You Should Hope Your NBA Team Drafts Valparaiso's Alec Peters

C.J. Moore@@CJMooreHoopsCollege Basketball National Lead WriterJanuary 10, 2017

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 31:  Alec Peters #25 of the Valparaiso Crusaders looks on during the NIT Championship against the George Washington Colonials at Madison Square Garden on March 31, 2016 in New York City.  The Colonials won 76-60.  (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

What if I were to tell you there was a type of NBA prospect who had close to a 90 percent success rate when drafted in the first round?

Those are odds any NBA general manager would take in a millisecond.

That player is not the one-and-done phenom, the 7-footer with a never-ending wingspan or anyone coached by Kentucky's John Calipari; it's the four-year player from a small or mid-major program.

Over the last 10 NBA drafts, this is the list of players who fit the bill: 

Four-year mid-major players drafted in first round since 2007
Draft year/pickPlayerSchool
2007/25thMorris AlmondRice
2008/12thJason ThompsonRider
2008/22ndCourtney LeeWestern Kentucky
2008/26thGeorge HillIUPUI
2011/28thNorris ColeCleveland State
2012/6thDamian LillardWeber State
2013/10thC.J. McCollumLehigh
2014/11thDoug McDermottCreighton

Other than Morris Almond, each one of those players would be considered a successful pick. (Apologies to the Almonds.) And if we're to believe NBA mock drafts, the next in line is Valparaiso's Alec Peters, who DraftExpress projects as the No. 26 pick.

Alec Peters is the classic overlooked dude who ends up at a mid-major. He didn't play for one of the well-known AAU teams; he wasn't a flashy athlete, and at 6'7" in high school (he's now listed at 6'9"), college coaches weren't sure what position he would play. But he did score a ton of points as a prep player, and he could shoot the ball. 

Joe Raymond/Associated Press

After Peters dropped 45 points in an AAU game against Kentucky's Derek Willis, high-major programs eventually started calling. He had several interested—including Boston College, Missouri and Tennessee—but he saw past the glitz of playing in a big conference. 

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"I wanted to play for a coach who was going to develop me as a player, and I wanted to get thrown into the fire right away," he said. 

There's a path there to the NBA, as the guys in the above table proved, and Peters has followed the blueprint. Mainly, he has put up the numbers to make NBA scouts recognize him. He's averaging 24.2 points and 10.4 rebounds per game this season. He's averaged 17.1 points per game for his career. He's a 41.6 percent career three-point shooter.

The production is the initial attraction. 

"He's a guy who is at the top of every team's scouting report every night and he answers the bell, and that's impressive," a Western Conference scout said. "And he's done it with a coaching change."

But when NBA teams really start to do their homework, Peters becomes even more enticing.

The Valpo senior has built his game on figuring out what he can do better, studying and getting to work. This doesn't sound unusual for any basketball player, but he takes it to another level.

Always in his possession is a blue notebook that he writes in constantly. You could almost call it a diary. Every night before he goes to bed, Peters lays out a plan for the next day.

"I try to come into the gym with a purpose every day so I'll write down what I need to do," he said. "So many times I think kids come into the gym, and it's 'All right, I'm going to get some shots up.' But if you come in with a purpose every day, over time you create a purpose for when you walk in the gym. You have a plan of what you want to work on."

Alec Peters often gets compared to former Creighton star Doug McDermott (pictured above).
Alec Peters often gets compared to former Creighton star Doug McDermott (pictured above).Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

Peters also jots notes when he's watching games on television. If he sees a move from an NBA player he thinks he could add to his game, he takes note. His brother, Austin, is a graduate assistant for Valparaiso and well-versed in using video programs like Synergy Sports. He's constantly sharing clips with Alec, whether it's from his own games or from one of the players he likes to study, such as former Creighton star Doug McDermott. Peters estimates he spends four to five hours per week of his own time on film study.

During the NBA draft process, Peters interviewed with the Utah Jazz, Denver Nuggets, Boston Celtics and Houston Rockets.

For anyone who an NBA team is willing to bring in for a workout, the rules make it a no-brainer to test the waters. But the way Peters and his advisers approached the process stood out.

"The questions that the people around him were asking were very professional questions and the type of questions that a kid asks who is really taking the process seriously to get better," the scout said.

The main takeaway from NBA teams was they wanted to see if he could score when opponents ran him off the three-point line.

So new Valpo coach Matt Lottich, who took over for Bryce Drew this past offseason, went to work helping Peters prove he's more than just a catch-and-shoot guy by adding more isolation-type plays to the playbook.

Peters studied two players to help him in his new role: McDermott and Kobe Bryant.

"[McDermott's] work from 15 feet his senior year was about as good as it gets," Peters said. "So as I was practicing this summer, I was watching a lot what he would do, how to get out of double-teams, how to see and how to pass out of it. It was more than just scoring."

Peters had read a lot of stories about how detailed Bryant was with his footwork, and he tried to implement that detail into his workouts.

"Just watching how he steps, how he uses his feet, because he's one of the best scorers to ever play the game," Peters said. "Nobody better to learn from than the best."

To witness Peters work in the mid-post is like watching a pro. There's no wasted movement. In the clip below, notice how he immediately reverse-pivots to square himself to the basket and then gives one hard jab step to make his defender take a half-step back. That's enough space for him to get his jumper off comfortably:

Peters looks like such a natural in the mid-post that it's hard to believe he's never worked in that area before. Through 16 games, Peters already had 27 isolation opportunities after getting only 15 all of last season, per Synergy.

These plays have served both parties well. It's an easy coaching strategy for Lottich to get his best player the ball in space when many defenses are designed to take Peters away. And it allows Peters to show off another aspect of his game.

That was his attraction to Valpo in the first place. Peters could have played at the high-major level, but he wanted to be more than just a specialist.

"I'm able to showcase everything I have in my offensive repertoire," Peters said. "To play at a school like Valpo, a mid-major where you're the featured guy, you really get to show that. I don't think I would have got the same opportunity at a big school. I would have been a kid who'd just go arc to arc and shot threes."

As a freshman, Peters was mostly a spot-up shooter, but he has added something to his game every year. As a sophomore, he started attacking the basket more. The next offseason, he added more to his game off the bounce and worked on coming off screens. 

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 31:   Tyler Cavanaugh #34 of the George Washington Colonials guards Alec Peters #25 of the Valparaiso Crusaders during their NIT Championship game at Madison Square Garden on March 31, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

All the while Peters was also sculpting his body, adding 25 pounds since he arrived at Valpo.

"Oh dude, it's been crazy," Gavin Sullivan, his high school AAU coach, said. "I tell all my friends who ask what's the biggest difference in him, it's just his body. Every time I think he's going to plateau game-wise or plateau body-wise, he gets a little bit more cut up. He gets a little bit quicker. He gets a little bit stronger in different ways. He's got an obsessive mentality where I'm going to be better and I'm obsessed with getting better."

His jumper is still his ticket to the league, and surprisingly, Peters has somewhat struggled with his shot this season, at least to his standards. He's made just 31.5 percent of his threes and 37 percent of his jumpers inside the arc, according to Synergy.

But that's actually the last thing scouts are paying attention to.

"Even though he hasn't shot the ball well this year, his shooting resume is really strong," an Eastern Conference scout said.

"Day one, he's one of the best shooters in the NBA," the Western Conference scout said.

That shooting resume includes shooting 44 percent from deep last year and scoring at a clip of 1.496 points per possession on spot-ups last season, per Synergy. That mark ranked fourth nationally among players who had at least 50 spot-up attempts.

Peters is trending upward this season—40.5 percent from deep over his last eight games—and the answers can be found in his blue notebook.

"I'm not worried," Peters said last month. "I watch a lot of tape, how my feet are placed, how am I finishing my shot, trying to see if anything is different, and I've made corrections game to game. I know eventually the shots are going to fall. My confidence is not lacking. Every time it leaves my hand, I think it's going in. It's only a matter of time it starts to fall for me consistently."

EUGENE, OR - NOVEMBER 17:  Alec Peters #25 of the Valparaiso Crusaders drives to the basket on Chris Boucher #25 and Keith Smith #11 of the Oregon Ducks in the second half of the game at Matthew Knight Arena on November 17, 2016 in Eugene, Oregon. Oregon
Steve Dykes/Getty Images

NBA teams seem to value character more every season. When Bleacher Report polled scouts last year, Malcolm Brogdon was the one player unanimously identified as someone with high character; he ended up going 36th to the Milwaukee Bucks. Brogdon, who is now starting for the Bucks, is far outperforming his draft position and has been one of the best rookies in the NBA.

Peters will likely be one of the top answers to that question with this draft class, and his most recent offseason was revealing.

Since he graduated this summer, he would have been able to transfer to any big school without sitting out, and he would have had a long list of suitors.

"I'd be lying if I said I didn't think about it. It was often talked about among, not only just my family but even though I was still at Valpo, people would talk about it around there all the time," Peters said. "It just ultimately came down to who do I want to play with and who do I want to have success with my last year, and that was the guys I shared a locker room with for three years, the guys I practiced with for three years. You can't find that anywhere else, and it made the decision easy in the end."

Peters had a similar choice in high school. The shoe-company teams came calling, but he stuck with Sullivan's unaffiliated Illinois Irish. That loyalty does not go unnoticed among scouts.

"He definitely has a sense of team that is missing nowadays," the Eastern Conference scout said. "He was willing to jeopardize his own potential or potential for success to stick it out with the group of guys he's been with for four years. It's admirable."

So Peters has the game and the character—attributes similar to the other four-year mid-major success stories in the NBA.

Will he be next?

The percentages are in his favor.


C.J. Moore covers college basketball and football for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter: @CJMooreBR.

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