LEAVITTSBURG - There were times when Rick Aldridge watched his son Peyton on the basketball court and wondered how he did it.
How, that is, Peyton dealt with the constant attention paid to him each game by opponents for most of the last four seasons as the star player for the LaBrae Vikings. Now standing a lean 6-foot-7, Peyton was comfortable doing about anything, from running the offense at the point to playing on a wing or posting low.
It was a nightmare scenario for opposing coaches. Their only recourse was to play a collapsing, double-team style defense around Peyton.
Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple
LaBrae’s Peyton Aldridge, left, and Lakeview’s Alli Pavlik created legacies at their schools that will last decades. Aldridge, one the best basketball players in Trumbull County history, is headed to Davidson College, while Pavlik, a star at both basketball and soccer, is going to Ohio Dominican College to play soccer. Both will forever be legends in Trumbull County sports.
Through the tangled mess of arms and legs, and the constant pushing and pulling, Peyton somehow maintained his cool.
"I don't know how he became that way," Rick said. "I was so intense and I was kind of a mean guy. He's just the opposite."
Peyton did more than harness his frustrations. He fought through the challenges to carve out one of the best high school basketball careers in Trumbull County in a long time. Coupled with three seasons as the starting quarterback on the football team and four years as a pitcher and infielder on the baseball team, Peyton earned selection as the Tribune Chronicle's Male Athlete of the Year.
Peyton is best known for his basketball performances, which earned him a scholarship to Davidson College near Charlotte, N.C. The list of basketball awards won in four seasons is lengthy, to say the least. Last season he was the All-Ohio District I Player of the Year and a first-team Division III All-State choice. He averaged 21 points, 14 rebounds, five assists and five blocks per game.
"He's one of those that coaches like to call a once-in-a-lifetime player to have at a small school," Vikings basketball coach Chad Kiser said. "He's the total package of having the height, talent and work ethic on the court and in the offseason and in the classroom.
"He's a complete leader. We got to see how great of an athlete he's been. There are so many things we're going to miss. He's probably a better person than he was a basketball player, and that's saying a lot because he's an outstanding basketball player."
With his bloodlines, Peyton was destined to develop into a talented athlete. His father was a multi-sport athlete at LaBrae, and his mother Lisa held the LaBrae career basketball scoring record of 1,548 points before Peyton broke it last season.
"Mom always talked about if she wanted her record to be broken, she wanted it to be by me," said Peyton, who scored 1,735 career points and grabbed a school record 1,016 rebounds.
Peyton decided against playing football last season so as not to jeopardize any chances of earning the scholarship with Davidson, despite being told the offer wouldn't be canceled if he had been injured.
Peyton received some notice from football college recruiters, but they knew basketball was his first choice. He earned first team All-American Conference football honors as a sophomore. In his junior season, he was all-district honorable mention and a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame/U.S. Army Award of Excellence.
Rick coached Peyton in baseball, which is another sport he took to naturally. Last season he hit .357 and led the Vikings in RBIs with 19 and steals with 22. When pitcher Blake Sprague hurt a shoulder, Peyton became the number-one pitcher. He finished the season with a 4-3 record and a 2.16 earned-run average, striking out 55 in 42 innings.
"I love playing those two sports," Peyton said. "I began playing football in the seventh grade, and I've been playing baseball since I was little."
It was basketball that put Peyton on the statewide map. As a junior, he was the driving force for LaBrae's run to the Division III state tournament, ending with a loss to Versailles in the semifinals.
"It was a great experience," Peyton said. "Getting to play at Ohio State was great. The time I spent with my teammates there was a blast."
The next step for Peyton will be significant. Davidson has a rich history of basketball success that includes many trips to the NCAA tournament. Basketball, as Peyton is about to find out, is ingrained deeply into the sporting fabric of that area.
Davidson is coached by Bob McKillop, who is about to enter his 25th season at the helm. McKillop has seen many a talented prospect, and from what he's told people, he expects Peyton to have an immediate impact.
"Watching Davidson play this year, it's a big step," Rick said. "The players are bigger, faster and stronger, but it looks like a good fit for him.
"I don't want to get my hopes too high. I don't want him to see disappointment in me if he's not playing as much as I'd like. Their coach said he expects Peyton to go in there and have an impact on the team. That's not saying he's starting, but I think he'll get some time. I'll just be happy when he's on the floor."
You can be certain that Kiser will keep a close watch on Peyton's development.
"I look for him to get a lot of playing time," Kiser said. "The kid he is, he'll keep working. He's not going to get out-worked."
Peyton graduated with a 3.95 grade-point average in his senior year. He's undecided on his major.