Every college basketball season there’s That Guy. The one who pulls off a hellacious dunk that makes the rounds on highlight shows and YouTube, but more often than not, it’s the last time you ever hear from him.
Jamine Peterson was in danger of becoming That Guy. In a Feb. 2 game at Syracuse, the Providence sophomore pulled off one of the dunks of the year, going off-glass to himself for a two-hand hammer in traffic. That night, my Dad delivered the “Did you see that?” phone call, telling me “some kid from Villanova, I think” had a Tracy McGrady-style cram. Never mind the name — he couldn’t even remember the school.
Peterson can avoid forgotten-dunker status because he’s got more to his game than just one highlight. While the Friars are near the bottom of the Big East at 12-14 (4-10), Peterson has been one of the standout players in the conference, putting up 18.9 points and 10.1 rebounds per game and getting whiffs of interest from the NBA. The 6-6, 230-pound Brooklyn native sat down for a few minutes before tonight’s rematch with Syracuse, which will air on ESPNU at 7 p.m. Eastern.
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Dime: You played 10 minutes per game your freshman year, then you redshirted last year. What was the story behind that?
Jamine Peterson: We had a lot of seniors last year. Coach (Keno Davis) told me I probably wasn’t gonna play as many minutes as I wanted, so he threw it out there that I should redshirt. I think it was the best decision for me getting better as a player and off the court, too, as far as school and everything.
Dime: Most guys would have their feelings hurt being asked to redshirt when they’re not injured. How did you feel about it at first?
JP: I was kind of upset, because I came in ready to work that year and ready to play. But we had switched coaches, so nobody really knew what to expect. (Note: Last season, Davis replaced Tim Welsch, who was fired in 2008.) It was tough sitting out the whole year and watching your teammates play.
Dime: Because of that, you kind of came out of nowhere to become one of the top players in the Big East. Did you expect to bounce back so strongly this year?
JP: I worked hard on the scout team last year, and then I worked hard all offseason. I worked on everything: ball-handling, shooting, back-to-the-basket … I wasn’t expecting any specific numbers this year, but I was expecting to get my name out there.
Dime: How would you describe your game?
JP: I’m a finisher. I’m a small forward, but I feel like I can guard every position, one through five. I’m basically gonna play with a lot of energy and intensity and never take a play off.
Dime: You had 29 points and 20 boards against Rutgers (Jan. 9), your second 20-rebound game of the season. What stood out to you about that game?
JP: Yeah, I kind of felt it in warm-ups, like I was in a zone. Everything was going my way and I was hitting everything. I think at halftime I had a double-double. That was my best game of the year — that or when we beat UConn (Jan. 27) when they were ranked. I had like six dunks that game.
Dime: Despite your numbers, Providence is under-.500 this year. Why do you think you guys have struggled?
JP: We have a young team. We lost some seniors, and when you’re basically playing against top-ranked teams in the Big East every night, it’s hard when you lack experience. I think we have what it takes to be better once guys get time to work together in the summer. We’re not losing any starters and we have some good freshmen coming in.
Dime: Talk about the Syracuse dunk.
JP: Well, they came at me, and I was trying to pass it to a teammate but he was already guarded. I saw A.O. (‘Cuse center Arinze Onuaku) coming towards me and I saw I had a nice angle off the glass … It was like, “Why not try it?” That’s something I used to do in high school and on the playground. I’d never done it before in a college game.
Dime: I hear your name has been getting some buzz with NBA scouts. How much thought have you given to testing the Draft waters after the season?
JP: Right now I’m just thinking about the season. We’ve got a couple more games left to keep working hard. Right now I’m trying to win games, make it to the NIT or maybe to the Tournament. I’ll decide after that.
Dime: You played with Mike Beasley for one year at Notre Dame Prep in Massachusetts when you were both seniors. What do you remember most about that year?
JP: Just how we all played together and had fun. We had a good squad that year. Damian Saunders (Duquesne) was on our team, too. We were the No. 1 prep school in the country. I think we only lost one game.
Dime: Where did you get the nickname “Greedy”?
JP: I got that when I was young. My uncle gave it to me. Basically, he said I was greedy going after rebounds. I always wanted to rebound the ball.
Dime: So when the time comes, what factors will go into your decision about going pro?
JP: I’m gonna talk to my family and see what they think, then talk to my coaches. I mean, I won’t say I’m completely polished. I know I’ve still got a lot of things to work on, like ball-handling and shooting and being more consistent.
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