HOWLAND - Peyton Aldridge had no choice.
If there was one ounce of selfish play in Aldridge's style of basketball, no one would have known because he was usually surrounded by two and sometimes three defenders almost every time he touched the ball during his high school career. The 6-foot-7 LaBrae Vikings senior had to be a team player for survival purposes.
The fact is that Aldridge would have played a team style even if opponents allowed him the freedom of one-on-one matchups. That's what made life so much easier for Vikings coach Chad Kiser the last four seasons.
Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple
Tribune Chronicle Sports Editor Dana Sulonen, center, presents the Trumbull County Coaches Association Player of the Year trophies to LaBrae’s Peyton Aldridge, left, and Lakeview’s Alli Pavlik, right. The awards were given out during the 27th annual banquet on Monday night at Leo’s Ristonante in Howland.
"He's a once-in-a-lifetime player for a small public school," said Kiser after Aldridge was named the boys' Player of the Year at the 27th annual Trumbull County Coaches Association Basketball Banquet Monday at Leo's Ristorante. "He's been a great leader. On top of all his individual accomplishments, he's made our team and program so much better.
"That's what makes him so special. While he's getting that individual award, all the team accomplishments are more important. The four league championships; the state final four. Those are the things that are more important to him."
Virtually every opposing coach who faced Aldridge would agree that he's one of the best players they've faced in the area in a long period of time. From Ursuline's Keith Gunther to Newton Falls coach Roy Sembach, they all admired Aldridge's play and would be the first to admit they're happy he's on his way to Davidson College.
Aldridge averaged 21.4 points and 14 rebounds per game last season. He was the team leader in assists (102) and steals (62).
Those numbers are secondary to Aldridge because of his team-oriented mentality.
"Being a team player comes first," Aldridge said. "Doing whatever you need to do to help your team win. Hustling and working hard."
Aldridge has had a bull's-eye on his back from the moment he entered the varsity scene as a freshman. His height, combined with the ballhandling skills of a guard, made him a coach's dream.
Among the highlights of Aldridge's career was leading the Vikings to an appearance last year in the Division III state tournament, where they lost in the semifinals. He was named first team all-state each of the last three years.
"I've done some great things, and I'm really blessed to have done that," Aldridge said. "God has blessed me with great ability. I'm honored to be able to do the things I do. It's been a great run. The state (tournament) was icing on the cake. It's been a fun four years."
Aldridge will take a big step in his career when he plays at Division I Davidson, which is located in North Carolina. An honor student, he had numerous college offers.
"A lot went in to (selecting Davidson)," Aldridge said. "The coaches, the players; atmosphere; North Carolina; beautiful campus. As soon as I went down, the players were so welcoming to me. I got along with them right away. The coach's style of play fits me real well."
Kiser can't wait to see how the next four seasons play out for Aldridge.
"People will see his scoring ability more at the next level than high school just because they won't have two or three guys on him every time he's down the floor," Kiser said. "It would have been fun to see him go out and try to score as much as he could, but he doesn't have that makeup.
"He's really a team player and plays the game, as a coach, the way you always want your kids to play. He'll always make the best basketball play rather than what individually might make him look the best."