Standing outside the locker rooms at Henry A. Wise High School, Roddy Peters, clad in University of Maryland attire from head to toe with sweat beads still zig-zagging their way down his cheeks, shook his head and said, “I just wish I could be at Maryland already.”
He'll be there soon enough, playing under the bright lights of the Comcast Center and its 17,950-seat arena, but his high school tenure at Suitland has reached an early expiration date. On Thursday, for the last time, Peters will don a Ram uniform when Suitland hosts Eleanor Roosevelt. On Friday, he will undergo season-ending shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum he aggravated over the summer and has played with since.
“It was hard,” Peters said of his decision to not wait in getting the surgery. “At first I wanted to play, I wanted to play so badly — play for my friends, family, win a championship — but then I started thinking. I got bigger things to look forward to so I think it'd be better if I got it over with now.”
Of course, Terrapins coach Mark Turgeon undoubtedly played an influence in Peters' decision to forgo his senior year in favor of recovery.
“He doesn't want me playing,” Peters said. “But he understands the situation so he kind of told me I don't have nothing to prove so just go out there, don't try to be getting hurt. So that's what I've been trying to do.”
It's hard to say exactly when Peters tore the labrum in his left shoulder. He hurt it over the summer during Amateur Athletic Union season, but continued to play. And how could he not? He was on a world-class AAU team (D.C. Assault), under the tutelage of a former National Basketball Association coach (Eddie Jordan) and being recruited by some of the most prestigious basketball schools in the country, including Georgetown, Kansas, Memphis, UCLA, Xavier, and Maryland. With all that considered, a little discomfort isolated in his non-shooting shoulder wouldn't keep many, much less Peters, off the court.
“If it was up to Roddy, he'd still be on there on the court,” his former AAU coach, Sam Harris, said. “And it'd probably be the wrong decision.”
Sometime in September, however, when Peters was playing with “some older guys,” according to Suitland coach George McClure, he hurt the shoulder again. This time, it was bad, and this time, surgery was unavoidable.
“We pretty much knew before the season started,” McClure said. “We just wanted to do what's right for Roddy and once the doctor said he definitely needed it, it was what it was. He's just a young man with such a future and it was understood.”
Peters should consider himself lucky that he will be able to play in six games before being sentenced to two months in a sling and four more off the court. He already had signed on to play under Turgeon and, in the grand scheme of things, a couple high school games paled in comparison to being fully healthy for his freshman season at his dream college.
“Roddy doesn't really need to play now,” said Northwestern coach Terrance Burke Sr. The Wildcats surrendered 32 points to Peters on Dec. 14. “If it were up to the University of Maryland coaches, he'd already have had [the surgery].”
His decision wasn't made public until Dec. 5 when, following a season-opening 72-63 loss to Wise, Peters wrote on his Instagram account: “Tonight was my last high school game.”
His original timeline was a bit off since the surgery isn't scheduled until Friday, but the end result essentially will be the same: Suitland will no longer be able to rely on Peters.
“Suitland's going to lose a special kid,” Harris said. “Not just a scorer, but a motivator.”
So how is it that you go about replacing him?
He has been Suitland's one-man stimulus package for the past two years, carrying the Rams to improbable playoff runs — he averaged 30.5 points per game in four postseason games in 2012 — and overachieving regular seasons.
“You can't replace a Roddy Peters,” McClure said. “That's first and foremost. And anybody that thinks they can, they crazy.”
The coach has been preparing for Peters' absence. Guards Savon Walker and Marquette Brown have been “stepping up” in practice, Peters says, and Suitland's second-leading scorer, Gerard Gray (16.5 points per game), who scored 19 in three quarters against St. John's College High School on Saturday, likely is to get significantly more touches.
“It's going to be a chance for kids to step up,” McClure said. “Kids always sit there and think, 'Oh, I can do that.' Well, we're going to find out.”
But, as McClure and Harris pointed out several times, there is only one player that can have the effect that Peters does.
“It's going to be hard for Suitland to replace him,” Harris said. “At the stage he is at, I don't think you can replace him.”