THE ENVELOPES featured a mixture of cash and gift cards. And when Mark Perez hits the mall within the next few days, he'll spend the bounty in vanilla fashion.
Bling ain't his thing. Ditto for video games and electronic items in general.
"I'll probably just get clothes," he said. "Sweatpants and some Polo shirts."
Luckily for West Catholic High's basketball team, Perez is a more exciting player than shopper. Much improved, also, and the new version made an appearance long before 2011 was poised to yield to 2012.
Last night, in a nonleague game played 1 day after Christmas, the 6-1, 185-pound senior wing guard exploded for a career-high 29 points as West Burr-ied visiting Walter D. Palmer Charter, 90-56.
Don't think for a second that Perez went berserk during garbage time, and that his outburst was somehow cheap. He did most of his damage early, which was exactly how he had things planned.
"We were coming off three straight losses," Perez said. "I wanted to come out real strong to make sure that didn't happen again."
In all, Perez shot 12-for-15 from the floor (2-for-4 on treys) and 3-for-5 at the line, in addition to totaling six rebounds and three steals. He rang up seven points in the first 2 minutes, 41 seconds as West bolted to an 11-6 lead. He also contributed 12 of his team's first 18 points, then converted a layup off a pass from senior forward Anthony Fleet to provide the initial eight-point lead, at 27-19.
You name the shot - well, minus a dunk - and Perez knocked it down. Stand-still treys. Layups, with either hand, off hard drives, both along the baseline and wing. And wait . . . what have we here? Pull-up jumpers?
"That's the biggest thing I've added to my game," Perez said. "I could drive and hit threes, but I never had the pull-up. Now I do and it makes me tougher to cover."
Credit for the revamped Mark Perez mostly goes to assistant coach Raheem Scott, who enjoyed special moments at Martin Luther King ('02), Coppin State and Holy Family. All summer, Perez said, he and Scott gathered in West's gym for workouts designed to make him exactly what he has become, well-rounded.
"Now I can really go at it with Raheem," Mark said. "Before, he was too big and strong. He has pretty much been my trainer through high school."
Not exclusively at West, mind you. Perez spent his first 2 years at now-shuttered North Catholic and Scott was an assistant there in the 2009-10 season under coach Guy Moore, who's now in his second campaign as West's boss.
Perez has heard all the rumors about West's days being numbered - an announcement on whether the Archdiocese plans to slice multiple schools is expected Jan. 6 - and, yes, that makes him uncomfortable.
"Where all our underclassmen are now, I've been in the same place," he said. "You hope it's not true, but you almost have to start looking ahead to where you might go next, in case it happens."
Often, Dec. 26 games define lethargic. But West was rarin' to go. Maybe Perez barely celebrated Christmas?
"Nah, I had two big dinners and I slept late this morning," he said, smiling. "And then I had another big meal today with leftovers - ribs, mostly. But I made sure to eat that about 4 hours before game time. I wasn't feeling sluggish at all."
Fleet, a bouncy lefty and senior, contributed 16 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks. Sophomore guard Anwar Epps mixed seven points, four assists and six steals while classmate Malik Tyndale, the eighth man and the brother of former Simon Gratz-Temple star Mark Tyndale, uncorked several impressive drives while notching 12 points in limited minutes.
For Palmer, whose head coach (Will Mega-Ashantee; formerly Bill Collins) and first assistant (Rob Wharton) played for West, Quamir White posted 19 points and 11 rebounds. Alas, the two main ballhandlers halved 18 turnovers.
Perez lives on McKinley near Battersby, not far from Frankford and Harbison, and is hearing mostly from Division III schools. However, mindful that Perez boasts a 3.8 GPA, which ranks him among the top 25 seniors, and has become a much better overall player, Moore has reached out to Colgate.
Up there, maybe he'd have to wear two pair of sweatpants at once.