The Danbury boys’ basketball was not destined to hoist the FCIAC trophy this season, but the young team’s 2021 experience proved the Hatters’ time may be coming soon.
Though a first-round playoff loss following a 6-6 regular-season record may seem underwhelming at first glance, the future looks bright.
Shining brightest were Cameron and Charnez Perkins, cousins who both made their varsity debuts this season as freshmen.
In their first varsity seasons, Charnez averaged 9.4 points per game, 3.8 rebounds and two steals while Cameron averaged 7.8 points and 3.4 rebounds.
“This is kind of rare that we have two freshmen getting significant minutes,” Danbury coach Casey Bock said. “Them getting that experience was huge. This year, the way it was, I’m just glad our seniors got the experience of having a senior season and our freshmen got varsity time.”
The cousins were on Bock’s radar well before tryouts after years of the duo competing in AAU together.
“We’ve played together since second or third grade, we play travel together for the Connecticut Dynasty,” Cam Perkins said. “We worked hard lifting and conditioning this summer so I was very happy we got to have a season. I worked with my trainer who helped me a lot for tryouts.”
Understanding that Danbury was likely in for a rebuilding-type year, Bock let his freshmen loose.
“They came in with a pretty high basketball IQ,” Bock said. “They had to learn our system, how we play defense and adjusting to the speed of the game at the varsity level. It was something new to them, and this year they got thrown into the fire. They’re basketball kids, sponges, they play all year around so they picked it up fast. They really want to learn and get better.”
Though there were adjustments that needed to be made at the beginning, the cousins helped each other grow as the season progressed.
“The biggest adjustment was keeping up with the speed,” Cam Perkins said. “For my freshman year I think I did well, I just have to keep on working. We’ve learned a lot from each other and we’ve made each other better. That’s what it’s all about, getting each other better.”
The cousins’ individual performances seemed to directly correlate to the team’s overall performance, with a slower start before finishing strong.
“We struggled in the beginning, but our motto was to get better every day,” Bock said. “We showed a lot of growth; unfortunately we couldn’t pick up a playoff win. As far as the season went, I think we took a step in the right direction as a program.”
Danbury has had recent success, having captured the FCIAC title in the 2017-18 season with three total appearances in five years.
“We had a four-year stretch where we were very strong and very competitive,” Bock said. “I think we have another window coming up where we can be competing for an FCIAC championship.”
The Hatters started the season 2-6, a lackluster start that may have been the result of a late start for Danbury athletics as well as inexperience.
“We had about four practices before our first game,” Bock said. “A couple weeks in and I saw them settle down and start getting into a groove. As they continued to play they kept getting better.”
The Hatters rattled off four straight wins to finish out the regular season, earning the No. 4 seed in the FCIAC tournament.
“I think the team got comfortable and guys gained confidence in their abilities,” Bock said. “We were able to win our last four games of the season and I think that was because they got comfortable playing together.”
Though Danbury suffered a first-round elimination at the hands of No. 10 Warde, the turnaround showed reason for optimism.
“The expectations are going to be higher next year,” Bock said. “We’re going to want to compete for one of the top seeds in the FCIAC and make a run in the tournament.”
Cameron and Charnez Perkins are ready to meet those expectations as sophomores next season.
“There’s a lot of pressure on us, but I think we can handle it,” Cam Perkins said. “We just have to perform well and keep putting in that work.”