Fresh off of a stellar freshman first-year campaign and a gold medal win at the FIBA U-19 World Championships, sophomore forward L.J. Peak hopes to build upon a solid foundation as an instrumental contributor and vocal leader for a young Georgetown team.
“I’ve never been much of a talker, but I lead by example and play hard all the time,” said Peak. “Being a part of the national team this summer, I’ve worked on becoming a better leader. It was a great honor to be a part of the team. There were a lot of young guys out there, so I just took on the leader role.”
He’s right. From his first game last season, Peak’s play spoke louder than his words. In a record-breaking debut for the Hoyas, Peak scored a staggering 23 points against St. Francis, connecting on all nine of his field goal attempts. Peak’s ability to cut through opposing defenses and slash into the paint from the wing was decisive last season. The sophomore’s ability to find holes in the opposition, and exploit them with explosive pace, added a much needed element of dynamism to the Hoya offense.
Despite his inexperience at the college level, Peak was a big-game player. In the preseason, he was Georgetown’s best offensive threat when No. 10 Kansas visited Verizon Center, scoring 19 points off 6-of-12 shooting from the field. In Georgetown’s Round of 32 defeat to Utah in last year’s NCAA Tournament, Peak was as dangerous as ever, leading the team in scoring with 18 points.
Even though the Hoyas postseason ended a little earlier than they would have liked, Peak had much to be proud of, starting 32 of the team’s 33 games. He wasn’t the most consistent Hoya, but he provided the offensive and defensive spark that made him a vital complement to Coach John Thompson III’s starting lineup. In addition, Peak was named to the All-Big East Rookie team alongside fellow Hoya Isaac Copeland. And though he wasn’t always called upon to guard star wings from other teams last season, his on-ball defending and ability to anticipate opposing ball movement often helped to create turnovers.
When asked about what Peak brought to the Hoyas last season, fellow sophomore standout Copeland complemented Peak’s hustle. “He’s really good in transition, finishing, and is probably one of our best defenders too. He plays really hard on defense, and that’s something that separates him from everybody else,” Copeland said.
With the graduations of Jabril Trawick and Aaron Bowen, the Hoyas will now call upon Peak to guard some of the most talented wing players that the NCAA has to offer.
“L.J., I said this last year, is a very good defender,” said Georgetown Head Coach John Thompson III. “He’s not one to get a bunch of steals, but he stays in front of his man and his man has a hard time. I think he’s really starting to take pride in his defense and have fun on defense as opposed to just being good at it.”
This summer, Peak was a member of Team USA’s U-19 team at the FIBA World Championships. Thompson is sure that experience will benefit Peak in the coming years.
“Representing your country, that’s unique,” said Thompson said. “Overall, it’s great. It was a long summer for him though. You go from our season, to USA basketball, to Italy, to coming back and starting workouts here. We’ve got to pace him a little bit because it’s been a long, continuous season for him.”
Several of Peak’s teammates commented on his offensive refinement since last spring. Though he shot 24.6 percent from three-point range last season, Peak spent hours this summer working on becoming a consistent mid-range and outside threat.
“L.J. has gotten a lot better,” said senior center Bradley Hayes. “He’s gotten a lot faster and a lot stronger, and he’s starting to find his way into the offense. His three-point game is a lot better. He’s not just somebody who can go to the hole and lay it up. Now, he’s pulling his game out to the three-point line, hitting a lot more open shots, off-the-dribble and without a dribble.”
With the Hoyas losing key graduates, Peak will be expected to carry a heavier load on both ends of the floor. On offense, his ability to push the tempo of the game, get to the basket, and stretch opposing defenses will take some of the pressure off of senior guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera and will force teams to be more cognisant of a fast-paced and wing-driven offense. Defensively, Peak will need to help anchor wing coverage and bring the intensity and toughness in the absence of Trawick.
With one year under his belt, the Hoyas will rely heavily on Peak’s influence and leadership in order to make a jump into discussion for a Big East Championship. Georgetown’s success this season will be highly contingent upon the strides taken by its core of sophomores, and Peak will be an instrumental piece on both ends of the floor for the Hoyas this season.