran across the court to celebrate with them, giving each a hug as he headed toward the locker room.
“I left senior year, so I missed that a little bit,” Josh said at the time. “Just to see them over there happy made me really happy. … I missed them. It was just a blessing being able to play at home again and to see the smiles on their faces made their day and made my day as well.”