By HOWARD SENZELL
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
From a truant in Oakland to being named All-Empire Player of the Year for small-school basketball, it’s been quite a journey for Archbishop Hanna’s Armani Perry.
Despite missing the early part of this past season following knee surgery, the 6-foot Perry finished the year strong and led Hanna to the NCS Division 6 championship game and the second round of the CIF state tournament.
The senior scored 40 points in the NCS title game despite playing about half the game because of foul trouble before fouling out with four minutes to play. St. Bernard’s took its first lead in the final minute and won 70-66.
“This is all like a dream,” Perry said when told of his All-Empire honor. “Before coming up here, I was hanging out with the wrong people and going in the wrong direction.”
Perry said he was skipping school and on the road to nowhere. An acquaintance told his mother, Tammie, about a small boys school in the Sonoma Valley and she put her son on the waiting list.
“I’d never heard of Sonoma,” Armani said. “I thought it was so far away you had to take an airplane.”
Perry resisted leaving Oakland but finally relented and was enrolled at Hanna.
His freshman year was rough. So rough, he was kicked off the basketball team and left the school.
Coach Courtney Jackson said the incident involved smoking on campus.
“Several guys admitted doing it but Armani wouldn’t,” Jackson said. “He was defiant and I kicked him off the team.”
Perry dropped out of school but soon realized he missed the basketball team and the structure of the private school.
He put his name on the waiting list for readmission and got back in for his sophomore year.
“It’s the best thing that’s happened to me,” he said. “When I was back in Oakland, I decided I wanted more from my life. I changed.
“I love sports, especially basketball. My dream became graduating and playing ball in college.”
Jackson noticed the change in Perry right away.
“His whole personality was different,” his coach said. “He’d become focused and respectful.”
After Hanna went 23-5 his junior year, Perry and his teammates set their sights on a Small School Bridge League title and deep runs in NCS and CIF.
Then, in August before his senior season, Perry tore the meniscus in his left knee.
“I tried to play through the pain because I didn’t want to have surgery and miss any playing time my senior year.”
However, Perry couldn’t go full-speed during preseason practice and finally went to a doctor.
“The doctor said I needed surgery and would miss my entire senior season because the recovery time was months,” Perry recalled. “I cried when he said that.”
Perry showed the same resolve rehabbing from surgery as he had turning his life around years earlier.
“I started doing physical therapy every day,” he said. “I never wanted anything so bad.”
The hard work paid off and Perry was cleared to play in late January.
The first few games, Perry came off the bench.
“Armani’s motor never stops,” Jackson said. “I told him to take it easy but he didn’t.”
When Perry assumed his spot in the starting lineup, Hanna went on to win league and made a deep playoff run.
Perry also applied himself in the classroom. He carries a 3.5 grade point average and will graduate in May.
Santa Rosa Junior College coach Craig McMillan has expressed interest in having Perry play for the Bear Cubs next season.
“My dream is to play at the JC for two seasons and then play for a university,” he said.
“Hanna and basketball have changed my life.”