Toting her backpack after Wednesday’s final bell rung, a Suitland High School student ambled through the cozy library, chatting with a peer. She glanced across the room at a gathering crowd, red banners decorating the bookshelves, a table lined with vegetable platters, two-liter sodas and a rectangular cake. Television cameras focused their shots. Adults shook hands and hugged.
“What the heck’s going on?” the student asked her friend. “This a canned food drive or something?”
Had she lingered, she would have seen the main attraction saunter in minutes later, through the doors with the taped sign proclaiming “Library Closed For Signing Ceremony.” She would have seen Roddy Peters, the 6-foot-4, 180-pound guard, flashing a broad smile, sit behind a table clothed in a Suitland Rams flag, near stacks of books including an inspirational text titled “Reaching the Summit.” She would have seen flashbulbs pop and hands clap as Peters took a burgundy ballpoint pen and signed on the dotted line, officially committing to play basketball for the University of Maryland.
She would have been hard pressed, however, to find standing room. Before Peters, a four-star guard rated the state’s second-best player, put pen to paper, he sheepishly said a few words, thanking the attendees and expressing his enthusiasm to join Coach Mark Turgeon’s back court in College Park. Peters grew up a Maryland fan, emulating Juan Dixon and Steve Blake, dreaming of one day following in their footsteps. And here he finally sat, wearing a red Terrapins shirt with a massive “UM” on the front, nervous at the unexpectedly large crowd that assembled, having reached the summit of his high school career. It took him minutes to sign the letter, pausing for flashes, glancing around at the camera lenses staring back.
“I was nervous at first,” Peters said. “I don’t like talking in front of a lot of people. But I got over it. It was great. It was a good experience. Sometimes it was stressful, but I enjoyed going through the public process.”
Soft-spoken and playful, Peters clowned around with his Suitland teammates nearby before the show began, greeting well-wishers and smiling politely and proudly. Everything was about Maryland and his future, from the outfits to the cake’s icing. Even the sodas — Hawaiian Punch, Canada Dry and store-bought cola – were either red or sported red labels.
Peters’ recruitment, spearheaded by Terps assistant Dalonte Hill, came down to Maryland and Kansas, the culmination of an exhausting process that accelerated with time. Before Peters joined the DC Assault AAU program, he had just one offer – from Saint Joseph’s. But as Peters ascended through the ranks, dominating the circuit on a team led by former Washington Wizards coach Eddie Jordan, coaches began filling up the stands, DC Assault President Curtis Malone said.
UCLA and Georgetown, among others, were also in the mix, and Peters’s mother, Jamena, implored him to leave the area and experience the country. Yet the allure of his hometown team tugged at Peters, who orally committed on Oct. 16. Still, college coaches kept calling, right up until the afternoon ceremony. Making everything official finally lifted a load off his back, Peters said.
“He’s ready to do it,” Jamena Peters said. “That initial commitment took a lot of stress off him and me. This is the sign-and-sealed part. This is easy.”
Two years ago, before jump-starting his recruiting process, Peters and his mother met with Charlie Harley, the football coach at Forestville High School and Peters’s uncle. They discussed NCAA academic requirements and mapped out his future. After his junior season, when Peters was named third-team All-Met and led Suitland to the Maryland 4A South region finals, the three sat down again to plan Peters’s classes. “After the first marking period, we’ll tell how serious you really are,” Harley told his nephew. Peters returned with a 3.5 grade-point average.
“For him to step up to the plate,” Jamena Peters said, “It was like, ‘Oh yeah, he really wants this.’ He normally doesn’t like a lot of attention. But he did pretty well. He’s got to get used to it at some point.”
From age 2, when Peters began alternating between watching rented copies of “Space Jam” and bouncing basketballs throughout the house, everything has revolved around the game. He spurned private schools to keep playing for Suitland, averaging 25 points and seven assists per game as a junior. Representing the hometown talent that Turgeon and his staff have worked tirelessly to retain, Peters joins 6-foot-10 center Damonte Dodd to form Maryland’s current 2013 recruiting class.
With the cake cut and the crowd dispersed, Peters lingered about the library, chatting with those who stuck around. Peters and his mother never expected such a crowded ceremony. The stress of recruitment was overwhelming enough. They figured he’d sign and be done, keeping attention minimal for the 17-year-old who sneaks into his bedroom during family functions to watch television, away from the fray of everyone who just wants to talk basketball with Maryland’s newest recruit.