Fort Wayne-based Dr. Jeffrey Hartzell performed Persons’ surgery. Coincidentally, Hartzell is McCauley’s brother-in-law.
Kokomo (14-7) is 7-2 with Persons in the lineup. Last week, the Wildkats took down one of the state’s top teams, Bowman Academy, and then beat Northrop to gather some momentum for the sectional. Kokomo faces long-time rival Marion on Friday in a Class 4A Kokomo Sectional semifinal.
“I’m just really proud of the guys. We’re playing with great team chemistry,” Persons said. “We had a rough one against Northrop, but we pulled out a win and we needed that. I feel like we’re going on a high note into playing the biggest game of our whole season [against Marion]. But I feel like we’re clicking at the right time and we’re really prepared for this week.
“I think we have a really good group of guys who refuse to lose. We know we’re capable of going far in the tournament. We’re just ready to prove it to everyone else.”
Kokomo is the three-time defending sectional champion, but Marion is the team to beat this year. The Giants thumped Logansport 77-51 in Tuesday’s opener.
The Giants throttled the Kats 75-51 in a North Central Conference game on Dec. 20 at Memorial Gym with Persons out of action.
After that game, Marion coach James Blackmon Sr. noted Persons’ absence and his appreciation for Persons’ game. Carmel coach Scott Heady did likewise after the Greyhounds smacked the Kats 62-36 on Jan. 18.
Persons has earned opposing coaches’ respect with his play over his career. As a freshman, he worked off the bench and scored 6.3 ppg, helping the Kats roar to a 23-3 record and a Class 4A state runner-up finish. As a sophomore, he moved into a starting role and was the team’s No. 2 scorer (12.6 ppg) and No. 1 rebounder (5.5). The Kats went 20-5.