Highland: Sports

New HHS coach takes over reins of very young squad

The Highland High School varsity boys basketball team consists of, front row from left, Justin Melosi, Jon Dickman, Brady Feldmann, Luke Landmann, Cameron Altadonna and Deakon Thornton; back row, Michael Riffel, Jake Kruse, Sam LaPorta, Stephen Torre, Stephen Schniers, Trent Lammers and Elliott Prott.
The Highland High School varsity boys basketball team consists of, front row from left, Justin Melosi, Jon Dickman, Brady Feldmann, Luke Landmann, Cameron Altadonna and Deakon Thornton; back row, Michael Riffel, Jake Kruse, Sam LaPorta, Stephen Torre, Stephen Schniers, Trent Lammers and Elliott Prott. For the News Leader

Despite taking over the reins of a program that will hit the court with very little varsity experience after losing eight seniors to graduation, new Highland High School boys basketball coach Brian Perkes is approaching it head on with a lot of optimism.

“I am very excited and feel very blessed to be given the opportunity to be the next Highland coach,” Perkes said. “We have a very young team, and we are so young that a lot of players have to be dropped off and picked up from practice, because they are not old enough to drive. But I think being such a young team can be a positive, because they are more willing to the change than if they were a veteran team. These boys have been very open and receptive to the coaching change, and they are listening to everything I say and buying into what we are teaching them.”

HHS Athletic Director Caleb Houchins believes Perkes and his 17 years of coaching experience makes him the right man to lead the youth movement currently happening in the boys program.

“Coach Perkes does a tremendous job of player development, and getting all levels of the program involved in learning his system,” Houchins said. “That is very important in making sure that players that come into the program improve and get better as the season progresses.”

Mutual interest

Perkes said the Highland boys program was intriguing because the Bulldogs compete in the Mississippi Valley Conference, the general trend that shows the boys program is on the upswing, as well as the success of many of the school’s athletic programs.

“The baseball team has had a lot of success with two state championships, the football team has had a lot of success, and the girls basketball team had a had a lot of success, so why can’t the boys basketball team have success, too?” he said. “They had a good season last year, and I don’t see why this program can’t have success on the state level very soon. My ultimate goal would be to see this program to where it is competing regularly on a higher level which would include success in the state tournament.”

Houchins said Perkes will be a great asset for the boys program.

“Coach Perkes is a great fit for Highland, and we couldn’t be more excited to have him come on board as the new head basketball coach,” Houchins said. “The program is on a real upswing right now, and we expect that to continue with Brian leading the program. Brian has a real passion for the game of basketball, and this translates into the time and effort he puts into the program. He has 17 years of experience, and coached at the 3A level in the past, so he has good experience to help the boys grow and develop as players and young men.”

Previous coaching experience

In is 17 years as a head coach, Perkes has compiled a 244-225 overall record, with stints at four different schools, most notably the eight-year tenure he spent at Mater Dei, where he earned a solid winning record of 153-85, which was good for a .643 winning percentage.

His coaching experience began at Coulterville, where he worked the sidelines for six seasons before moving on to Reddick for one year.

Then, after his eight years at Mater Dei from the 2005-06 season through the 2012-13 campaign, Perkes spent two years at Christ Our Rock Lutheran High School in Centralia.

“Brian is a tremendous student of the game, and works to find the best system to fit his personnel,” Houchins said. “If playing quickly helps his teams, then his teams get up and down the court. If a game calls for more patience, then his teams will slow down the tempo.”

Perkes said his goal as the caretaker of the Bulldogs basketball program is to continue to improve the program and compete for Mississippi Valley Conference championships, as well as postseason success.

Coaching style

Houchins said Perkes’ teams are always physical, well disciplined, and very well schooled in the fundamentals, which is a good mix when the squad is composed of such young and inexperienced members.

Perkes said that he is similar to most coaches in that he prefers an uptempo style.

“We’re going to press and push the tempo when it best serves us against that opponent, and we will slow it down against other teams when we need to,” he said. “We will try to be smart with our tempo and change it as necessary depending upon the strengths and weaknesses of our opponents. But up-tempo basketball is more exciting to play and to watch.”

Roster highlights

Although they were not starters, juniors Stephen Schniers and Elliott Prott, and sophomore Sam LaPorta lead the key returners after earning some varsity playing time last season when the Bulldogs went 17-13, highlighted by sweeping the MVC with a perfect 10-0 mark.

LaPorta and Schniers have some height. LaPorta has grown some and now stands 6-foot-3 while Schniers is listed at 6-2. Prott is a 5-10 guard.

Junior guards Cameron Altadonna and Justin Melosi got extensive minutes on the JV team last year and should be ready to take the step up to the varsity level.

Perkes said there are some underclassmen who could make a splash pretty quickly. Sophomore Stephen Torre is the tallest player on the roster at 6-7 and fellow sophomore Brady Feldmann is a guard with a strong, athletic build who is fresh off a big season running the football out of the backfield on the gridiron.

Battling Bulldogs Thanksgiving Tournament at HHS

Monday, Nov. 21

▪ 5 p.m. Highland vs. Carbondale

▪ 6:30 p.m. O’Fallon vs. Althoff

▪ 8 p.m. Edwardsville vs. Waterloo

Tuesday, Nov. 25

▪ 5 p.m. Waterloo vs. O’Fallon

▪ 6:30 p.m. Carbonale vs. Edwardsville

▪ 8 p.m. Highland vs. Althoff

Friday, Nov. 25

▪ 4 p.m. Althoff vs. Waterloo

▪ 5:30 p.m. O’Fallon vs. Carbondale

▪ 7 p.m. Highland vs. Edwardsville

Saturday, Nov. 26

▪ 2 p.m. Carbondale vs. Waterloo

▪ 3:30 p.m. Highland vs. O’Fallon

▪ 5 p.m. Edwardsville vs. Althoff