After a promising freshman season that culminated in being named to the Big East All-Rookie Team, L.J. Peak has continued to climb towards new heights.
In high school, pundits initially criticized the 6-foot-5 guard's play for being more focused on offense than he was on defense. Sure, his scoring ability was brilliant to watch, like when he scored 23 points on a perfect 9-for-9 performance against St. Francis (N.Y.), or when he scored 18 points in a close loss to Kansas.
However, once he arrived at Georgetown, the four-star prospect from Gaffney, S.C. was heralded for something he wasn't considered an expert for in high school--defense.
His scoring wavered but his ability to play tough perimeter defense remained constant. He may not have led the league in steals or blocks, but he could definitely stick to his man like glue and shut him down. While he isn’t the tallest on the floor, he certainly has the length to make him pester opponents on the perimeter. Peak boasts a wingspan that is just a hair under 6-foot-10.
He scored just 7.9 points per game as a freshman, including 39.4 percent overall and a terrible 24.6 percent from beyond the arc, but his ability to defend any position did not go unnoticed.
The following year, Peak showed no signs of suffering from the infamous sophomore slump. He developed as an all-around player and solidified his role as one of Georgetown’s best on the roster.
In the first half of the season, Peak struggled to remain consistent. His production fluctuated, and he was in foul trouble often, getting the boot five times in just the first two months of the season. Despite this, his numbers improved from the year before. Through 13 games against non-conference opponents, he averaged 10.0 points per game, shot a respectable 44.5 percent on the floor and 33.3 percent from long range.
It wasn't until Big East play that he really blossomed as an excellent complementary piece to D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera. In 18 Big East regular season games, his numbers were much higher, ranking amongst the top 10 in the conference for various categories. He averaged 13.7 points, shot 52.2 percent overall and 43.9 percent from 3-point range--second to Butler's Kellen Dunham.
Peak became smarter with the ball and made better choices when shooting the ball. He has great quickness and speed to beat a defender on a drive to the basket with a quick first step. He became more of a threat offensively, as he was able to thrive in catch-and-shoot plays. Opposing teams could no longer sag off of him at the 3-point line, as he started knocking his shots down from deep. He’s also adept at attacking and finishing in transition, making 76% of his shots when blitzing towards the basket in these situations. Peak’s offensive renaissance combined with his defensive abilities made him one of the bright spots in a tumultuous year, the worst season under John Thompson III.
Now with Smith-Rivera graduated, the Hoyas will now turn to him and fellow classmate Isaac Copeland to lead the way. He will see more minutes, a greater responsibility, and more touches on each possession. However, with that, comes even more pressure from the opposition. He will be an instrumental piece in dictating how far the Hoyas will go, and if they can rebound from a disappointing year. Defenses will key in on him, especially as he becomes more of a complete scoring threat and a cornerstone for Georgetown this season.
Regardless, he’s primed for a big junior year, or has he already reached his peak?