When you think of Rice University what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Academics? Baseball? Well, the Owls and their staff have figured out the secret formula when it comes to developing players. Over the past seven years, they have had six players transfer from out there program to high-mid major or high major programs. Such as Virginia, Duke, VCU, USC, Florida, and Nevada. Rice University is slowly becoming a hot-spot for developing under-recruited talent under the table. I spoke to one of the most underrated players in the country, and a recent transfer to USC, Drew Peterson. I asked him why chose the Trojans, his unique skill-set, expectations for the program, ‘The Last Dance’, and more.
What went into the decision to leave Rice?
“There were a few moving pieces in that process, a couple of guys left and I decided I was ready for the next step in my basketball journey. Nothing against Rice, I really liked the staff and teammates. I was just ready for a change.”
Originally you committed to the University of Minnesota but a week went by then you flipped to USC. Why is that?
“Initially I committed to the of Minnesota, then a few days after I felt a little uncomfortable… I felt that I rushed the process and I wanted to take a step back and evaluate everything. So I went to Florida to talk to my family about everything and pull back off that. Not necessarily rule them out but take a deep breath. A couple of weeks after that I came to the decision that USC was the school I wanted to go to.”
What stood out about USC and what pitch did they use to get you to buy in?
“I developed a really good relationship with the staff and the head coach. They brought in a few good transfers beforehand and they are really good. They had the 2nd best record in the Pac-12 last year. It’s a really good academic school and it’s L.A. I can’t complain about that, the weather is great and the basketball is great. The school really focuses on athletics and I think we have what it takes to be at the top of the Pac-12 this next year and these next upcoming years. It was overall the best fit for me.”
Are you going to apply for the waiver?
“I’m most likely not. I might just be able to play just in case I need it but as of now, the plan is to sit out and add another 10, 15 pounds of muscle and be even more ready the year after.”
Are you content with that decision?
“Yeah, I am. It’s another free year of school. Another year to work on academics and athletics as a whole. I feel that could benefit anyone in that situation. Especially being out in L.A. for a year. It’s a cool area to be to train for a year, get better, and get used to everything. I think it will really benefit me and the program for the next couple of years”.
How excited are you play with Evan Mobley? (No. 3 ranked player in the country per ESPN)
“I’m really pumped. Although I might have to sit out and not see the floor with him, but being with him and practicing every day. I am really excited to meet him up there and see his talent. USC has a bunch of talent we can surround him with and I think we have a good shot this year and the next couple of years to make a lot of noise in the Pac-12.”
Talk about your skillset and being able to do everything well on the floor?
“I just feel as a player I really rely on being a big guard. I’m 6-8, I feel that I can play anywhere from the 1 to the 3. I can play anywhere on the floor. And I have the ability to create size mismatches or speed mismatches depending on who’s guarding me. If there’s a small guard on me I can post up and if there’s a bigger forward on me I can take the ball and go by him. I can do a little bit of everything on the floor and the most prideful thing I can do is facilitate. That’s what separates me. I really like to get my teammates open and create for them. I love to come off ball-screens, draw two and kick. Given all that and being a three-level scorer, I just feel like to can see the well-roundedness of my game”.
Has anyone ever told you your game is unorthodox or unique?
“Yeah I’ve heard unorthodox a lot, I’ve heard unique a lot. I think I’m a guy that doesn’t have that natural gift of explosive athleticism and, with my height, length, and IQ, I try to outsmart and take everything the defense will give me. Whether its certain angles. I have to do everything I can to adjust my gameplay to the defense. I think that adds a unique gameplay where you can see a different side of me depending on the matchup every game. I feel with my size as a guard is a real problem to match up with”.
Talk about being underrated and playing with a chip on your shoulder.
“You know, with my frame everything, I always got underrated. They said I was too skinny, not as athletic as some of the bigtime players. So I’ve always had a chip on my shoulder and always outperformed and prove people wrong. It just gives me every little bit of motivation on the floor, weight room, and when I’m training. I just want to go out there with that killer mindset and be a presence on the floor and to make an impact and win games. It’s been good because it gives me extra motivation in every step of my life and basketball career”.
What do you need to work before playing at USC?
“I think the main thing is to finetune my handle even more so I can compete with these high-level point guards, in regards to handling the ball. I think putting on more weight as time goes by, I’ve put on 20 pounds since I’ve been in college, but I need to keep adding to that and continue to further my game. The next thing is to become a really consistent 3-point shooter. I shot 33 percent last year from three but I’m hoping to bump that up to 37, 38 percent by the next time I step up on the floor”.
Do you model your game after anyone?
“No, but my favorite player growing up is Dwayne Wade. I’d say in that regard people don’t really shoot the mid-range jumper but I’ve always admired how he can shoot those mids. He has a great pull-up, so I’ve always tried to add that to my game and being part of a three-level scorer. So if you can get a good mid-range you are always going to be deadly. I just see myself as an all-around player and I admire LeBron (James) even at his size he is such a good facilitator with cool passes and being able to find guys is the most fun thing for me. So those two players have given me a lot on inspiration.”
Since 2010 The Trojans have been to the NCAA tournament three times, how will you change that?
” Unfortunately, this past season got canceled so they would have made it then, but I see a bright future for this program. I think we have the right pieces. We got a lot of good transfers this year and we are bringing in high-level recruits for next year. So I think we are moving in the right direction. I think the Pac-12 is a good conference that we can thrive in with the spacing on the floor and it suits my game as well with the extra spacing and the running up and down. We are headed in the right direction and I’m excited to be apart of it”.
Talk about the scope of the Pac-12 next year. (Five recruits in the top 50 have committed Pac-12 schools) Also, do you think the Pac-12 has been slept on as a basketball conference?
“Yeah, it’s definitely underrated… But I think all the top schools in the conference like USC and UCLA would fare well in March Madness last year. I think it’s a different style of basketball that other conferences don’t play. The Big-Ten is more slow with low scoring games. The Pac-12 is more up and down with an NBA style of play. It depends on how certain teams fare against that style of basketball but I think that the Pac-12 has some most talent and draft prospects every year. It’s just a different style but I think it’s the best machine to produce the highest level NBA prospects.” – Drew Peterson