Explorers’ Peterson set for expanded role

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La Salle sophomore D.J. Peterson (right) played 36 minutes in the Explorers’ exhibition win over Carleton University. (Photo: Anson Marsh)

Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)

If La Salle’s exhibition game against Carleton was any indication, D.J. Peterson is going to play a much-expanded role on the Explorers this season.

The 6-foot-5 sophomore played 36 minutes in the 61-58 victory on Friday night, mostly as a guard in a 3-man backcourt but briefly moving up to forward when the Explorers went with a 4-guard setup due to foul trouble.

“I certainly expect him to play a lot and to play well,” La Salle coach John Giannini said after the game. “Someone has to (play down low) and with what we were running at the time you want your best penetrators up top, so we put our best penetrators up top and that moved D.J. down low.”

Peterson averaged 3.0 points and 2.0 rebounds in 17.9 minutes per game as a true freshman, hitting 48.1 percent (25-of-52) from 3-point range while attempting only 15 shots from inside the arc all season. He missed on all three of his 3-point attempts against the Ravens, making his only shot from inside the arc as well as all four of his free-throws for his six points. He also chipped in five rebounds and two steals, committing only one foul and no turnovers.

Giannini said afterwards that Peterson’s start was due to an illness to junior guard Sam Mills, who started all but one game for La Salle last year. Mills, who was just cleared to return to action today, played 22 minutes and went scoreless though he dished out six assists to lead all players.

Last year, it was senior Earl Pettis who at 6-5 was the tallest member of the Explorers’ backcourt and thus ended up having to play a bit of a more versatile role on a guard-heavy La Salle roster. Though Giannini has more frontcourt pieces to work with this year, like a much-improved Steve Zack, redshirt freshman Rohan Brown and grad student Garvin Hunt, Peterson’s size makes him an ideal candidate to fill Pettis’ shoes in that respect.

“I don’t know how to answer the Earl comparison,” Giannini said, “other than I expect D.J. to be a good player like Earl was and to be a big part of our team and he did that today.”

There’s certainly a lot of competition for minutes in the Explorer backcourt. Senior Ramon Galloway as well as juniors Mills and Tyreek Duren are all going to play big minutes like they did a year ago; redshirt junior Tyrone Garland, a Virginia Tech transfer, will also play more than a few minutes when he becomes eligible in December.

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