The 2017 NBA Draft is set for Thursday, June 22nd. As the stars of the college game get ready to find out where they will begin their NBA journey, CBS Local Sports’ “My Life As” series will give them an opportunity to talk about how they got to this point and what they expect from the future in their own words.
Today, we hear from Alec Peters, a senior out of Valparaiso. Peters entered the 2016-17 season on many college basketball experts’ watch lists due to his combination of size and shooting ability and he didn’t disappoint, producing a double-double averaging 23 points and 10.2 rebounds per game on his way to earning the Horizon League’s Player of the Year honors. His senior season didn’t end the way he wanted it to as a foot injury forced him to miss the final weeks of the season. He discussed what it was like to deal with that injury and how it’s spurred him forward as he prepares for the draft.
I had great parents that allowed me to be involved in just about anything a kid could want to be involved in. Little League T-ball, basketball, football, soccer, whatever we wanted to do as kids our parents would tell us to go do it. Basketball is just one of those things that stuck with me. It’s something that I picked up and was pretty good at right away. My dad was fortunate enough to be there to be my coach for the younger years and it was one of those things where we kept doing it and it grew into a love and a passion for me.
I think playing multiple sports growing up was important in terms of finding what I loved. I was able to try a lot of different things; my parents made me try a lot of different things. They didn’t want me to put all my eggs in one basket to start out with because I think if you do that, you might get burnt out early or you might not end up liking it in the end. It always came back to basketball taking priority over everything else.
Once I got to high school, after a couple years, my junior and senior year I finally started focusing solely on playing basketball. It’s one of those things where when you’re younger you don’t really realize it, but those other things help. Being able to take breaks from a sport during a time of year and going and playing baseball or soccer or football, whatever it is, I think it helps. I think it helps as a kid to kind of reset your mind and focus on what you truly love.
There were always those ‘what do you want to be when you grow up’ questions and, I remember always saying that I wanted to be a basketball player; I want to play in the NBA. I remember writing it in my little books back in second and third grade. I think I told the pastor at our church when I was in middle school that I wanted to play in the NBA and even he thought I was crazy then too.
The goal just kept getting higher and higher as the years moved on. In middle school, I told my dad ‘look man, I want to be a college basketball player, I love to play basketball; this is what I want to do’. Then, once I got into high school and started getting better and started growing, I told my high school coach and my dad that I wanted to be a Division I college player.
After my freshman year of college, when I realized I was going to step into a larger role in my sophomore year, it came to light that I’d be able to make a career out of this. After my sophomore year, I finally told myself that I could be an NBA player. I knew I just had to keep staying the course, keep working harder than everybody else and things will start falling into place.
I understood why I wasn’t highly ranked or recruited coming out of high school. I say all the time I sucked in high school, and I didn’t really suck, but I wasn’t as tall as I am now, I wasn’t as strong. I wasn’t anywhere near as athletic as I am now and I was a completely different player in high school. I wasn’t someone that was fully developed yet like some of these kids that are Top 100 kids coming out of high school. My game wasn’t nearly a finished product yet.
That’s why I knew I had to go to a place where I would be allowed to develop and not just be a one-trick pony. I think that’s what a lot of big schools, in having numerous phone calls and conversations with them, told me I would be. Basically, ‘hey look, we love that you can shoot and that’s all we really see you as.’
At a mid-major school like Valpo, Coach Drew told me ‘look, we can make you into something more than just a guy that shoots threes. We can develop your post game, we can make you a better ball handler, we can make you a complete player.’ That’s what I wanted. I wanted to get the most out of my basketball ability that I could, so that’s why I chose to go to Valparaiso.
Some of the road trips with the guys are always going to stick out in my mind. I remember coming back after a long road trip, I think we were out in Oregon, we flew into Chicago and it’s usually an hour and a half drive from Chicago to Valpo. But, we got stopped in traffic about 30 minutes from Valpo. So, we busted out the Uno cards and I don’t think any of us laughed or had more fun or had more of a competitive edge than when we were playing cards together. Those are the moments I’ll remember the most. The wins are great, getting to beat some good teams and play in some cool arenas was fun, but at the end of the day, I’m going to remember those guys the most.
Getting injured at the end of my senior year…it was awful. There’s no better way to put it than that. It was literally all your hopes and dreams as a college basketball player of being that guy your senior year to lead your team to this magical, Cinderella run, being on Sports Illustrated, One Shining Moment, everything that comes with that. In the matter of a week or two it just…fell apart. It was awful. I pouted and I didn’t take it as well as I could have. It was a lot to go through. I have a great family and great friends that helped pick me up out of that little slump that I was in, but it was tough for awhile.
It was tough to sit there, knowing that I had prepared every day for games the same way. I had played in every game, practiced every practice, and prepared the same way every day. Then to sit there for that first game, sitting in my bed realizing, I’m not playing tonight, what do I do? I almost started crying that first game because I was just so bewildered at what do I do now?
The thing that broke me out of that was just thinking ahead and looking at my future, understanding why it is that I had the operation when I did. I had the option to keep playing, but it would have put my future in jeopardy in terms of my first pro season. I probably wouldn’t be as far along as I am right now in the recovery process. I would have had surgery a month later and I would be a month behind in my recovery and I wouldn’t be ready for the start of the NBA season. I think that looking ahead and having the doctor tell me that, not wanting to mess with that will hopefully be a 10-15 year NBA career, made me realize there’s a reason why we’re doing this. It sucked then and those are my brothers, my teammates that I wasn’t out there playing with, but they understood. They knew that I have a big future ahead of me and that I couldn’t jeopardize it.
The draft process has been pretty cool. I’ve tried to be the most prepared guy I can be by making sure I know who’s in the room with me and making sure that I’m writing down what they’re saying. I’m always aware of staying true to who I am and not trying to fabricate anything about myself because they know. So, there’s no reason to go in there and be anything but yourself.
It’s definitely cool to sit in the room with Phil Jackson and Allan Houston who used to play for the Knicks back in the day. That interview was pretty cool, having Phil Jackson look you up-and-down and study you and you wonder what he’s thinking. But, at the same time you know you have no idea what he’s thinking. It’s cool to see those guys. At the combine I got to see Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka and those guys. It’s pretty cool to look up and see that hopefully you’re in talks with them some day. It’s all part of the aura around getting a chance to be an NBA player, you get to see some pretty cool things.
The game today, every day, is moving towards who can shoot the three well and that’s what I pride myself on doing. I think that I’m the best man in this draft at doing that.
Hopefully, when it’s all said and done, I’ll be up there in considerations as one of the best to ever shoot a basketball. I believe in myself, I believe in my jump shot and I know that, with a lot of reps, getting back healthy I can be there. That’s what I want to bring to an NBA team. I want to be relied upon as a guy that can make a big shot, that teams can draw up a play for. That’s always what’s going to be my big ticketk.
The biggest thing I’m working on and looking forward to in playing at the NBA level is seeing how I can use my physicality on the defensive end. A lot of times in college, I’m not allowed to be physical because if I get a foul or two, then I’m sitting on the bench and our team’s not doing as well. So, the only thing you’re thinking on defense is, don’t foul. That can put you in a bad spot and sometimes people think of you as being less of a defender than you are because you’re not focused on that.
As I start to learn how to use my physicality and I’m able to push and shove a little bit more, then I’ll be a lot better on the defensive end. I look forward to learning from some of these guys that are the best in the game, some of these coaches are legends, and who better to learn from than the best, right?