With point guard play a sizable issue for the Maryland men’s basketball team last season, Roddy Peters became a symbol of hope even before he stepped on the Comcast Center court. “People were already asking me what I could bring to the table,” the freshman said, because Peters was, fans thought, the antidote.
A wiry, boyish point guard with Civil War-style mutton chops from Suitland High School, Peters grew up admiring Juan Dixon and Steve Blake, two players he hoped to follow at Maryland. For him, that time has come.
“Now, sitting here and planning,” he said, “I think I can bring even more.”
Except Peters might not be the all-in-one solution eager that fans pegged him to be. Sophomore Seth Allen will start at point guard for the opener on Nov. 8 against Connecticut at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. Coach Mark Turgeon handed him the job following Pe’Shon Howard’s transfer to Southern California, with the assumption that Peters would play backup. And like Howard did for Allen, so too has Allen taken Peters under his wing, acting as a big-brother figure who helps navigate the pitfalls of college life.
A dynamic slasher at Suitland who ranked among the area’s leading scorers before undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery last winter, Peters faces a different situation in his rookie season. Maryland has plenty of scorers. Dez Wells, Jake Layman, Evan Smotrycz, Nick Faust and even Allen will handle that load. So Peters can focus on everything else. That’s all the Terps need him to be.
“I don’t think I’ve got to really be a scorer,” he said on media day in early October. “I think I can be a passer and a point guard. That’s what I want to be, a point guard. I’ll be able to do that. I’ll be all right. That’s when I was trying to shoot and be a scorer. When you stop playing with bad players, it gets a little easier. Passing, stuff starts to open up for you now. I’m just playing with my role.”
Still, Peters often arrives between 6:40 a.m. and 7 for pre-practice workouts, usually beaten to the court only by Wells. At first, he hated the early wake-up calls, but soon realized hoisting shots before practice helped loosen his form.
That form needed overhauling, so Peters puts up 300 shots before practice and 350 to 400 after study hall. “I started from scratch,” he said. At first, Peters was slinging the ball toward the basket. His feet weren’t squared. So he calls up the team managers, or graduate assistant
coach Eric Hayes, and heads to the gym.
Peters tries to model his game after Washington Wizards point guard John Wall. His open-floor quickness is unmatched on the team, and his body control allows Peters to knife through traffic, using both hands to finish at the rim. But his shooting struggles have drawn a different comparison: Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo, because of his limited three-point capabilities but unlimited potential on the fast break.
“Roddy has been a real pleasant surprise,” Turgeon said. “Roddy’s really good on the break. Really good on the break. Roddy’s put time into the gym, totally changed his shot, looks good, worked hard at it. He’s a good player. Now Roddy doesn’t get us into our offense as well as Seth does, but on the break he’s good at finding teammates and making players around him better. We will play them together quite a bit there, too. I’m pleased with both of them. He’s on track to be a really good player for us.”
Since director of basketball performance Kyle Tarp first started working with Peters, he’s added around 20 pounds to his 6-foot-3 frame, now hovering around 200. He wants that new strength to avoid small bumps derailing his path to the basket, or scrappy defenders clawing for turnovers.
“Yeah, I’m big now,” he said. “I was skinny when I got in. Now I can push them around. It helped me a whole lot. … I run into people. It’s a whole lot different. I last a lot longer, I can play a lot harder and I got a lot stronger.”
On media day, Turgeon said he had “seven and a half” starters on the roster. Peters, obviously enough, was the half. But it’s easy to envision a situation, late in the year, when Peters starts playing more and more point guard, moving Allen to his more natural shooting guard position. And by then, he’ll be less of a half and more of a whole.