Rice basketball has gone through a transformation on and off the court this season. Drew Peterson has been one of the men leading the charge.
The 2019-2020 Rice Basketball season has bounced from high to low and back again. In the midst of those oscillating waves of success and failure, Drew Peterson has been at the center of a team learning to compete at a consistent level. A role player for head coach Scott Pera as a true freshman last year, Peterson has settled into a leadership role with this year’s squad.
In an interview in the early weeks of conference play, Peterson spoke of the changes he’s seen in his own game — changes that have continued throughout the season. “I feel more comfortable out there,” Peterson said. “I’m really trying to slow the game down. I think that’s the biggest thing between this [year] and last year. I was so fast-paced last year and I was chaotic. And now I can really see the whole floor and sit and read situations. I feel really comfortable out there.”
That comfort has translated to more time on the court. Peterson eclipsed 30 minutes once last season. He’s been on the court for at least 30 minutes in 16 of the Owls’ 27 games this season, playing 38+ minutes three times in conference play.
Pera says Peterson’s newfound confidence has turned him into a creator for the Owls’ offense. Pera called Peterson “a unique player because he’s got that size [and] vision and as he continues to be more aggressive he can make plays for us.”
For Peterson, those plays haven’t necessarily meant more scoring for himself. His 10.1 points per game average rank fourth on the team. Instead, he’s freed up others to make easier shots. Peterson has six or more assists in four of his last five outings. His 91 assists this season are Top 10 in Conference USA. His teammates have noticed the difference.
Owls’ leading scorer Trey Murphy credits Peterson for a portion of his success. “He’s been rebounding, getting assists for guys, creating his own shot, and I commend him for it. He gives me a lot of open layups when I cut.”
That’s been the most noticeable difference in Peterson’s game. He’s still rough around the edges. His improvisation has led to occasional turnover struggles that have put the Owls in tough positions. But more often than not, Peterson sets his team up for success rather than failure. The consistency should only improve as he grows into his role as a leader for Rice basketball.
Peterson’s hand will be needed now more than ever. Rice basketball was assigned to the lowest pod for the final four games of the season. Rice is in elimination mode. If they don’t edge two of UTEP, Middle Tennessee and Southern Miss down the stretch, their season is over. Peterson has come a long way. It’s time for him to elevate his game one more time.