Emulating his favorite player, Valpo’s Alec Peters growing into scoring threat

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The jersey, a red No. 3 of the Chicago Bulls’ Doug McDermott, arrived on Oct. 17, 2014. This according to the Twitter feed of the young man who received it, Valparaiso basketball player Alec Peters.

It seems like a perfect fit, judging by the family photo that appears atop the Twitter page of Peters’ mom, Carrie. Also because Alec is, like McDermott, a sweet-shooting forward who stands 6-8 and hails from the Midwest.

Now it’s a matter of assembling a resume similar to that of McDermott, who in his second NBA season has settled into the Bulls’ rotation, after a run at Creighton that saw him amass 3,150 points, fifth-most in Division I history, while making three All-America teams.

“Even if I have half the career he had, I’d be a happy guy,” said Peters, a junior.

As would his coach, Bryce Drew.

“That,” he said, “would be good for our program, that’s for sure.”

As was the case last season, Peters leads the team in scoring (17.5) and rebounding (7.9), norms that both rank fourth in the Horizon League. He is also eighth in the conference in field-goal percentage (50.2), fifth in 3-point percentage (45.9) and third in free-throw percentage (85.2). And his team is 16-3 and riding a six-game winning streak into Friday’s game at Wright State; the one after that, Sunday at Northern Kentucky, will air on ASN.

“What he does statistically doesn’t even scratch the surface to what his worth is on our team,” Drew said. “He’s one of the hardest-working players I’ve been around. … Very rarely does your best player do that.”

It’s nothing new for Peters, though. Growing up in Washington, Ill., Alec’s dad, Jeff, paired him with people who could grow his game. Alec remembers in particular spending a summer in middle school working with a man named Eldon Zobrist, whose son Aaron had thrived at Bradley in the early ‘90s.

Peters also pored over old videos of guys like Larry Bird and Dirk Nowitzki, learning their tricks, and drew inspiration when – again, as a middle-schooler – he saw Chandler Parsons play in a tournament at his high school.

“I fell in love with him, just how he played,” Peters said of Parsons, now with the Dallas Mavericks. “I saw him play in high school. He’s a special player.”

Peters was fast becoming one by the time he reached high school.

“I was always a guy that was able to shoot 3s,” he said. “I wasn’t the quickest. I wasn’t the fastest. I was still growing into my body. I wasn’t as athletic as I knew I was going to be, but I always had that 3-point shot. I always had that jump shot with me.”

And he was always aware of McDermott, who was born in North Dakota and grew up in Iowa before landing at Creighton.

“Favorite player to model my game after!” Peters writes on his Twitter page.

Drew, who starred at Valpo (his buzzer-beater against Ole Miss in the 1998 NCAA Tournament is a YouTube staple) and spent five years in the NBA before following his dad Homer and older brother Scott as the school’s head coach, can easily see the comparison.

“They’re both natural scorers,” he said. “I think they both score in a variety of ways.”

Still, Peters wants more.

“I’m hoping to do the same things with my team that (McDermott) did with his,” he said. “I want to go to the NCAA Tournament. I want to win games. I want to do well on the national stage.”

He made the Horizon’s All-Freshman team in ’13-14, as his scoring average (12.7) was the highest by a Crusader freshman since 1998-99 and his rebounding norm (4.8) the best by a first-year performer at the school since ‘99-00.

Last year he became the first sophomore in school history to surpass the 1,000-point mark, for a team that went 28-6 and reached NCAAs. In their only tournament game the Crusaders pushed Maryland, the Midwest Region’s fourth seed, before losing 65-62, as the Terrapins dutifully denied Peters the ball, and a chance at a tying 3-pointer, in the closing seconds.

“It’s just one of those things that haunt you,” Peters said. “You want to be the guy that gets put in the position to either make it or break it. You want to be that guy, put in a position to win for your team.”

A guy like McDermott, in other words. Big jersey to fill.

Above: Alec Peters leads Valparaiso in scoring (17.5) and rebounding (7.9), norms that both rank fourth in the Horizon League. (Courtesy Valparaiso Athletics)

Gordie Jones

Gordie Jones is a freelance writer based in Lititz, Pa.