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April 13, 2014

All-Area boys basketball team

Wildkats' Persons is MVP of 51st annual honor squad

Kokomo boys basketball player Tayler Persons was relegated to a spectator role for the Wildkats’ first 12 games of the season after tearing an ACL in a football game on Aug. 30 and having surgery on Sept. 17.

The Northern Kentucky recruit made an immediate impact upon his sooner-than-expected return.

Persons is the 2014 Kokomo Tribune All-Area Player of the Year after averaging a team-high 18.2 points per game for the Class 4A Sectional 7 champion Wildkats. He also averaged 6.1 rebounds, 3 assists and 1.4 steals per game.

The 6-foot-2 senior guard returned to game action on Jan. 31 — just 4 1/2 months after a surgery that often requires 6-12 months of rehabilitation. The Kats were 6-6 when he was out and 10-2 with him in the lineup. He earned a spot on the Indiana All-Stars with his strong play.

“For Tayler to injure his knee in the second week of the football season and then to come back in 4 1/2 months and not just play, but play at an Indiana All-Star level, it just says a lot for his work ethic, determination, mental toughness and physical toughness and also the support he received from his family,” Kokomo coach Brian McCauley said.

Persons was at his absolute best against Marion in a sectional semifinal game that had Memorial Gym buzzing with energy. Persons erupted for a career-high 30 points and nine rebounds to lead the Kats to a 74-69 victory. He outshined Marion star and IU recruit James Blackmon Jr.

“He opposed his will on the game,” McCauley said. “He refused to let our team lose that game.”

Kokomo beat McCutcheon 54-52 in overtime the next night for a sectional four-peat — a first for the Kats in the class tournament era.

Persons was a part of all four of those teams. As a freshman, he scored 6.3 points per game in a backup role on the Kats’ Class 4A state runner-up squad. As a sophomore, he was the team’s No. 2 scorer (12.6 ppg) and top rebounder. As a junior, he topped the team in scoring (17.4 ppg) and assists and was the second-leading rebounder.

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