AURORA — No matter the high school gym, home or road, Josh Perkins is the watched man.
His reputation as the state of Colorado’s No. 1 high school basketball prospect precedes him. It was that way Tuesday inside the gymnasium at Regis Jesuit, where Perkins is a 6-foot-2 junior guard.
The visiting student section from Mountain Vista was loud and clear in its appraisal of Perkins, the best player in the gym by a long shot: "Over-rated! Over-rated! Over-rated!"
The students got one part right: When Perkins is on the court, he should be a watched man. He’s a precious rarity, a high-major basketball prospect playing in Colorado.
Bless their school spirit, but the students also got it wrong: Perkins hardly is overrated. If anything, Perkins is undervalued in the national recruiting rankings.
Scout.com considers Perkins the 42nd-ranked prospect in the nation's graduating class of 2014. Plug him into a more highly regarded hoops scene, like the state of Illinois, and Perkins still would be the top point guard prospect in 2012, 2013 or 2014.
Perhaps only one in-state prospect is held in higher regard by college coaches: De'Ron Davis, a 6-foot-8 freshman a Aurora Overland.
"De'Ron Davis is one of the top two prospects in his class in the West," said Josh Gershon, a Scout.com recruiting analyst.
Next November, Perkins will sign a national letter of intent with one of these fine programs: Gonzaga, Colorado, Duke, Kansas, Arizona, Denver, Minnesota, New Mexico or Stanford.
How’s that for a list? Kansas was in to see him two weeks ago. Gonzaga will be on hand Tuesday. Colorado long ago made him a priority.
Sweet gig, if you can get it.
"We are blessed to be in this position,” said his father, Randy Perkins.
And the state of Colorado is blessed to have a legit high-major prospect. It doesn’t happen often enough.
Recruiting rankings are fallible but offer the best snapshot of the scene as a whole. And the numbers are shocking: From 2007-2013, the state of Colorado produced exactly one male prospect ranked among the nation's top 100.
That was Monument's Josh Scott, the No. 50-ranked prospect in 2012 from Lewis-Palmer, according to the Recruiting Services Consensus Index. Sierra alum Wesley Gordon, who is drawing rave reviews as a redshirt in Boulder, was just outside the top 100 for Scout.com.
"Wesley is going to be a special player," CU coach Tad Boyle said by phone.
I am unsure which is more stunning: That our state has been so poor on mid- to high-major talent, or that Colorado, Colorado State and Air Force right now have a combined record of 44-16 — in spite of the slim pickings of in-state talent.
Take a bow, state coaches.
College coaches here gain nothing by lamenting the drop in quality prep basketball in Colorado. Still, it is a significant reason CU, CSU and Air Force are such difficult jobs.
“Colorado will always be a cyclical basketball state. It’s going to ebb and it’s going to flow,” said Boyle, who played his high school ball at Greeley Central. “There are going to be runs where there are multiple (high-major) players. Then there will be runs where there are only one or two. It always has been that way.”
With respect to Boyle, who has hit the state hard and signed three Colorado kids in 2012, this is one long, dry, sad ebb for in-state talent.
Which is why a prospect like Josh Perkins should be, yes, a watched man.
“We just don’t have the tradition, maybe, of some of the other places that have a lot (of top prospects),” Perkins said. “The more Colorado kids that get recognized, the better off we’ll be. Then people will look at Colorado more for basketball.”
For too long in Colorado, we’ve had to squint our eyes to find the caliber of prospect colleges are looking for.