Team S. Dot Timeout with Danny Peters
‘This is a dream to represent my state.’
Most times, when you, the readers, see interviews in major periodicals and magazines, the subjects themselves are obvious stars or tragic figures or something to that degree, especially in sports. It’s easy to focus on the top performers of whatever field of athletics and group them as the “people that matter”, without acknowledging with great respect the other players in team sports that don’t get much glory–and after all, it makes some sense. People want to see the high risers and the high-minutes guys and get to know them a little better, it’s only natural and a natural response of demand for a certain supply. What I wanted to do is give a look at one of the winningest players currently in college basketball who you may not know, but a person whose contributions to his team has helped in the preparation and overall success of players who have gone onto professional careers in basketball, several of them in the NBA. Danny Peters of “The” Ohio State University is that person.
A 6-2 senior guard originally from Cincinnati, Danny has been able to put together a body of work that on paper screams “future success story”, as he looks to further carve out his niche in coaching. A special education major, he and I talked about various things in our phone and e-mail conversation and interview, ranging from how he got started in basketball to carrying through with his goals in the likeness of his idol, former Arizona Wildcat (and current Memphis Tigers head coach) Josh Pastner, to some of the exclusive gear that his Buckeye brethren receive being a LeBron James-sponsored school through Nike. Above all, what we conversed about revolved around his love for Ohio and his enthusiasm to continue his path in the realm of high-tier NCAA basketball. Enjoy.
SLAM: Most people don’t truly understand the significance of what it means to be a basketball player on a high-level collegiate team, let alone just being a student-athlete in college, period. Can you share with me what it all entails and what it means to be where you’re at?
Danny Peters: It means a lot to be a part of Ohio State’s tradition. It is unreal for me to think that my name is in the record books alongside the great players that have been apart of our program. Growing up, I remember shooting free throws in the backyard with my father, imagining I was at the line for the game winner with no time left at St. John Arena for the state championship. I am an Ohio kid, this is a dream to represent my state. As a student-athlete in Columbus or around the state, we are held to a different standard as compared to the typical Ohio State student, but we enjoy it as well. There are not a lot of people that have had the college experiences that we have.
SLAM: How did you come to get involved in basketball, and specifically at Ohio State?
DP: I have always loved hoops. My father is a coach and has been at the Division I level for 20 years, and at the highest level competing for a national championship for 10 years. It was always an unspoken agreement that I would follow my father wherever he was currently coaching at. It just so happened to be at Ohio State. [His father, Daniel, is now the director of basketball operations at the University of Akron.]
SLAM: I know that when we spoke, you talked a lot about how preparation means a great deal to you, and not only to you, but to the rest of the team, too. Can you share what is required of someone in your position to be ready to play?
DP: In my position, I have very limited possessions to make anything happen, and on top of that, I am heading into the game cold. But in practice, it is important that I know the players’ tendencies, the offensive and defensive schemes or any little pieces of information that will help us win.
SLAM: When you graduate in June, you’ll be one of the most highly decorated players to ever have been a Buckeye basketball player–Winningest Player, 105 wins and counting, as of March 10, 2010; 3-time Big Ten Regular Season Champion (2006, ’07, ’10); Big Ten Tournament Champion (2007); 4 NCAA Tournament Appearances (2006, ’07, ’09, ’10); NIT Champion (2008); NCAA Final Four & National Runner-Up (2007)–what stands out in your mind as the most memorable moment that you’ve had thus far?
DP: By far, the most memorable moment I have [is] beating Memphis in San Antonio to head to the Final Four and hugging my father. Sharing that with him is something that I will remember forever.
SLAM: Your dad was a coach, you’ve communicated strongly that you have a passion for teaching, and that current head coach Josh Pastner of the University of Memphis is the chief role model in what you’re doing now–what is it about coaching that seems to draw you into basketball?
DP: I am not able to dominate a game with my athleticism or talent, but I can make plays, because I know the game. When a player is able to combine talent and a high basketball IQ, they become something special. I want to provide the most talented kids that basketball IQ that can make them special.
SLAM: The NBA connections are the strongest that they’ve ever been for the Buckeye program, with the various McDonald’s All-Americans and other highly regarded players that have been a force under Coach Matta–what is it about him that keeps kids wanting to come under him in his program in Columbus?
DP: Coach Matta has done an unbelievable job of recruiting to Ohio State. He has sold himself, the University and the program to the nation’s elite basketball players. I have been fortunate enough to host a lot of those visits and be a part of the recruiting process for players like Kosta Koufos and Byron Mullens. Most kids come to Ohio State with the dream of playing at the next level; Coach Matta sells them on turning their dream into reality.
SLAM: Do you talk much to any of those guys that have moved on as professional basketball players?
DP: Yes, some of those guys are my best friends. With Skype, I am able to talk to my boy [former OSU player] Matt Terwillliger playing in Paderborn, Germany, but I also stay in contact with Greg [Oden], Mike [Conley], Kosta, Byron. All of the guys are great about sharing their experiences with us.
SLAM: Obviously, the great entity that is the NCAA has great power and influence over the progression of college basketball in its current state–where do you think that things have improved with student-athletes and what measures do you feel still have to be taken to improve the college game?
DP: The one-year-in-college rule has done a lot to eliminate the hype of some players. It gives guys opportunities to learn the game and better develop themselves as players and people. It is nearly impossible, but allowing younger players to go overseas before college has hurt our college system and will continue to. It takes talented players away from the tradition and being a part of the history of our collegiate game and/or NCAA tournament.
(Note: To interject, I personally think that the college system has shot itself in the foot in a number of ways concerning amateur basketball, and has presently hurt itself in the micromanagement of young players’ ability to have a fuller range of options while in school [player transfer rules, letters of intent, the movement of coaches relative to contracted player commitments, draft declaration dates]–for better or for worse long-term outcomes. Simply, some players value the college experience and the opportunity to seize the collegiate stage, while others may see it as a grudging pseudo-formality by which they can enter into their more lucrative livelihoods, and both views should probably be viewed as fair and just in their respective lights. All things considered and in all fairness to [and concurrence with] Danny’s observation, I’m confidant that the history of the game will remain highly relevant and will always be valuable to core fans [of which there are many], and the tradition of experiencing exciting college basketball through league & tournament play is bound to continue on a popular scale, regardless of NBA Draft rules and regulations.)
SLAM: What is the hardest thing about being a reserve player for a big-time program? Is it difficult to negotiate that you may not be able to contribute so tangibly on the hardwood as a gamer, or do you take solace with your role because of your understanding of what you ultimately want in the future?
DP: There is nothing very difficult about being a reserve. I would like to play, but I want to win as well. I feel better knowing that our chances of winning are higher with the talent that Coach Matta has on the floor. I can still play and my teammates know that, but they also know that I want to coach and develop my knowledge of the game. They appreciate both aspects and ask for my observations frequently.
SLAM: If you can see yourself in 5-10 years, what’s the most ideal scenario that you can project for yourself, and how do you think that your experiences in Columbus will affect that dream?
DP: I see myself as an assistant coach at a school competing for a national championship. I have been on a Final Four team as a Buckeye and know what it takes to get there. That ring draws a lot of attention to players. The detail in scouting and preparation will also carry over as I am preparing my head coach, his staff, and the players for the next opponent.
Then I got a little curious about his gear and shoes, because after all, I do have a passion for design in shoes and apparel…
SLAM: And because I’m a aficionado of uniforms and shoes (I have to ask), what’s your kick game like?
DP: The Jordans are in storage…[I just have] low-top Dunks, the Air Jordan packs ([and the] VI Olympics, the VIIs, and the IVs), Air Stabbs, Air Max[es], the LeBron [Air Force 1s]…I’m more of a collector than a wearer.
SLAM: What’s the greatest thing about being a Nike Elite college player, from an apparel perspective?
DP: The amount of gear we get–it is unreal. LBJ is the modern day Jumpman of the 1990′s and early 2000′s. Most players I come in contact with are envious of the [LBJ23 logo] on our gear and shoes. We get most of the same things and designs as other Elite schools, but there are the little surprises that the people at [Nike’s LeBron division] send us.
SLAM: Are you and your teammates able to keep the old uniforms once they are phased out?
DP: No, not immediately after our season. When we graduate, they do give us all of our stuff from our career.
SLAM: Will we be seeing the new Elite uniforms in scarlet and gray this spring?
DP: I hope so, call Maverick Carter [LeBron’s ubiquitous best friend] and tell him to hook us up!
Watch for Danny and his Ohio State Buckeyes as they look to compete for a Big Ten postseason championship, while they also seek to win the 2010 NCAA championship.
Sandy Dover is a novelist/writer, artist and fitness enthusiast, as well as an unrepentant Prince fan (for real). You can find Sandy frequently here at SLAMonline, as well as at Facebook, Associated Content and Twitter.