L.J. Peak: Evaluation

This slashing wing has improved markedly over the past two years, but hardly has he Peaked.

Introduction

Before the craziness of the fall, with Kevon Looney and others shocking with their college choices, L.J. Peak conducted one of the senior class' most memorable and stunning recruitments.

Peak began his career in rural South Carolina at Gaffney (S.C.) High, showcasing his athletic talent within the Palmetto State and establishing himself early as a major conference prospect. He played varsity as an eighth grader, giving him a vast leg up on his peers as they advanced to the high school level.

As a sophomore, Peak scored 40 points in one contest at the prestigious Beach Ball Classic, further serving notice that he belonged on high-major radars. By the end of the 2011-12 campaign, he'd drawn serious interest from South Carolina, Clemson, Ohio State, Virginia Tech, Florida State, Georgetown and Marquette.

Prior to his junior season, he pulled his first surprise. Peak left South Carolina for Chicago (Ill.) Whitney Young, which gave him both a culture shock and a much larger apparatus by which to gain exposure for his talents.

He took the court and continued his impressive play, and two Big Ten programs — Ohio State and Purdue — appeared to hold the edge. But following the season, he transferred abruptly and traveled south back to Gaffney. That move drove speculation that the Gamecocks, which had appeared to fade, now had moved back into a favored position.

Peak cut his list to three in June: South Carolina, Florida State and Georgetown. He set up an announcement for early July, with nearly everyone expecting a pledge to Frank Martin's program.

But Peak had other ideas, and his commitment to the Hoyas stunned local and national observers. He'll finish his prep career at Gaffney and should play early for John Thompson III.

Assets

It's easy to slot Peak as an athlete. A quick look at any of his highlight videos, and that fact becomes obvious. To paint a more detailed and accurate picture, however, we have to dig deeper. Peak isn't just athletic, he's a slasher who utilizes a quick first step to get to the rim.

He's very aggressive on the move, placing a lot of weight on his front (left) leg and exploding over and through defenders at full stride. While that style carries a risk of both short and longer term, stress-related injuries, he also finishes well through contact for that reason and draws benefit of the doubt from officials. Moreover, given the new officiating points of emphasis in college hoops this season, he could feast at the free throw line for Hoyas.

Peak also carries a solid frame and is a gifted offensive rebounder who's unafraid of contact. His defensive potential is excellent as well for that reason, along with his obvious quickness.

As a jump shooter, Peak is very streaky but is prone to explode for multiple threes in a single game. He's better from medium-range than he is from deep, but he does possess that range as well.

Deficits

Peak is a 6-4 wing forward, not a guard. That makes him slightly small for his position, and the reason for that is his leaky ball-handling. He must tighten up his dribble to become a guard, as high-major opponents might bottle him up and induce turnovers. That's clearly his No. 1 deficiency heading toward college.

Aside from that, as mentioned above, he could become a more consistent shooter. Balancing his game will require both shooting and handling to improve, and he may require a couple years to fully blossom.

Outlook

Peak likely won't step into the starting lineup next season and post big numbers, but he should contribute early and step up his involvement from there.

He isn't the natural fit for the Hoyas that another 2014 recruit, Isaac Copeland, appears to be, but defensively he'll be an asset from day one and he should enable the Hoyas — which once again are playing at a methodical tempo this season — to get some easier, transition buckets.


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