Just how good can Davidson’s Peyton Aldridge be?

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On a night where the Preseason A-10 Player of the Year was not on the court, another Wildcat stepped up showed why he belongs among the top ballers in the conference. Yes, injured Jack Gibbs (shoulder) may be the most highly touted player on Davidson’s roster, but Peyton Aldridge is quickly demonstrating that he too has the ability to single-handedly take over games.

With Gibbs sidelined for the team’s season opener against Appalachian State, it was clear that Aldridge would become the go-to scoring option. Cats fans know just how good he is; he averaged 15.5 PPG and 6.5 RPG during his sophomore season, earning a spot on the Preseason 3rd Team All-Conference heading into 2016-17. Still, no one expected him to dominate like he did against the Mountaineers, dropping 31 points on 11-18 shooting (4-6 3PT) while grabbing 7 rebounds and playing all 40 minutes. Aldridge was absolutely everywhere; contesting shots, knocking down triples and even bringing the ball up the court. Just check out his block after the opening tip-off (ignore the caption, it was #23 Aldridge):

App State’s double-team on him backfired too as he was able to find Nathan Ekwu with this sweet dish:

With these types of highlights and the diverse skill set that Aldridge offers, it would be easy to assume that the hype on him would be much higher. After all, he can play nearly any position on the court, knock down shots from the outside as well as post up in the paint. The reality is, however, that as long as Gibbs is on the roster, Aldridge will be viewed by critics as the team’s secondary option.

But what if Coach McKillop and the Wildcats were able to challenge this norm, utilizing Aldridge’s offensive package in conjunction with what Gibbs brings to the table? This is what would make the team truly dangerous. Last season Davidson was 7-0 when Aldridge scored 20 or more points, including 7-2 in games where he played 38 minutes or more. Given the fact that he’s such a smart player and infrequently finds himself in foul trouble, it is no surprise that McKillop elects to keep Aldridge on the floor whenever possible. While designated more as a shoot-first point guard, if Gibbs can up his assist average from last season (4.9 APG), this could severely benefit the Davidson offense, particularly Aldrige both in the post and on the wing. The fact that can both players can score from anywhere on the court should force more double-teams and open up wider passing lanes to the basket.

With Gibbs likely returning for the Wildcats’ opening game of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off this Thursday (11am ET, ESPNU) we will get our first glimpse at how the two stars play together as upperclassmen. With years of experience under both of their belts it will be fascinating to watch and see how their on-court relationship develops over the course of 2016-17. One thing is certain; Peyton Aldridge is a special player and if the Cats can embrace his potential, the ceiling for this team is very, very high.

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Huge college basketball fan. Co-owner/writer @ A10Talk.com (@A10Talk). Formerly ran The Groce Report (@TheGroceReport), wrote for SB Nation’s BT Powerhouse, and SB Nation's The Champaign Room. Davidson Wildcat, forever bleeding Orange and Blue.

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