COLLEGE PARK — It was Maryland's media day, and Roddy Peters kept forgetting to look at the cameras surrounding him. The freshman point guard would glance up momentarily, but then his gaze would drop again until he was staring at his shoes.
Peters, who may start against Marist in Friday's opening round of the Paradise Jam tournament in the Virgin Islands, is noticeably shy.
But while the media may have a hard time coaxing productive interviews out of him, Maryland coaches don't mind the player's bashfulness. They find it refreshing for a player whose job it is to distribute the ball to others.
In an era of entitled, overhyped recruits, Peters — who was courted by Kansas, UCLA, Xavier among other schools — seems the antithesis of a self-promoter.
"He has no ego," Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said. "He's confident in his own way, but he is very shy."
A few years ago, Peters attended a banquet during which he received a most valuable player trophy from his Suitland High School team.
"He really didn't even want to come up and get it," said George McClure, Suitland's coach. "I was like, 'C'mon, come up and get it.' He was waving me off like, 'Just give it to me later.' He doesn't like that kind of limelight. But on the court, he has no fear."
Peters' demeanor changes when he is playing basketball. He has an inner confidence that complements his quickness and passing ability.
"I model myself after [Washington Wizards point guard] John Wall," said Peters, who is not shy about talking to his teammates and calling for the ball.
On Sunday, Peters — who is naturally ambidextrous — drove to his left through Oregon State's zone defense for a layup. Moments later, he split two defenders for another layup, this time on the right side. The Terps lost, 90-83, but Peters had a breakout game with 10 points and six assists.
Turgeon said "there's a good chance" that Peters will start for the Terps (1-2) on Friday in the first of three games in the Paradise Jam.
Peters' role increased when sophomore point guard Seth Allen broke a bone in his left foot last month, sidelining him for up to 10 weeks. Turgeon said Peters would need to learn on the fly and "play through mistakes."
Peters, who is 6-foot-3 with noticeably long arms, knows he needs to work on his jump shot and defense. He is self-effacing about his shot. Told he has been compared by coaches to Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo, Peters smiled and said: "You mean the speed? Or not being able to shoot."
But Peters is serious about improving. Among his many tattoos is one that says: "No Struggle, No Progress."
He said he takes 300 shots before practice and another 350 or so afterward. "I got that from watching [junior] Dez [Wells] doing it," Peters said.
"I think it's a lot of mechanics with [Peters' shot]," said Maryland graduate assistant coach Eric Hayes, a sharpshooter during his days playing for Terps.
"He kind of shoots it from the side of his head and shoots across his body. We've been working on trying to make sure he's squared up to the basket, his feet are pointed to the basket, elbow lined up," said Hayes, whose 87 percent free-throw percentage is best in school history.
The more Peters develops his shot, the harder it will be for defenses to sag off him.
Like many first-year players, Peters sometimes tries to do too much at once. He says Maryland coaches frequently remind him "this isn't Suitland anymore."
"The hardest thing is knowing when to go [to the rim] and when not to go," Peters said. "I think I play a better all-around game now. I play better defense, I rebound, and I'm just a better point guard. In high school, I just played, I didn't really talk. Now I've got to talk to my teammates to make sure they're in the right spots, too."
In three games, Peters is averaging 6.3 points and 3.3 assists in 21.7 minutes. He had seven turnovers through his first two games, but only two against Oregon State.
"Sometimes he'll be a little too fast," sophomore center Shaquille Cleare said. "Roddy reminds me a lot of myself my freshman year trying to understand the offensive and defensive principles. But he's a hell of a player. He can really score the ball. It's ridiculous how long his arms are. I think he can be a really good defender, as well as a good offensive player for us."
Among Peters' best qualities, Turgeon said, is that he listens. Asked how coachable Peters is, Turgeon replied: "On a scale of 1 to 10, he's been a 9. He knows he has a lot to learn about the game. Roddy's biggest problem is he's so used to dominating at the high school level."
Peters was recruited by Maryland assistant Dalonte Hill, who is on an indefinite leave of absence after a drunken driving charge. During Peters' recruitment, Maryland was among the finalists for guards Andrew and Aaron Harrison, two of the most highly touted recruits in the nation.
The Terps lost out on the Harrison twins, who enrolled at Kentucky. But that cleared the way for Peters to attend the school he had always followed closely. Maryland coaches believe they would have lost Peters if the Harrisons had committed to College Park.
Peters, who had season-ending shoulder surgery during his senior year of high school, was a frequent guest at Comcast Center before enrolling. He watched Maryland's home games and imagined how his college career might unfold.
"He was very patient and waited while we recruited the twins," Turgeon said. "He wanted to stay home and be close with his mom. He grew up loving Maryland."
Baltimore Sun reporter Don Markus contributed to this article.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun