The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Tony Perkins honors late grandmother in Iowa’s victory over North Florida

The senior guard found out the news earlier in the week, but elected to play on Wednesday, getting off to a hot start and dropping a team-high 21 points.
Isabella Tisdale
Tony Perkins takes a breath after North Florida shoots a ball during a men’s basketball game between Iowa and North Florida at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2023. The Hawkeyes defeated the Ospreys, 103-78.

Tony Perkins had something to play for in the Hawkeyes’ game against North Florida. 

The fourth-year guard found out Monday morning that his grandmother passed away. After discussing with head coach Fran McCaffery, Perkins chose not to practice that day but returned to action on Tuesday. 

“She was like my mom,” an emotional Perkins said about his late grandmother after the game. “My mom would have to work later and she was right there to take care of me. She was everything.”

Growing up in Indianapolis, Indiana, Perkins wanted to be a football player, but he said he gained a lot of basketball memories as he spent more time at his grandma’s house. Shooting baskets in her front yard, Perkins’ granda was his rebounder. 

“I just zoned everything out, just those memories in my head while I was playing,” he said. 

Perkins said he was making most of his shots in the pregame shootaround, lending him the belief the upcoming contest could be something special. After warmups, the guard spent some time alone in the locker room to gather himself. He chose to dedicate the game to his grandmother.

Perkins went on a tear right out of the gate. He slid to the corner when Iowa guard Dasonte Bowen kicked it to him for a wide-open three – nothing but net. About a minute later, he hit the pull-up jumper in transition from the free throw line, then came back down the court and put in a layup off the fast break. Perkins put up seven of Iowa’s 13 points just four minutes into the game. 

After a couple of minutes where some other Hawkeyes got going, Perkins hit another pull-up mid-range jumper and another three in back-to-back possessions, pushing him up to 12 of Iowa’s 22 points with 12 minutes left in the first half. 

Perkins would have a brief stint on the bench before being subbed back. He was relatively quiet up until he was fouled shooting a three a minute left in the half. Perkins went on to hit two of three free throws. 

He cruised into halftime as the Hawkeyes’ leading scorer with 14 points on 5-of-6 shooting and 2-of-2 from three.  

Perkins picked up where he left off to start the second half. Just under three minutes into the half, he got to his spot in the mid-range and hit a smooth step-back jumper. 

“I was zoned in on the memories I had as a child, the shots I used to shoot as I child,” he said. “Like, you know, last shot, contested shot.”

On the very next possession, Perkins got the ball off the inbound and kicked it upcourt to Payton Sandfort for the wide-open three. Sandfort returned the favor by hitting Perkins with an outlet pass that led to him hitting an and-one floater plus the made free throw, pushing him up to 19 points for the game. 

With another pull-up mid-range jumper, Perkins, along with Ben Krikke, finished as the Hawkeyes’ leading scorers with 21 points apiece. He dedicated this game to his late grandmother, who he said would every game, sometimes making the six-hour drive from Indianapolis to Iowa City to watch her grandson play. 

“My grandma never allowed me to sit out a game in any sport,” Perkins said. “She wouldn’t care if I hurt, or if I couldn’t walk. [She would say,] ‘You playing. You’re going to play, and I’m going to watch.'”

Checking out of the game for the final time, Perkins received long embraces from every player and coach on the bench. After his postgame interview with Big Ten Network, he shared a moment with McCaffery’s wife, Margaret.

Perkins said felt the support through the whole program since the news came out. He described how everyone from the players, coaches, and staff, “had his back from the start.” 

This family-like atmosphere and culture is something McCaffery said Iowa makes an “expectation” in the recruiting process. 

“It was truly remarkable and speaks to his character,” McCaffery said about Perkins’ performance. “He played a spectacular game tonight at both ends of the floor and showed great leadership. It’s just amazing to see how focused he was given the circumstances… If you would’ve talked to him before the game, I would’ve predicted it knowing him.”

Following Iowa’s game at Purdue on Dec. 4, Perkins will stay in Indiana to attend funeral services that Wednesday before rejoining the team. His performance in front of the home crowd made an indelible mark on his teammates.

“He started from the jump,” Iowa first-year forward Owen Freeman said. “He obviously had a point to prove and he had a little bit more to play for. Just to go out and see him do that, it’s really something special… He’s a top player in the country.”

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About the Contributors
Chris Meglio
Chris Meglio, Sports Reporter
Chris Meglio is a first year student at the University of Iowa studying a double major in sport studies and journalism. He will be working as a sports journalist for The Daily Iowan covering women's volleyball for the fall sports season.
Isabella Tisdale
Isabella Tisdale, Photojournalist
Isabella Tisdale is a photojournalist for The Daily Iowan and is a senior at West High school. In her free time, she stage manages for the theater program at West High. She plans to double major in political science and journalism.