By Daniel Gaona
Photo by Daniel Gaona
Travares Peterson recently won Division II National Junior College Athletic Association player of the week, and he didn’t even know it.
“I actually didn’t know that I had gotten national player of the week,” Peterson said. “Someone told me I got conference player of the week and then I didn’t know ‘til three or four days later that I had got national player of the week.”
Peterson, better known as “T” by his coaches and teammates on the Pima Community College basketball team, said student assistant coach Matt Vargas was the first to tell him.
“He let me know very smoothly,” Peterson said. “He was talking to me and he just told me I got player of the week and I just told him I knew already, but then he told me it was national and told me to go check.”
That’s exactly what Peterson did. After seeing that it was true, he wasn’t sure what to think.
“I wasn’t really shocked but I was happy that I got it,” he said. “I really don’t know a lot of guys that get it and I think it is a big honor. I just thank my teammates and my coaches for putting me in a situation for that.”
The 6-foot-4-inch guard from El Paso won the award for a week that he didn’t consider his best.
“I think I’ve had a couple better weeks,” he said. “I don’t think that was my best week this season but if nationally they think it was, I’m not going to go against them. I’m just going to take it and be happy and glad about it.”
Pima opened the week ending Feb. 7 with a 116-110 home loss to Eastern Arizona College but rebounded with a 99-83 win over Scottsdale Community College.
Peterson totaled 26 points against Eastern, shooting 9-15 and sinking three three-pointers. Against Scottsdale he scored 20 points, including three three-pointers again, converting 7 of 18. He also tallied eight rebounds, four steals and three assists in the week.
He averages 17 points a game and is in sixth place in the Arizona Community College Athletic Conference. His field goal percentage is just over 52. He has won the ACCAC player of the week award twice.
Peterson feels the award helped put Pima on the map and helps him out for the future.
“It opens up so many doors,” he said. “I hope it helps put my name out there and shows that even at Pima there are players that can play and can play at the next level up on the big stage.”
He said he isn’t too focused on what the future holds for him in basketball but is more concerned about the present.
“I just go out there and play and work hard in the classroom,” Peterson said. “I have no idea what comes in for me or what colleges have been trying to contact me. I’ll just wait ‘til the end of the season to figure all that out.”
After going 10-20 last year, Peterson and the Aztecs could potentially host a playoff game. The team is currently 14-13.
“We all started the season with the same goal and that was to win a national title at the Division II level,” he said. “It’s a great feeling to build back up a program that has fallen in the years and to get people to recognize it.”
“Pima basketball might have faded away but we’re back, we’re here,” he added. “We’re ready to play. We’re excited and humbled that we might be able to host a playoff game.”
Peterson credits “more guys buying into the system” for the team’s success this year. He also said the defense has stepped up from last year, and the hunger and want from everybody on the court has increased.
“Everyone wants to play as a team,” the sophomore added. “This year there is a lot of team players and everyone understands their roles.”
Head coach Karl Pieroway had nothing but compliments for Peterson.
“He’s a great kid,” the coach said. “He was here last year so he went through all the struggles with us trying to turn this thing around. He was here Day One. It’s exciting having those guys around.”
Pieroway couldn’t think of one word to describe Peterson. He called him “tough to the fit” and a “slasher.” He also said Peterson can shoot from anywhere on the floor.
“He is a match-up nightmare,” Pieroway said. “If you put someone big by him, he’ll go right by him. If you put a little kid in front of him, he’ll shoot over him. Offensively, he’s a challenge to say the least.”
Peterson came to Pima after hearing about the tryouts being held by Pieroway in the summer of 2008. After the first week, Peterson didn’t make the cut.
“I didn’t make it but coach Pieroway insisted that I come back the next week because he felt like I didn’t show exactly what I could do on the court,” Peterson said.
In his second attempt, Peterson made the team and is currently building his reputation as an Aztec.
He said assistant coach Tim Ingram saw potential in him.
“They wanted to see me once more and I’m glad I got that extra chance,” Peterson said. “I never would have thought it would turn into this.”
Peterson said he likes to stay lighthearted and energetic before games.
“Every game is big for me but some games are bigger than others,” he said. “I just listen to my music, get my mind focused and get ready to play.”
He typically wears headphones and puts his iPod on shuffle. He calls himself “diverse” with music and likes many types. His favorite album is “Tha Carter II” by Lil Wayne and he makes sure to listen to that right before the game.
Sometimes he will put on his uniform and dribble in front of a mirror before games, to help him focus. He also said he has to shower before playing.
“I don’t do anything crazy like eat 10 Snickers, I just keep it very simple,” he said with a laugh.
Peterson said he has been playing basketball for some time now but he really started liking it after his freshman year in high school. That was his first year in organized basketball.
His success continued to increase each year, and he had a growth spurt to help him out in his junior year. “When I hit that, my game just elevated with my height,” he said.
Peterson said he tries to play like his favorite basketball player, Jamal Crawford from the Atlanta Hawks.
“He is an exciting guard and just does a lot of things that I don’t see a lot of people 6-foot-6 do,” he said. “I like his ball handling and the confidence he has on the court.”
Star player Tia Morrison of the women’s basketball team is one of Peterson’s roommates.
“He’s just a funny guy and he like to talk a lot,” Morrison said with a smile. “Sometimes we gotta tell him to shut up.”
Both will be closing out the season on Feb. 26 and most likely be in the post season.