By Andrew Kahn
Alec Peters is not just a scorer. The 6’9” forward proved that in the first half of Valparaiso’s regular season finale against Cleveland State, passing out of double teams and attempting just two shots. But Peters is Valpo’s leading scorer and an All-Horizon League player. With Valpo leading by four with 1:13 left in the game and 19 seconds on the shot clock, he found himself open in the corner. He could have milked more clock. Instead, he let it fly as a defender rushed towards him: swish, plus a foul. Peters converted the four-point play to secure the victory and the Horizon League regular season title.
“He’s a pure shooter,” says Valparaiso coach Bryce Drew, an authority on the subject. “We noticed that right away [when recruiting him].” Peters is shooting 50 percent from the field, 47 percent from deep, and 83 percent from the foul line in his sophomore season. He averages 16.8 points and 6.8 rebounds for the Crusaders, who, as the top seed in the Horizon League tournament, get a bye into tomorrow’s semifinals on their home court.
Whoever Valparaiso faces, the defenses will be geared to stop Peters. His statistics were down a bit in conference play compared to nonconference games, but he didn’t force shots and showed off his versatility. In addition to knocking down outside shots, he can score with his back to the basket and hit the glass on both ends. Opponents try to deny him the ball and often double him when he gets it. “He uses the other team’s game plan to get his teammates shots,” Drew says. “That’s a big part of our offense.”
Peters, from Washington, IL, had the confidence to tell a newspaper in January that he wants to be an All-American before his college career is done and get drafted into the NBA. He’s not someone who dwells on a mistake. “I learned at a very young age from my father and my high school coach that the person who can think ‘next’ the fastest will win. That’s my mentality: next play, next shot, don’t let anything bother you.”
ESPN analyst Mark Adams calls Peters “one of best sophomores in country. He plays with confidence. He’s making people forget about his coach.” Drew, in his fourth year as head coach at his alma mater, was immortalized after hitting a buzzer-beater that upset Ole Miss in the 1998 NCAA Tournament. In order to create another memory like that, Peters will have to lead the least experienced team in the Horizon. The 26-5 Crusaders have lost just one game at home this season, a nonconference game in early December, and could be a 13 seed if they reach the Big Dance.
Regardless of how this season ends, Peters will work on his quickness, strength, and ball handling in the offseason and likely enter next year as the Horizon’s preseason Player of the Year. Such an accolade would mean he continued to boost teammates by setting a high standard at practice and creating scoring opportunities for them in games. And it would mean that, like he did towards the end of the Cleveland State game, he hit a lot of big shots.
Andrew Kahn is a regular contributor to CBS Local who also writes for Newsday and The Wall Street Journal. He writes about college basketball and other sports at AndrewJKahn.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @AndrewKahn.