Did sinking the shot of a lifetime really change Evanston’s Blake Peters’ life?

SHARE Did sinking the shot of a lifetime really change Evanston’s Blake Peters’ life?

The ball could have clanged off the rim and landed on the court with the thud of irrelevance.

Or it could have lipped out, tantalizing the home crowd before breaking fans’ hearts.

But Blake Peters’ 80-foot heave at the buzzer — one year ago this weekend — splashed through the net, giving Evanston’s varsity boys basketball team a 45-44 victory against Maine South.

That’s how a goggled freshman guard’s 15 minutes of fame began.

What was it like to go from a basically anonymous, just-turned-15-year-old player to BMOC in the blink of an eye? To be blitzed by photo requests at the grocery store and while shooting around with his dad at the schoolyard near home? To don a tuxedo at the 2018 ESPYs, where he was a finalist for the Best Play award, and walk the red carpet like sports royalty?

‘‘It changed my whole life,’’ Peters said.

And what was it like to lose that torchlight of fame? To return — the proverbial 15 minutes essentially having expired — to the more typical adolescent experience of a high school baller?

‘‘If it taught me anything,’’ he said, ‘‘you just have to stay present and not forget who you are.’’


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I went to see Peters this week, never having met him and with no particular expectations, and what I found was a young man worth knowing. Just turned 16, the 6-1 sophomore is one of the better three-point shooters in the area and a standout student, with an eye on a career in politics.

Short-term goal: playing basketball at an Ivy League school. Long-term goal: an appointment as Secretary of State or Attorney General. Yes, of the United States.

‘‘I just love to learn,’’ he said. ‘‘I think if you’re an educated person in this world, there’s a lot you can do. There are a lot of ways you can help society.’’

Impressive? Maybe just a bit.

At home, Peters reads about George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. In class — his favorite is government — he strives to push his natural shyness aside and speak up. In the gym, he works harder on his game than just about anybody.

‘‘Blake spends more time on basketball than any player on our team,’’ Wildkits coach Mike Ellis said. ‘‘He’s in the gym more than anyone else. If you saw the schedule he keeps, you’d know he loves the sport.’’

But Peters is a still a kid, and that’s what makes the rise and fall of his fame so interesting and precious.

Before he grabbed a missed free throw, spun and let fly from 80 feet last January — touching off an epic celebration in which his poor goggles were trampled — Peters could walk from one class to another at school without bumping into a friend. Such was life for a freshman whose family had only moved to Evanston the previous summer.

One shot took care of that.

‘‘Most of the school knew me now,’’ he said. ‘‘School got a little easier.’’

He rode the wave for all of a couple of weeks. Maybe not even that long. Instantly, Peters felt all eyes on him at games. He went ice-cold from three-point range. A huge home game came against archrival New Trier. About 2,000 fans packed Beardsley Gym and watched the Wildkits lose, with Mr. Big Shot missing all nine of his attempts from beyond the arc.

‘‘I just remember sitting in the locker room for 10, 15 minutes, just staring at the ground,’’ he said.

He was afraid of what all his new friends — what the whole school — would say.

‘‘That was probably one of the worst days of my life,’’ he said. ‘‘But at that point, too, it kind of taught me that you’ll get the highs and the lows. You’ll have the best moment of your life, but that doesn’t mean within a week or two you won’t come all the way back down.’’

In the end, though, it was only a game. Peters withstood one of those moments in a young person’s life that feels beyond awful but turns out to be a worthwhile part of the journey toward growing up. Oh, and he made up for that 0-for-9 in a big way, scoring 19 points as Evanston got revenge against New Trier in an IHSA sectional final en route to a third-place finish in the state tournament.

On Friday night, Peters and his team — No. 7 in the Sun-Times’ latest Super 25 rankings — will play at Maine South. The home fans there will know all too well about the young man in the goggles.

‘‘Looking back in 20, 30 years, I’m going to remember that shot as one of the happiest moments in my life,’’ Peters said.

In the end, though, it was, as Peters himself calls it, ‘‘just one shot.’’

‘‘I’d like to be known for more than that,’’ he said. ‘‘I definitely don’t want to be defined by that by senior year because, if that’s the case, then I obviously haven’t done too much here. In the grand scheme of things, like, in my life, it’s not going to be that important.’’

Impressive? Maybe just a bit.

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