Aldridge chooses Davidson

LaBrae senior Peyton Aldridge had a reigning Final Four team on the phone. He chose to answer the call from a Southern Conference school.

On Saturday, the 6-foot-7, 200-pound basketball star announced his verbal commitment to Davidson College, where he’ll begin playing in 2014.

“I really loved the place,” Aldridge said. “The players and coaches really welcomed me and it was a great fit. Their style of play is right in line with my style of play.”

Seven LaBrae seniors and Aldridge led the Vikings to the Division III state semifinals last season. They fell to Versailles, 64-52, at Value City Arena in Columbus. In his junior year, Aldridge averaged 20 points, 12 rebounds, four blocks and three steals per game. He is a two-time Northeast Inland District Player of the Year and was one of 10 national finalists for the U.S. Army Pro Football Hall of Fame Award.

“Peyton was really intelligent about all of this,” said his coach, Chad Kiser, about the recruiting process. “A lot of kids get wide-eyed and impatient but he handled it like a pro.

“A high-level of basketball in a smaller town is what intrigued him the most about Davidson. He didn’t just jump at one thing, he enjoyed the whole scope of what schools offered.”

Davidson was the second school to extend a basketball scholarship, behind Akron. He took only one official visit, actually, and it was to Davidson in June. It’s a private school with 1,756 undergraduate students located in Western North Carolina.

Aldridge also had offers from Akron, Cleveland State, Kent State, Miami (OH), Ohio and Toledo. Just last week, though, Michgan coach John Belein called Kiser to arrange a visit to Leavittsburg and to invite Aldridge to Ann Arbor. The Wolverines beat Syracuse in the 2013 Final Four and fell in the championship game to Louisville, 82-76.

“They had more than interest,” Kiser said. “They were recruiting him to be in the eight-man rotation. Belein loved his versatility. They wanted him to replace Glen Robinson Jr. and Mitch McGary. (Belein) wanted to get him there in September and that could’ve resulted in an offered.”

Davidson has appeared in eight NCAA tournaments, most recently last year which resulted in a first round loss to Marquette. When the Wildcats advanced to the Elite Eight in 2008, they were led by hot-shooting guard Stephen Curry – now a member of the Golden State Warriors.

“That year is still talked about,” Aldridge said. “They had good teams for the last couple years. It’s a great program and I’m ready to step in and help them go even further.”

In 2014, Davidson will join the Atlantic 10. Bob McKillop is in his 23rd year coaching the Wildcats. McKillop is making a stop at LaBrae on Monday to watch Aldridge practice and work out. In July during an AAU game in Florida, Aldridge broke his jaw cutting through the lane, catching an elbow. It’s been sewn up for five weeks and was just recently unstitched.

“It was the biggest injury I’ve had to go through,” he said. “I was on all liquids. It was definitely a challenge and I’m glad I could overcome it.

“Now, I’m going to start working out and try to get stronger. I’ll just go around and play in some open gyms and pick-up games.”

LaBrae went 24-4 a year ago after an undefeated regular season in 2011-12. Aldridge returns, as does Justin Jenkins and Marcell Richardson.