GORCHES: Adversity makes Alec Peters stronger for Crusaders
By Steve T. Gorches 314-3797 or firstname.lastname@example.org December 12, 2013 10:12PM
Valparaiso University's Alec Peters charges downcourt Saturday night, December 7, 2013 at home against St. Louis. | Michael Gard/For Sun-Times Media
Loyola-Marymount (6-3) at Valparaiso (6-5)
When: 1 p.m. Saturday
Where: Athletics-Recreation Center
The skinny: The Crusaders have a week in between games at home, meaning they have plenty of time to recover from a tough loss to St. Louis, 67-65, last Saturday. Valparaiso rallied from a 12-point deficit to tie the game with 3.8 seconds left, only to see the Billikens win it with a tip-in at the buzzer. Loyola-Marymount isn’t quite the up-and-down offensive juggernaut it was in the 1990s, but it does average at little less than 80 points a game, so look for a high-scoring contest.
Updated: January 14, 2014 1:21PM
Anyone who went to college knows how freshman year can be tumultuous and stressful.
It’s a culture shock. You’re getting used to being on your own — whether it’s miles away from your family or just down the road — and having to be more responsible. Throw in the added work and responsibility of being an athlete, and it can truly be a roller coaster ride.
Valparaiso University freshman Alec Peters knows all too well about all of that, and then some. He truly has grown since the beginning of his first college semester — figuratively and literally.
It started on the basketball court, coming into an advantageous situation for any freshman with seven graduating seniors departed and plenty of playing time to be earned. He’s one of five freshmen, and each of them was competing against each other for possible starting spots that have presented themselves in recent weeks.
“Each one of us talked about the fact that any one of us could start,” Peters recalled. “When I was recruited, I knew there was an opportunity to start and I tried to seize that opportunity and work even harder in the offseason.”
Crusaders head coach Bryce Drew has used three freshmen in the starting lineup over the past couple weeks, but Peters was the first newbie to get the nod, and he hasn’t disappointed. He’s averaged 15.6 points and 5.0 rebounds per game, including a high of 30 points against Evansville. That effort came a day after the toughest part of Peters’ freshman year: Visiting his hometown of Washington, Ill., following the devastating tornado that swept through the small city.
That destruction happened on Nov. 17, the same day Peters and the Crusaders lost a tough game at Ohio. Peters didn’t know about the tornado until after the game, in which he scored 16 points.
“I sank to the floor and broke down in the locker room,” said Peters, who was close to breaking down again just recalling that week. “Emotions were riding high from the game already. The coaches were there to console me and pray with me. It was a long bus ride home.”
That’s an understatement. Six or seven hours must have felt like a day. He was on the phone with his mom and other family most of that return trip, making sure everyone was fine.
But not everyone in Washington was fine. Peters’ family was lucky. Their home was on the side of town that didn’t get the brunt of the EF-4 tornado.
Needless to say, when Peters went back to Washington to help with cleanup and recovery, it wasn’t easy. Chalk it up to added stress the average college freshman doesn’t have to endure.
“Without a doubt, I had a heavy heart going back,” he said. “There was a little kid who I coached in a basketball camp and he came up to me and gave me a hug. It was very emotional.”
I think it was the great philosophical artist Kelly Clarkson who said, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Actually, it was a real philosopher named Frederick Nietzsche from Germany who originally made that statement back in the late 1800s, though it was presented more colorfully by the Joker in the blockbuster movie “The Dark Knight.”
Peters has grown stronger from the adversity he’s faced. Actually, he’s also grown literally. Drew and Peters both said the 6-foot-8 forward has grown almost an inch since the summer. The physical growth isn’t why he was the first freshman to get the chance to start. It was his mental growth and work ethic.
“He had a really good summer here, and he picked right up where he left off in the fall,” Drew said. “To keep him out of the lineup would have been a disservice. He plays a lot more mature than a freshman.”
Drew said he wasn’t big on comparisons, so we’ll let fans and media do that. Peters has already been compared to Ryan Brokehoff, who graduated last spring. He has the perimeter game that will only get better, but I think Peters could be a better player in the paint, which is where this Valparaiso team is going to need to dominate to win games.
The Crusaders also have to cut down on turnovers, but those are normal with such a young squad. Peters understands they need to cut down on the miscues as much as anyone. He had four turnovers in Saturday’s tough 67-65 loss to St. Louis that came down to the last millisecond.
“All of us come from high school teams where we got to the rim and scored,” Peters said about himself and his fellow freshmen teammates. “It’s a team-first mentality here, and we need to value possessions more to prevent momentum shifts.”
It’s another example of Peters maturing before the eyes of VU fans and coaches. With all he’s gone through already, he’s a freshman in name only.