Welcome to A10 Talk’s Top Pre-Season Top 25 Player Countdown for the 2017-18 season. Each day, we’ll be publishing a new article counting down our best 25 players for the coming season. Today, we feature #2 Peyton Aldridge, from Davidson.
Our Top 25 Player Countdown is a compiled list based on voting from our staff and writers from across the league. Thanks to the following for helping configure this year’s Top 25 Atlantic 10 Player Countdown:
Grant Labedz (@GrantLabedz), Mat Shelton-Eide (@MatSheltonEide), Grant Kelly (@GrantKelly07), Andrew Phung (@LoveRI401), By George (@ByGeorgeGMU), Davidson Recruiting (@DavidsonMBBRecr), Steve DiMiceli (@SteveDiMiceli), Rhody Rampage (@RhodyRampage), UMass Recruiting (@UMassRecruiting), Bona Blog (@BonaBlog), Petey Buckets (@PeteyBuckets), and UMass Ball Report (@theumbr).
What He’s Done
Over the past three years, Peyton Aldridge has done it all for the Davidson Wildcats. A starter since the day he first donned the red and white, Aldridge quickly showed A10 fans glimpses of the greatness that would follow in his sophomore and junior seasons. In only his third game in a Davidson jersey he put up a monstrous 25-point performance against a UNC team that was at the time ranked 6th in the nation. It was evident from day one and remains just as clear now: the kid can flat out play. Making impressive strides from his All-A10 Rookie campaign as a freshman, Aldridge established himself as a dominant force in the Atlantic 10 as a sophomore, averaging over 15 PPG and drastically improving his free throw shooting.
As a junior, he continued his remarkable consistency and broke out as an undeniable conference superstar. Playing 37 MPG for the Wildcats, he was a top-30 scorer in the nation and alongside Jack Gibbs demonstrated that Davidson, despite their frustrating inconsistency, could give any team in the conference, or even the country, a run for their money on any given night. Now Gibbs has graduated and its Peyton Aldridge’s team. For three years he’s demonstrated incredible talent and toughness on both ends of the floor, and he now enters his final stint as a Wildcat as the A10 Player of the Year frontrunner with a blossoming national profile.
What He’ll Do
Aldridge doesn’t have much left to prove to A10 fans; his stats do more than speak for themselves. What will define Aldridge’s last go-around as a Wildcat, rather, will be his ability to continue his same clutch performances, consistent shot-making, and competitive spirit, but this time as the team’s unambiguous go-to option. With the departure of Gibbs, Aldridge will need to be the man for the Wildcats from the season’s opening tip, and his impressive resume indicates that the 6’8 Power Forward is more than up for the task.
Aldridge ranked 14th in the A10 last year in usage percentage at 25%, with his buddy Jack leading the league at 31%. Peyton’s usage has climbed about 5 percentage points during each of his seasons at Davidson and we should look for that trend to continue as the Wildcats seek to fill a big hole left by Gibbs’ graduation. Any increase in usage or heightened attention from opposing defenses shouldn’t be a problem for Aldridge, who was one of the most efficient players in the conference last year. His 119.7 offensive rating—a statistic which measures individual efficiency in offensive scoring production—was good for 4th in the A10 last season. Aldridge returns as the league’s top shooting threat, following a 16-17 campaign in which his 49% FG percentage was second in the league to former Richmond star TJ Cline and his sterling 41% from three-point range topped the conference.
Davidson fans should feel supremely confident when the ball is in Peyton’s hands, which it undoubtedly will be more frequently with the loss of Jack Gibbs. On top of his scoring prowess, Aldridge’s 9% turnover percentage was one of the lowest in the Atlantic 10 last year. Bottom line: whether he’s putting the ball on the floor or letting it fly from deep, Peyton Aldridge will give Wildcat fans a reason to believe that this might just be the year they catch fire in A10 play and make their way back to the NCAA tournament.
Davidson has big Friday night home games against some top A10 competition in Rhode Island and St. Bonaventure during conference play. It’ll be games like these, battling head to head with fellow A10 stalwarts like Jaylen Adams and EC Matthews, that will define Aldridge’s already remarkable career. Look for #23 to shine brightest when his team needs him most, which he has proven capable of time and time again. Clutch performances from Peyton Aldridge against the A10’s best teams may very well determine the outcome of the Wildcats’ season.
Save for a certain two-time NBA MVP, Bob McKillop’s standout players don’t leave Baker Drive until graduation. McKillop spends four years fully developing his stars and around them builds a program that is highly respected in coaching circles. Come senior year, these players he once recruited are confident, experienced on-court leaders who know that their time, four years in the making, has finally come. This is Peyton Aldridge’s time. He is the latest in a line of post-Curry Davidson stars like De’Mon Brooks, Tyler Kalinoski and Jack Gibbs who enter their senior seasons poised to make the most of their last stand as a Wildcat. For the kid from Leavittsburg, Ohio, this is it. This is the year we not only see Aldridge cement his legacy at Davidson, but also watch as Sports Illustrated’s projected top scorer in college basketball works to accomplish something no Wildcat has done since #30 in 2009: hear his name called in June by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver.
Previously: #3 E.C. Matthews