Surprisingly, McCauley said the plan all along was to have Persons up and running in four months. Persons missed the mark by just a little over a week.
“Some of Tayler’s greatest attributes have nothing to do with the injury,” McCauley said. “His leadership, confidence and mental toughness have never changed. He’s provided those things to our team throughout the games that he’s missed. It’s to be determined from a physical standpoint because he’s yet to play. So, we shall see, but from a mental toughness standpoint and a leadership standpoint, he’s provided that for our team the last 12 games.”
Persons says his range of motion and lateral movement are “great,” but added his game isn’t back to 100 percent just yet because “I need to get back in shape and everything.” He’s been participating in shooting drills for the last three months, and returned to practice two weeks ago. Although he was stripped of the first 12 games of his senior season, he’s taking a glass-half-full approach, focusing on the lessons he’s learned as a spectator.
“You see the game and you learn differently and learn to respect your coach more through seeing what he has to go through,” Persons said. “I feel like everything has helped me out, through understanding how to play defense and read things better. It was a blessing in disguise, making me sit back and watch the game.”
Persons helped lead the Kats to a 65-11 record and sectional championships during each of his first three seasons on the varsity squad, and played a vital role in Kokomo’s run to the Class 4A state championship game as a freshman. He averaged 17.4 points, 5.7 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 2.9 steals per game last season as a junior, leading the Kats to a 22-3 record. That included the program’s 17th North Central Conference championship, and marked just the second time in school history Kokomo finished its conference slate with an unblemished 7-0 record.