Zachery Peacock is 6-foot-8, 235 pounds. Judging from body type, you’d guess his basketball model would be Paul Silas or Maurice Lucas or the Mailman. Guess again.
OK, enough. You’ll never guess.
Zachery Peacock’s model: J.J. Redick.
And it makes sense, kind of, if you watch Peacock play. He’s a big man with a little man’s touch. This isn’t to say he has Redick range, but if you’re looking for the power forward with the sweetest stroke … well, he plays for Georgia Tech.
It was fitting that the loudest hosannas thrown Peacock’s way this season came from Mike Krzyzewski, who coached Redick. “He could start for a lot of teams,” Coach K said, speaking the frigid day Peacock scored 11 points, including the go-ahead basket on a putback of Mfon Udofia’s air ball, in leading the Jackets past Duke. But rebounding isn’t necessarily Peacock’s pride. Shooting is, and he can really shoot.
About Redick, whom he watched on TV while growing up in Miami: “It was so amazing, how almost all of his shots almost always went in. So I thought, ‘If could imitate what he does …’ ”
Peacock arrived at Tech four months after Redick played his final collegiate game. To this day, he has never seen Redick in person. But the jump shot, which was J.J.-inspired but wholly self-taught, is homage enough. The big man is the most reliable perimeter shooter Tech has. Says Peacock: “I feel like my range extends out to the three-point line. Maybe one step beyond that.”
He’s never shy about hoisting, not even with a game on the line. He had the go-ahead follow against Duke, the winning jumper against North Carolina, and his free throws — he was fouled going to the hoop — took down Clemson. He had a chance to seal the Florida State game on Sunday but missed the front end with 26 seconds to play and the Jackets leading by a point. Which is OK. Even Mark Price missed the occasional foul shot.
The greater point: When Tech needs to score, the ball finds Peacock. He has great faith in his ability to make a shot. He’s a senior, and he has seen college basketball in a way the freshman Derrick Favors, who supplanted Peacock as a starter, has not.
And that’s OK, too. Every good team needs an off-the-bench force, and Peacock is the best sub in college basketball. (Think not? Find someone better.) He averages 9.9 points, fourth among Jackets, and he has done this while averaging only 22 minutes, sixth-most among Jackets.
Peacock didn’t intend to become the Sixth Man of the Year. (Not that the college game bestows such an award, though it should.) He was a starter as a junior and planned to start as a senior. “I thought, ‘We’ve got a freshman coming in, so I’ll do what I’ve got to do to maintain my starting position,’ ” he said. “Initially I never planned to come off the bench.”
He has re-calibrated nicely. Peacock changes games just by entering them. He says he doesn’t check in with the thought of shooting the first five times he touches the ball. “I go in with the mindset of whatever needs to be done. Most of the time it’s setting a hard screen, which I enjoy doing. Next to shooting, I enjoy setting hard screens on people.”
(And that’s incongruous, too. Shooting … and screening? It’s safe to say those weren’t J.J. Redick’s two favorite hoops activities.)
Peacock shares, with Redick and with all great shooters, the self-esteem that comes from having both the form and the touch. “I do have the confidence,” he said, “that’s when it’s my turn to step up I can make the shot.”
He hasn’t kicked himself too hard over the missed free throw in Tallahassee. That’s part of being a shooter. You miss one, you figure you’ll make the next. And a shooter on the order of Zachery Peacock doesn’t ever plan to miss even one. “If I feel that way,” he says, “I just don’t shoot it.”
And when he does shoot? “I always think it’s going in.”