March 29, 2011

The solution at center?

Penn State class of 2011 signee Peter Alexis helped his Holy Redeemer High School team top West Scranton 42-29 for the District 2 Class 3A boys basketball championship this season.

Yet, in the immediate aftermath of the win, 79-year old Holy Redeemer 'towel girl' Doloris Shershen fell and broke her leg.

Rather than basking in the glory of the win, Alexis called his teammates into action.

"Peter was the first one to round up the troops to take them over to the hospital, sign a basketball for her," Holy Redeemer head coach Mark Belinski said. "He's that type of kid. He's a very nice kid. He's got a mean streak in him, but he's very polite and I'd take Peter as a son in a heartbeat. He's a tremendous person."

Alexis (6-foot-11, 262 pounds) helped carry Holy Redeemer to the Elite Eight of the PIAA state championships and finished his career with 2,054 points and 1,119 rebounds.

In Alexis, Belinski says the Nittany Lions are getting what he considers to be one of the top five players to be produced in the Northeast Pennsylvania region.

"Penn State is getting a very good player in Peter Alexis," he said. "To me, his better years are ahead of him, it just depends on how much he continues to work. As far as players out of the Valley, he's one of the top five players to come out of the Valley."

When asked to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses for Alexis, Belinski was direct in his assessment.

Alexis is working on his range shooting away from the basket (but was never allowed to shoot the three for fear of losing out on rebounds, Belinski joked), but is best around the basket, averaging 20.8 points per game his senior season, 11.1 rebounds and 3 blocks.

And, with his size, he's already got some heft, but can and will have to be stronger to challenge big men in the Big Ten if he wants to contribute his true freshman season after arriving at Penn State this June.

"He's very strong, he just needs to get stronger to play in the Big Ten. But he's up for the challenge. If he can get with a trainer immediately, he will be OK for Penn State.

"I think his strength is number one, and then his conditioning. He needs to get up and down the floor more. He has very good hands. Hopefully JoePa doesn't see that. Peter has very good hands. If you throw it, he catches it. The two things he has to do "

According to Belinski, there's no reason to believe Alexis won't make every effort and completely dedicate himself to improving in those areas.

"The two things he has to (improve) - strength and running - that's something that's in his head and something he's gotta get out of," Belinski continued. "To me, I think they're the simple things in basketball. You either get in the weight room or you don't. Make yourself stronger. You either run or you don't and if you run, you get faster and quicker. It's up to Peter Alexis."

Although Temple, St. Joe's and Marquette all showed interest in Alexis, Belinski said he tried to help steer the prospect toward the Big Ten because of the type of prospect Alexis represents - the classic center.

"There were some schools early on, but once he committed, they stayed away. He was looking Big East, and we talked and I didn't think he ran the floor and was athletic enough to be in that league," Belinski said. "He's more of a basketball player, and the Big East is up and down and flies around. That's my opinion. They're basically players too, but the style of the Big Ten fits Peter better than the Big East does."

With Andrew Jones' career at Penn State finished, huge questions remain at the Nittany Lions' five-spot.

Although head coach Ed DeChellis said that Sasa Borovnjak is recuperating well from his anterior cruciate ligament injury suffered in the preseason, Borovnjak won't fully participate in this spring's individual workouts.

Certainly, with Alexis and fellow 6-foot-11 center prospect Pat Ackerman entering the fold this summer, Penn State will have a few more options to work with.

Could Alexis be an answer for the Nittany Lions as a viable option at center in his true freshman season?

Belinski said he's hoping so.

"He works very hard. I would say his work ethic is second to none," he said. "If you tell him to do something, he's going to do it, and he's going to do it the best he can. He has a very good head on his shoulders.

"I think he's ready to play. I'm nervous and excited for Peter because if he's not ready, I'm going to take the blame because he's coming out of our program. Is he ready? If he works June, July, August, September, he'll be ready. If he doesn't, he will not be ready."



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