About midway through the first half of Sunday’s 90-83 loss to Oregon State, Terrapins men’s basketball guard Roddy Peters sliced through the middle of the Beavers’ zone when two Oregon State big men closed to block the freshman’s path to rim. So Peters whipped a pass right by the defenders to center Shaquille Cleare, who ended up with an easy dunk.
Through the season’s first three games, Peters made a habit of getting to the rim and either scoring or dumping the ball off to open teammates, like when he found Cleare on Sunday. The point guard had his most productive game against Oregon State, recording 10 points and a team-high six assists off the bench.
As a result, coach Mark Turgeon pondered plugging Peters into the starting lineup when the Terps play in the Paradise Jam tournament in the Virgin Islands this weekend. Peters started last week against Abilene Christian, but that was because he was replacing forward Jake Layman, who missed practice with a thigh bruise.
In the Terps’ two games against opponents from major conferences, Peters came off the bench, while last season’s leading scorer, Dez Wells, has started as the team’s primary ball handler in place of the injured Seth Allen. If Peters, a natural point guard, does start this week, it’ll allow Wells to move back to the wing.
“I’ve given it a lot of thought,” Turgeon said. “I think it helps Dez. I think it helps the team. [Peters] was good. Pretty big environment, I thought he handled it great.”
The Suitland product often penetrated the Beavers’ zone defense and created plays in transition Sunday before a large crowd that included President Obama. He shot 5-of-9 from the field in 25 minutes.
His aggressive play also created open looks for his teammates, whether he was credited with the assist or not.
“Roddy played big. That’s how he’s capable of playing every night,” Wells said Sunday. “We all knew Roddy was going to come out. We’ve been waiting for him to blossom.”
As he makes more plays — both for himself and others — Peters is getting more comfortable with the college game.
“I’m starting to get into the flow of it now,” Peters said yesterday. “I’m starting to pick up the offense, so I think I’ve been doing a lot better. I feel more confident.”
Though Peters flashed excellence early, his inexperience showed in his first three college games. Turgeon mentioned that Peters struggled to play at an appropriate pace at times against Oregon State, and the point guard is still learning when to push the ball up the floor and when to settle the team.
Peters also struggled a bit defensively, Turgeon said. But that problem was widespread for the Terps against Oregon State, which shot 59.6 percent from the field, and the third-year coach has seen Peters improve his commitment to defense during the season.
“I’ve been watching film, so I see a lot of things at Oregon State that I could have done better,” Peters said.
Still, the 6-foot-3 Peters has emerged as a valuable asset for the Terps, and with Allen sidelined for likely another six to eight weeks, the Terps may turn to Peters to man the starting point guard position for the next several weeks.
For a team averaging 15 turnovers so far this season, there appears to be room for a natural point guard in the lineup. But Peters, a soft-spoken newcomer who rarely shows emotion, doesn’t seem to care. He’s intent on improving in any role he takes on.
“I don’t think it would matter,” Peters said. “I’m just going to go in whenever Coach wants to play me.”
Peters’ early play forced Turgeon to consider putting him on the floor for the opening tip, and while asking the unassuming freshman to step into a large role right away after a 1-2 start to the season might be a tall task, his teammates seem to think he’s ready for the responsibility.
And they believe he’s only going to get better.
“He’s coming along really well,” Wells said. “But you guys haven’t seen nearly his potential as far as him being a good point guard.”