While many people hear his father Jeremy Conn on Baltimore’s 105.7 The Fan daily, Peyton Conn lets his game on the court do the talking.
During a recent show, Jeremy had a segment called “The Best Things From the Weekend," in which he often highlights his children’s accomplishments or the achievements of players he’s coached. On the eve of Peyton’s senior night, his father was emotional.
“Time has flown by and it’s crazy,” Jeremy said. “I get emotional and kind of get choked up thinking about it. I’m 40 years old and I have an 18-year-old son and we’re thinking about colleges and stuff like that, but literally my whole life has been watching him play basketball.”
Every Saturday and Sunday, Jeremy and Peyton would head to a recreation, travel or Amateur Athletic Union game together. Jeremy ran a basketball camp during the summer, where he’d watch Peyton play every day.
His sense of pride in his son goes beyond the radio.
On Jeremy’s Facebook page is a photo of Peyton pulling up for a deep 3-pointer, a usual sight for people that have seen the Sparrows Point senior play. Being 5 feet 8, he’s had to show off a left-handed shot from distance. His range has been good enough for him to average 17 points per game this season.
“It’s just funny because I’ve been posting some of the stuff on social media and people would be like, ‘Does he shoot from out that far?' ” Jeremy said. “But I think that’s just part of his game, where being smaller when he was younger to get his shot off a little quicker, sometimes he’d be a step or two beyond where most people would shoot.
“Now — he just turned 18 — he feels comfortable shooting from beyond NBA range. So, for being a small guy, he can make a big impact.”
It was around the time that Peyton was in fifth grade when he fell in love with basketball. Jeremy still holds on to pictures that he had of Peyton when he was a young child, small in stature, but not lacking in the will to be the best.
“When he first started out, he could barely hit the rim from the free-throw line and couldn’t even hit the shot,” Jeremy said. “It’s just crazy seeing him now where we went away to AAU tournaments, he hit a game-winner over a 6-8 kid from Canada, he’s gone up against some of the best players in Baltimore County and he always holds his own.
“He’s undersized, but he’s such a talented and smart kid. When he’s not contributing by putting the ball in the bucket, he’s giving other people good looks. He’s a really complete player and a very sharp kid — I couldn’t be prouder.”
Peyton’s will to be the best at his craft started early and continues to this day.
He’s worked on his ability to score in several ways, starting from waking up early to shoot at his local YMCA. Jeremy pushes him to be the best player he can be by telling him “the worst news, before the best news."
The younger Conn has had to overcome a lot during his tenure at Sparrows Point, being pulled up from junior varsity to an 0-21 team in the playoffs during his freshman season. In the first round of the 2016-17 2A North playoffs, his team got crushed by Patterson, 107-28. The Pointers went 3-18 and 2-18 the following seasons.
However, things turned around for Pointers, as they improved to 9-7 this season, sitting fourth in the Baltimore County Division I standings. Throughout Sparrows Point’s turnaround, Jeremy has constantly encouraged Peyton to keep grinding.
“He would still support me and kept telling me how good I had been playing,” Peyton said. “I could keep coming, keep playing, keep working, and it’ll come. We turned the program completely around, and now we’re a 9-7 ball club and a potential one-seed this year.”
During the team’s struggles, the teachers would often poke fun at the players. Now the same teachers have been supportive, and the Pointers have garnered more attention on social media.
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“It’s just been one hell of a ride,” Peyton said. “If we get that one seed, that means that we’re going to get homecourt advantage most of the playoffs until the regional championship — if we have to play New Town or someone [of that caliber]. This would be the first time that Sparrows Point has had a home playoff game since they could remember.”
Despite his success on the court at the high school level, Peyton hasn’t received many college offers because of his size. He had a few looks from Division III schools like Neumann (Pennsylvania) and Hood College.
“It’s just up in the air right now,” Peyton said. “We’re just trying to find the right coach and find a team that is rebuilding and needs guards. But if not, we were looking at CCBC or Harford Community College to go for two years to get my strength, agility and speed up.”
The lack of interest from colleges hasn’t hindered Peyton’s determination, however. He’s looked to make his doubters eat their words and has done so since his days at Perry Hall Middle School. It’s part of the reason Sparrows Point is having such unexpected success.
“I just want to prove myself to everyone who has been doubting me ever since I started playing basketball,” Peyton said. “I went to middle school at Perry Hall and I got cut all three years that I went to school there. They told me that I wasn’t going to be play ball anywhere and I hear that every time that I play basketball that I’m ‘too short to play’ and all of this other stuff.
“It’s just been motivating me to want to do better and Sparrows Point was a really bad basketball club. It was ran by a science teacher at first, but then coach Marcell [Marshall] came, really took me under his wing and really been pushing me these last three years.”