Washington, D.C. — It was July 2013 when Davidson coach Bob McKillop was at an AAU tournament in Pittsburgh looking at recruiting Sam Singer; he looked two courts down and spotted a 6-foot-8 forward whose game appeared familiar.
Singer ended up playing for California but the person McKillop saw was Peyton Aldridge and Davidson’s now 28-year coach was impressed.
“I see this guy that reminded me so much of one of our former players Landry Kosmalski, and I started looking and became very impressed with him,” McKillop said. “Ironically, my assistant coach was Landry Kosmalski and was watching Peyton and we spoke after that and then started following him.”
It was a true team effort in finding out Aldridge but it took only seconds for Davidson to realize that the Leavittsburg, OH native would become a top priority.
It was McKillop’s son Matt who first came across Aldridge’s name and Kosmalski was first to see him in that Pittsburgh gym.
Kosmalski, a 2000 graduate of Davidson, needed all of 30 seconds to determine that Aldridge would be a great fit and immediately contacted McKillop.
“I was watching him and knew right away he was definitely our kind of guy,” Kosmalski said. “He just played really hard, ran the court really well and was a versatile big guy who could step out and shoot. He just had a great motor and really good toughness. I texted Coach McKillop and told him he needed to come down and see him when he could. He said ‘who does he remind you of’ and not to be arrogant but I said ‘myself’ just because he was the same size. Just to clarify, Peyton is a much better player than I ever was, but the similarities of being undersized and a pretty aggressive player resemble how I thought I played at Davidson.”
Aldridge was initially not aware that Davidson was in Pittsburgh watching the AAU tournament but there definitely appeared to be interest.
“I think it was my high school coach that contacted him and he told me Davidson was there,” Aldridge said. “I sometimes see the college coaches there, and I honestly did not see Davidson there so I was a little confused and we got in contact but he started recruiting me. I’m very fortunate that he did see me there and the stars aligned.”
At Atlantic 10 Men’s Basketball Media Day this year, McKillop was quick to compare Aldridge to Kosmalski. The latter sees the comparison from a size standpoint, but repeatedly explained that Aldridge is “much, much better than I ever was.”
“I also saw Coach McKillop on film and someone compared us and he said ‘but Peyton is much, much better than Landry’, and I readily agree with that,” said Kosmalski.
Kosmalski was an assistant coach at Davidson two separate times, first from 2004-06 and then 2009-12, meaning he departed while the Wildcats were in the process of securing Aldridge.
“I’ve probably said hello to him when I have been down there, but I don’t think he would know who I am,” Kosmalski said. “I do watch as much as I can and he’s just an outstanding player. I would say he’s a lot better than I was because he is a lot more confident and he can shoot a lot better.”
One piece that helpful in recruiting Aldridge is the link between Davidson and the state of Ohio. Several Davidson players have come from Ohio and that certainly was a factor which helped Aldridge decide to come join the Wildcats.
Kosmalski was once told by someone from Ohio, that the drive down to the Charlotte/Lake Norman area is “a straight shot down 77”. It is this approximately 5-6 hour drive that may appeal to recruits in that it may be a touch far, but not out of the way from home.
At Davidson’s media luncheon, Aldridge also spoke to reporters about this Ohio connection and while it was not the lone factor, it certainly played a factor in bringing him to the university.
Aldridge has improved each year, receiving many accolades and respect from the Atlantic 10 Conference. Already before this season, he was named to the Atlantic 10 Preseason All Conference First Team and A10talk.com ranked him second in its Preseason Top 25 Atlantic 10 Player Countdown.
“Davidson’s big thing is if you work as hard as you can every day, you will get better than the competition, because they aren’t always going to work,” said Kosmalski. “I don’t think we as coaches can take credit for Peyton because he has really high standards for himself. He was like that when we recruited him. He has a real desire to be a good player.”
Aldridge takes all of these aforementioned honors are taken in stride and provide even further motivation for a player who has been hungry and competitive during his entire playing career.
“I cherish every game,” he said. “College is supposed to be the best years of your life. You get a scholarship and have a chance to enjoy things. It’s just being there every day, just trying to learn as much as possible. You never know enough so it’s always about learning something more.”