Aldridge makes Davidson commitment officialPublished: 11/14/13 @ 12:05
By TIM CLEVELAND
For LaBrae’s Peyton Aldridge, it was an easy decision to make.
Despite being recruited to play basketball by big schools like Michigan, Boston College and Notre Dame, Princeton of the Ivy League, and local mid-majors such as Youngstown State, Kent State and Cleveland State, Aldridge decided that Davidson met his academic and athletic needs the best.
“I just felt like the small-school environment and I really enjoyed the coaching staff and the players,” he said. “I got along great with them. Everything felt like a good fit for me.”
LaBrae coach Chad Kiser said not only the size of the school but also it being within driving distance played into Aldridge’s decision.
“What he expressed partly was the size of the school, the coaching staff,” Kiser said. “It’s a great program and the size for him is huge. He really got along in his visits with their kids.
“It’s still within a drive; that was big for him and his family. They were more comfortable with the distance being a drive, even if it was almost a day.”
The 6-foot-7, 200-pound Aldridge has been a difference maker at LaBrae his entire varsity career. He has led the Vikings to a 66-8 record his first three seasons, including 24-4 last season when LaBrae advanced to the Division IV state semifinals. He averaged 20.6 points, 12 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game a year ago.
Kiser said Aldridge has been a future star for the program long before he hit high school.
“He always played a grade above in the summertime,” Kiser said. “When he was in fifth grade, he was a point guard. He ran the offense. You could slide him down and post him up. You knew he was special at a young age. His work ethic is what separates him. A lot of kids want to get better, but very few put in the time.”
The Wildcats — located in Davidson, N.C. — have gained prominence in recent seasons under coach Bob McKillop. Davidson went 26-8 last season and is the alma mater of Steph Curry, a first-round NBA draft pick in 2009 by Golden State.
Davidson is off to a 1-2 start this season.
“I know it’s a really good tradition,” Aldridge said. “I remember watching Steph Curry play and taking his team deep into the tournament. I’ve been keeping an eye on them ever since. I feel like they have a really good, winning program.”
Kiser said even though Michigan made a late push for Aldridge, Davidson was always the front runner.
“Coach (John) Beilein said he could come in and be in the eight-man rotation as a freshman,” Kiser said. “It wasn’t the big school and the big name so much as it was a quality program with a good education and the right size.
“It was always Davidson for him. That was No. 1 for a long time. I think at the end when he had it down to three – Creighton, Michigan and Davidson. Michigan hadn’t officially offered yet; they have a policy of no offer until you visit. He was looking at a mid-September visit. Peyton had made up his mind at that point and was ready for the process to be over.”
Aldridge comes from a basketball family, as his mother Lisa is the Vikings’ girls coach and his father Rick is LaBrae’s eighth-grade boys coach. They both made sure Peyton was coached in the game the right way.
“They’ve been on me ever since I was little,” Peyton said. “I feel like that’s really helped me because they’ve kept pushing me.”
“Both his dad and I have been involved with basketball ever since we were in high school,” Lisa said. “(Peyton’s) been raised in a basketball family; he’s been in the gym since he could walk. He just loved the game growing up, so it came naturally to him to absorb everything about the game.”
Aldridge was a two-sport star for LaBrae before this past season, but made the difficult decision to not play football for the Vikings to concentrate on his first love.
“It was a tough decision,” he said. “I just tried to look for the best interest for me, like getting hurt. I wanted to get stronger for basketball.”
Aldridge said he lifted weights and worked on his shooting during the time he would have been preparing for football. He suffered a setback during the summer when he was elbowed playing basketball and suffered a broken jaw.
“It stalled me a little bit but I came back,” he said.