In May 2019, Alec Peters finished his first season in European basketball by being crowned continental champion as his CSKA Moscow took the Turkish Airlines EuroLeague crown. For large periods of last year, Peters looked very likely to make it two titles in two years as his new team, Anadolu Efes Istanbul, pieced together a highly impressive challenge which was only ended by the outbreak of a global pandemic.
During those first two seasons, Peters was generally a role player. Sure, he gained a decent amount of playing time, but he was not necessarily expected to be the decisive protagonist. As a young and inexperienced performer on high-powered and highly ambitious teams, he was chiefly there to support others and to allow them to shine.
At the 2019 Final Four in Vitoria-Gasteiz when he became a champion with CSKA, for example, he only took 2 shots in two games, scoring 3 points in the semifinal victory over Real Madrid and not registering any points, assists or rebounds in the title decider against Efes. After moving to Istanbul last season, it was a similar story. Peters averaged nearly 30 minutes in the opening three games during a time of major injury problems, but he later became a secondary figure as the established stars of Ergin Ataman’s team came to the fore, and Peters did not score any points at all in his last five games for the club.
That was no criticism of Peters; basketball is a team sport, in which players have specific roles and are expected to sacrifice individual glory for the good of the team. And playing on a CSKA team featuring the likes of Nando De Colo, Cory Higgins and Will Clyburn, followed by an Efes team containing stars such as Shane Larkin, Vasilije Micic and Bryant Dunston, it would have been unrealistic to expect Peters to do more than he did.
Now, though, things have changed. The summer saw Peters make another move by joining TD Systems Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz and this time he has the responsibility to take a far more prominent role. That is partly because he is a year older and more experienced, and partly because he has joined a club with different expectations. Qualifying for the playoffs would be considered a successful season for the Basque club, where Coach Dusko Ivanovic is attempting to mold a relatively young team into consistent competitors, rather than guiding a group of battle-hardened elite performers to the title, as was the case at CSKA and Efes.
To put it simply with the use of an old metaphor, Peters was formerly a small fish in a big pond. Now, he is a big fish in a medium-sized pond. On Tuesday night, he showed that he is ready to live up to those increased expectations by playing the key role as Baskonia landed (to mix the metaphor) a significant catch, thumping Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul 86-68 at Fernando Buesa Arena.
Peters was comfortably the most significant player in the game. He spent 32 minutes on the floor – more than any other player – and used that time to convert all 6 two-point attempts and 4-of-6 three-point attempts for a total of 25 points. The playing time and the point total were both career-highs, and so, too, was his PIR of 31, while his total of 7 rebounds was only 1 shy of his personal best.
The manner in which the points came was also significant. After Baskonia made a dismal start to fall behind 0-9, Peters came off the bench. Before long, he scored 3 points, drew a foul and grabbed a defensive rebound all in the space of 28 seconds. Peters was ready to compete, and his message was jumped upon by his teammates. He continued to knock down shots and grab boards at a consistent rate, always keeping his team’s momentum and repeatedly stepping to the fore whenever Baskonia needed a moment of reassurance.
The end result was not just a victory, but a further statement of intent for Peters. Since joining Baskonia, his average playing time has jumped up to an average of 20:46 on the floor, from 16:16 with CSKA and 13:42 with Efes. And his average points tally, 5.3 with CSKA and 4.2 with Efes, is now 11.3 points per night, including 25 against Fenerbahce, 18 against Real Madrid and 13 against CSKA.
It’s still Alec Peters, but he is no longer a role player. He is now a key player, and Tuesday showed he is more than ready to deliver.