The Wellington High School basketball program has established itself as a state power in recent years under the direction of head coach Matt Colin. The Wolverines have accumulated six-straight district championships, four regional titles, a state crown and were state runners-up twice.
As the Wolverine squad graduates key impact players year after year, the program manufactures new ones, and rising senior De’Ante Perez has stepped into the role for his team over the summer.
“De’Ante is a very hard worker on the court. He’s an exceptional two-way player,” Colin said. “Offensively, he shoots the ball well from three and gets to the rim and finishes through contact. Defensively, he led our team in charges taken and typically defends one of the other team’s best players. He has been our leading scorer this summer at 20.5 points per game.”
More importantly to Colin, Perez has emerged as a team leader. Both players and coaches respect his input.
Perez’s most notable feat last season was the half-court buzzer-beater against Broward’s Cypress Bay High School. The long-distance score propelled the Wolverines into the state tournament for the second-straight year.
The six-foot-one shooting guard, to this day, still can’t believe what he did. “Every time I walk around Wellington, I have people coming up to me, and that’s truly a blessing,” he said. “When I hit that shot, I couldn’t believe it myself.”
Although Perez is entering only his second year as a varsity player, his strong work ethic has paid dividends during summer tournament play. “I’ve been working out with the team and putting up shots every day,” he said. “I really want to see myself grow this season as an individual and as a group with my team.”
Perez believes that he can fill the leadership role that Colin has welcomed to him. “I believe I can step into that role for my team this year,” Perez said. “Mostly because I believe I’ve proven to be at that spot, and I work so hard for it.”
The chemistry still remains, despite last season’s graduation. “This team is full of talent,” he added. “The chemistry will fall in as the season goes on, but mark my word, this Wellington team will shock people this year.”
Perez attributes much of the team’s continued success to Colin.
“Coach Colin is the best coach I’ve ever had,” he said. “The man knows what he is talking about, and being coached by someone like him is an honor. He has truly impacted me to be a better person and player every day, and I can’t thank him enough.”
The all-county shooting guard is aware that he must continue to work hard to improve for next season. “I need to improve more on my body and being able to finish more with contact, and I also want to improve on my pull-up game, making those shots more often in games,” he said.
Perez also expressed his ultimate goal, aside from making it to the post season, is to earn a Division I basketball scholarship. “I have interest from Maine Maritime Academy,” Perez added. “I want to study being a sports commentator.”
The official high school basketball season may not start until November, but Perez has not taken his foot off the pedal and shows no signs of letting up. Look for Perez and the Wolverines to challenge many on the court this year. With the increased quality of Palm Beach County basketball in recent years, expect enthusiastic fans to fill gymnasiums across the county.