Libertyville's Peterson patiently wins the name game
"Noodle, noodle! Noodle, noodle!"
That's the Stevenson student section's favorite chant at boys basketball games against Libertyville.
"I've heard 'Toothpick, toothpick,' too," Libertyville senior guard Drew Peterson said. "And 'Skinny,' and all kinds of name-calling. But I've been called names like 'Skinny' my whole life, and I've been dealing with people yelling things at me from the stands for the last three years.
"I actually like it. It's kind of a level of respect, because they know you and they know that you've proven yourself. I feel like if you've got some haters, you're doing something right."
Oh, Peterson is doing plenty right, that's for sure.
Thin and lanky, Peterson has worked tirelessly over his high school career to put weight on his 6-foot-8, 183-pound frame. It's never come easily.
What does seem effortless, though, is Peterson's game. A starter for Libertyville since his sophomore year, he's been one of the toughest players in Lake County to defend with his ability to use his height inside but also shoot 3-pointers from well beyond the arc with uncanny precision.
This season, Peterson led Libertyville to its first North Suburban Conference title (a tri-championship shared with Stevenson and Warren) in more than 25 years, all while leading the Daily Herald's Lake County coverage area in scoring with nearly 26 points per game. He also averages nearly 9 rebounds and 4 assists and connects on about 50 percent of his field goal attempts.
From the start of the season, Peterson has been in the conversation for Illinois' Mr. Basketball award. Today, he is being named to captain the Daily Herald's Lake County all-area boys basketball team.
"He will go down as one of the top players to have ever played at Libertyville," Libertyville coach Brian Zyrkowski said of Peterson, who has scored more than 1,500 career points and is among the leading scorers in school history. "Drew has the potential to be a very good college basketball player who will impact a college program immediately."
Speaking of college, Peterson has plenty of interest, and some offers. But he is going against the grain and doing something almost unheard of in the recruiting game today: he's being patient.
At a time when high school kids are committing when they are freshmen, and then de-committing just a quickly only to re-commit somewhere else, Peterson has vowed to take his time, enjoy his high school career, and trust that his college situation will all work out for the best in due time.
He says he will take some official visits after Libertyville's season is over and make a college decision this spring. Peterson has 15 offers. He says that Rice has shown the most interest lately and has been out to see a game in person every week for the last month.
"Committing early, or signing early could have taken a lot of pressure off, but I knew at the end of the day, I didn't want to rush anything. I have a lot of time. I still do," Peterson said. "I just didn't want to be taking visits during the season. I wanted to focus on the team. I also figured that the more coaches could see me play, the more interest I could get. I knew I would continue to prove myself."
Peterson has proven himself through the taunts and jeers, as well as through defenses designed specifically to stop or slow him. He's been face-guarded, seen box-and-one defenses, been double-teamed, and he's been pulled on and pushed all over the court.
And yet, he's put up plenty of huge numbers, like when he dropped a career-high 37 points on Waukegan this season. In the rematch between the two teams, Peterson went off for 35 points.
But when his shot isn't there, Peterson is perfectly happy to look for his teammates. His height, as well as his ability to see over traps and pressure defense, usually allows him to find them. Peterson is one of Libertyville's leaders in assists.
"Even when teams are focusing on me, I know I can still contribute to my team with my passing and my leadership," Peterson said. "I can find my teammates. We have four guys shooting nearly 40 percent from 3-point range. That makes it tough on other teams when they focus their defense on me."
Peterson figures that he's just a good weight program away from making life really tough on other teams at the next level.
He says that plenty of college coaches are confident that once they get him on their campus, they will pack on the kind of bulk and muscle that can take Peterson's game to the next level.
"The main thing I hear from college coaches is that it's easier to add weight than talent," Peterson said with a laugh. "Right now, I'm lifting a lot of weights and I'm eating a lot of meat, drinking protein shakes and all that. I've gained weight since sophomore year, but it would be nice if I could put on 20 more pounds.
"In the long run, I will put on the weight, and then I will really be able to help a team."
Not that he hasn't done so already, of course.
Libertyville won't replace Peterson easily.
Neither will opposing fans. Such heckles aren't doled out to just anyone.
"When we were playing at Stevenson (this year), I hit a 3-pointer right at the end of the third quarter and that gave us our first lead. I turned to the Stevenson student section and just flexed (both arms)," Peterson said with a laugh. "I had to make sure to let them know that we were back in the game. They kept yelling, of course, but I liked that. That was the fun of it."
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