Minnesota Gophers basketball Richard Pitino spent much of Drew Peterson’s recent virtual campus visit comparing the wing to one of the best players in recent program history.
“He was comparing me to almost a Coffey-like player,” said the Rice transfer, who rounded out Minnesota’s 2020 recruiting class by committing to the Gophers on Monday.
That’s lofty, considering Amir Coffey is an NBA player, but you can spot the similarities. Like Coffey, Peterson is a versatile, 6-foot-8 wing who can score at all three levels and likes to get others involved.
“I’m an unselfish guy, a do-it-all guy,” Peterson said, “and I can really bring a lot of value to the team.”
Peterson was a three-star commit out of high school, but the Libertyville, Ill., native struggled as a freshman at Rice, averaging an inefficient five points a game. But he busted out of the gates this past season, taking on a bigger role as he grew more confident and comfortable. He averaged 11.1 points and 6.5 rebounds as a sophomore.
Still, Peterson identified a midseason lull in which he found himself reverting to his old ways.
“I went through a bad shooting stretch, and I think I lost confidence,” he said. “I saw a little bit of myself that I was seeing freshman year. When I noticed that, I was able to garner back comfortability and confidence because I think the biggest thing for a player is being comfortable on the court.
“Really turning up the aggression, I think I was able to pull me back into even more of a role than I had even earlier in the year, and I think that’s why I finished really strong.”
“Strong” may be an understatement. Over his final six games of the season, Peterson averaged 16.5 points, 6.8 rebounds and 4.5 assists while shooting 46 percent from the floor and 39 percent from deep.
Now, those are Coffey-like numbers.
Looking for another player comparison? Peterson’s favorite college team growing up was Duke. His favorite player back then? Kyle Singler. That 6-8 wing averaged 16.2 points and 6.9 rebounds for his collegiate career.
Peterson scored a career-best 24 points in Rice’s Conference-USA Tournament loss to Florida International.
“Toward the back half of the year, I really got the confidence to help lead the team,” he said, “and tried everything I could do in my power to get us some wins.”
That late-season surge told Peterson he was ready for “the next step in my journey.” So, he entered the transfer portal and was soon contacted by a number of high-major programs. In the end, it came down to Minnesota and Creighton.
Pitino and his staff have shown Peterson the different ways in which the lengthy wing will be implemented into Minnesota’s offense. Yes, they included a number of clips of Coffey, and how he thrived in the Gophers’ system.
“Obviously, he’s a really good player,” Peterson said, “but I could try to come into that role as much as I could on the team. So, I was really impressed with the format they gave me and the model of just how much they are able to replicate me into that role, hopefully.”
Peterson hopes he can see just how well he fits as soon as next season, and anxiously waiting to see if the NCAA passes a one-time exemption that waives the mandatory year a transfer must sit out before taking the floor for their new teams.
“I think we’re really going to have a good roster next season,” said Peterson, who joins Brandon Johnson (Western Michigan) and Liam Robbins (Drake) as impact transfers Pitino nabbed this spring. “Especially if Marcus (Carr) comes back, I really think we can make a lot of noise in the Big Ten this year.”
Peterson’s confidence is high not only for his team but for himself.
“When talking with Coach Pitino, he was explaining the role he sees for me, and I’m ready to develop into that and I’m ready to go right away,” he said. “I think I can help make a really big impact on this team.”