For Peters, signing makes things real

Zach Peters has been committed to the University of Kansas since April 2010. He's visited the campus multiple times with his family. He's taken in games at Allen Fieldhouse, and was on hand in late September for "Legends of the Phog." Even so, things didn't feel quite real until Monday, when the big forward at last signed a national letter of intent with the Jayhawks.

It's probably the most infamous dunk attempt in Kansas basketball history.

Jan. 27, 2007. Kansas versus Colorado at Allen Fieldhouse. Super sophomore Julian Wright picks a Buffaloes guard clean out near half court, scoops up the loose ball and sees nothing but open court in front of him.

The capacity crowd at Allen Fieldhouse comes to its feet as one, anticipating something spectacular. Wright takes a couple of long dribbles toward the hoop and checks his rearview mirror for pursuers. Finding none, he turns back toward the goal, gathers himself and prepares to throw down a windmill slam destined for SportCenter's Top 10 later that night.

Only...things don't exactly work out that way. The ball slips from Wright's grasp and goes sailing out of bounds, and the wiry forward tumbles to the ground - uninjured, except for his pride. The collective facepalm that takes place inside the arena is almost palpable, as Head Coach Bill Self laces into his star for the failed attempt at showboating.

Tim Peters remembers the moment as well as any Kansas fan - maybe even better. At the time, his son Zach was just an 8th-grader, but already the buzz around him for his basketball prowess was growing.

Father and son were in the stands that day, right behind the Kansas bench. It was the first unofficial visit the pair took to the University of Kansas, and in the aftermath of Wright's missed dunk, the elder Peters is the first to admit he never would have gussed the program he purchased at the game that day would become a cherished memento.

"Coach Self wouldn't let anybody go out and get (Wright)," Tim Peters recalled, a smile in his voice. "I think we heard every word imaginable, and I said right then - Zach was in 8th grade - 'Well, I guess he's not going to Kansas.'"

However, a little more than three years later - during an April 21, 2010 ceremony at Plano (TX) Prestonwood High School - Zach Peters announced he would do just that.

It wasn't an easy decision for his son, Tim Peters said. Kansas wasn't the only elite program showing interest, with Kentucky, North Carolina and Texas also involved.

They took a lot of trips during the recruitment - saw a lot of games and campuses - and in the end, he understood why Zach chose Kansas. Beyond that, he understood why Kansas was the best choice; the right one for his son's future.

"The one thing I think Coach Self and Coach (Danny) Manning have been is as honest as the day is long," Tim Peters said. "And if you're afraid of work, if you're afraid of a coach putting a boot up your butt, you're not going to go to Kansas. And I think that scared some kids off, but at the end of the day I think Zach made the right decision."

It's been an interesting few months for the 6-foot-8, 235-pound power forward. After participating in a few events with the Texas Titans early in the spring, he pulled out of the rest of the AAU season.

See, Peters wanted to focus on individual workouts and preparing for the start of the football season.

Yes, football.

A member of the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools, the Prestonwood Christian Lions currently own an 8-2 record and are in the midst of a run through the state playoffs, after taking down San Antonio Central Catholic on Nov. 12, 27-7.

Peters is a big reason for their success - both literally and figuratively. It would be easy to put a player with his size and physique at tight end, but his athleticism is such that he lines up almost exclusively at receiver, and is having a monster senior year.

Through 10 games, Peters leads the Lions in receptions with 69, and is second in both receiving yards (958) and touchdowns (13).

When he told the Kansas coaching staff he wanted to play football as a senior, they weren't exactly thrilled, he said. But neither were they going to stand in his way, as they ultimately supported whatever he wanted to do.

That they look at the big picture and aren't focused exclusively on his basketball career is one of the main reasons Peters holds the Kansas coaches in such high regard.

"Of course they're not going to be happy about me playing, but they support everything," he explained. "That's one of the reasons I like this coaching staff so much. They support me outside of basketball."

His brief sabbatical from the hardwood - at least when it comes to actual competition - has left him more hungry than ever.

"Not playing this summer made me realize how much I actually loved basketball," Peters said. "After playing it - I've played it for probably 10 years straight, non-stop - taking a summer off was definitely a lot different. It made me realize how much basketball meant to me."

Interestingly enough, he almost never made it to his senior year.

In April, with the Morris Twins heading for the NBA Draft an the Jayhawks in immediate need of help in the frontcourt, the Kansas coaches looked in to bringing Peters to campus for the 2011-2012 academic year.

With just two classes standing between him and graduation, it was a viable option.

"That actually meant a lot to me," Peters said. "It showed they have a lot of confidence in who I am as a player."

At the time, however, he was watching his friends in the Class of 2011 graduate, having experienced their senior years to the fullest, and he decided he wanted that for himself.

"It was basically having that senior year," he said. "And I just didn't want to take the risk. It was a pretty risky decision to make, and I didn't feel like I was ready to go at that point."

In the months since, Peters has made numerous visits to his future home - the most recent in late September for the Kansas program's highly-touted "Legends of the Phog" alumni event.

He's experienced game day in Lawrence, Kan. multiple times, but even so, 'Legends' was a special experience. To see Allen Fieldhouse filled to the rafters - before the start of the basketball season - for an exhibition game, still filled him with the butterflies of anticipation.

"I've been to a home game and know what it's like," Peters said. "It was probably the loudest thing I've ever been to. I still have hearing problems from it. It shows how loyal those fans are, and how intense they are about basketball. It's really an amazing thing to see."

Soon enough, Peters will run out of the tunnel on to James Naismith Court, bedecked in the Crimson and Blue of the Jayhawks. He's eager for that day to arrive, and knows if he's to make the impact he hopes to make, it's going to require more hard work than he's experienced in his life to date.

He both understands and relishes that fact.

"That's what I do," Peters said. "If I don't work hard, I'm not happy. Knowing that about myself, I'm pretty confident I'm going to make a huge impact on this next season."

In Peters, Self said the Jayhawks are getting a dynamic big man with the ability to defend multiple positions and cause serious headaches for the opposition on the offensive end.

"He's going to be a guy that can do a lot of things," Self explained. "He knows who he is, too. We know he's a big guy that can stretch it but he likes to hit you, and certainly contact and physical play will not be an issue with him early on in his career."

Monday, Peters' career at Kansas drew one step closer, when he signed a National Letter of Intent in front of his friends and family.

From recruit to verbal commit, and now to signee, he's locked in with the University of Kansas, joining Wichita (KS) Heights star Perry Ellis and Portland (OR) Westview center Landen Lucas thus far in the Kansas signing Class of 2012.

"It really does feel a lot different now, knowing that I'm actually a Jayhawk," he said. "I'm not just a future Jayhawk. Now that I've signed, I actually am a Jayhawk." Top Stories