Peyton Siva, along with former Washington guard Isaiah Thomas, spent some time after last season with Dallas Mavericks guard Jason Terry. Siva and Terry were both stars at Franklin High School.
PORTLAND — At the end of last season, after Louisville was eliminated for the second consecutive year in its first game of the NCAA tournament, Peyton Siva accepted an invitation from Jason Terry to come to Dallas, work out and watch the NBA playoffs.
Another one-and-done had bummed Siva so badly he couldn’t watch the rest of the tournament. He didn’t see the amazing runs by Butler and VCU. He couldn’t watch another Big East team, Connecticut, cutting down the nets.
He stayed away from the game for a short while and then he and Washington point guard Isaiah Thomas went to Club Terry for a little basketball rejuvenation. Terry and the Mavericks were in the process of winning an NBA championship.
“Jason told me to stay confident, keep shooting the ball and keep playing great defense,” Siva said Thursday, after Louisville’s 69-62 second-round victory over Davidson. “He was really like a big brother to me down there, really helped me out a lot. Even though they were in the playoffs, he took the time to help me out. It showed me a lot about his character.”
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It was all part of that 206 basketball love that is passed throughout Seattle’s hoop community.
“It’s like a brotherhood there,” said Siva, like Terry, a Franklin High School graduate. “Every basketball player in Seattle seems to know each other. The younger players and the older players all give back to each other. We’re a family.”
Thursday, despite spending much of the game on the bench with foul trouble, Siva still led Louisville with 17 points and six assists.
The Cardinals were one-and-done no more.
“We really weren’t worried about the first round in the sense of trying to get that first win and being worried about losing,” Siva said. “I mean we’ve been through it before; we know it can happen. But we weren’t focusing on the bracket.”
In 25 minutes, Siva gave glimpses of the purity of his point-guard skills. He slalomed around a pick-and-roll and flicked a pass to Kyle Kuric for a layup. He came off center Gorgul Dieng’s screen, sliced into the middle of the lane and drew a foul.
In the first seven minutes, he was responsible for 11 of Louisville’s 14 points. In the second half, he cleanly picked Davidson’s Nik Cochran and blasted to the bucket, giving the Cardinals a 35-25 lead.
“Peyton was having his way on the pick-and-rolls because they were staying home on Kuric and (Chris) Smith,” Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. “So our whole effort any time a play didn’t work was all pick-and-rolls because we thought Peyton could maneuver in there.
“We told him a while ago. We showed him films. We put an edit together of (Phoenix point guard) Steve Nash. We said one of the greatest things Steve does off the pick-and-roll, if he probes the lane and he decides he doesn’t have anything, he just dribbles it back out and takes a different angle off the screen. I think that helped Peyton, watching Steve Nash do it.”
Siva, a 6-foot junior who plays much taller, struggled early this season. He suffered a concussion and missed two weeks after Louisville’s first exhibition game. Then he sprained his left ankle and missed two games in mid-November. The pain in his ankle toyed with his confidence.
“At the beginning of the season he was going through a rough patch,” senior guard Chris Smith said. “He turned his ankle. He really wasn’t in the flow. He was kind of forcing himself to do things. Now he’s coming out on top. He’s back to being healthy. He’s the real Peyton.
“And there aren’t too many people who can guard him off a pick-and-roll. I mean, he’s going to get everybody shots.”
Siva came into the tournament fifth in the Big East in assists and sixth in steals. He was named the MVP in last week’s Big East tournament, which Louisville won.
“It’s a lot easier for me now to move around on the court,” Siva said. “Before, I didn’t have a lot of lift because of my ankle. I can be a lot more active because my ankle’s feeling a lot better now. It’s really helping my game a lot. But more than that, I’ve stopped worrying about everything and stopped making excuses.
“Now all I’m worrying about is defense and pressuring other teams and it’s really helping me.”
This was a homecoming of sorts for Siva. More than 30 family and friends, including his mother, father and grandmother, formed what they called an “SUV train,” driving through the relentless rain from Seattle to Portland to watch.
They turned the Rose Garden’s Section 122 into “Peytonville,” many wearing Siva’s No. 3 jersey.
“It was very cool to see all those people up there,” Siva said. “It was fun to see them all excited like that. They can get loud. Coach Pitino said we wouldn’t have a home-court advantage, but I told him if everybody was like my dad we would.”
In the locker room before he went out for a postgame visit to “Peytonville,” Siva was grinning. This March he’s having fun again. One and done no more.
Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or firstname.lastname@example.org