Ivy Leaf - Spring 2010
1000 Points of Might
Kirk Peters & Alicia Glasser
By Conner Gilbert
For some college basketball players, success comes not from hard work or sheer determination, but rather from physical advantages over their opponents. When a 6-foot-9 center goes up against a smaller team, he will inevitably rack up points and rebounds simply because of the height advantage.
But other players find themselves in roles where success must be achieved through constantly striving to improve and finding the willpower to overcome the odds on a game-to-game basis.
Penn State Altoona junior forward Kirk Peters is one of those players. Height-wise, he is not a prototypical forward, listed at 6-foot-3. He frequently finds himself matched up against taller opponents on the court. But that hasn't stopped Peters from becoming one of the most productive post players in the history of Lions basketball.
Peters surpassed the 1,000 point mark during a 61-58 win against Pitt-Bradford on February 7. He finished the season ranked fourth all-time for Penn State Altoona men's basketball with 1,052 points, 481 points behind first place, held by former Lions great Tyler Franklin.
After scoring 493 points during the 2009-2010 season, a solid senior campaign could catapult Peters to the top of the list to become the program's all-time leading scorer. But breaking records isn't always at the forefront of Peters' mind.
"I wasn't even aware of how close I was to scoring 1,000 points until my dad told me I was on pace to get it three or four games before I did," said Peters. "It's a nice acknowledgement and I'm very proud of it, but my main goal is to improve on our season from this past year. Individual accolades come along with that."
Since he is often guarded by taller forwards, Peters attributes his success to the fact that he thrives on physical play under the basket more so than his opponents, a trait he learned to develop as a football player from eighth grade through high school.
"A lot of my success comes from my football background because I'm used to wanting to be more physical than the other players," said Peters. "In basketball, I was undersized, so I had to use my leg strength. I've been used to playing bigger guys my whole life, so I like to get in the weight room a little more and work on my strength."
When he first came to Penn State Altoona, Peters did not expect to be counted on to be one of the main scorers for his team. But as he continued to take his game to the next level, and the dynamics of the team shifted, he was called upon to be the go-to player in the paint this past season. The result was leading the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference in scoring with nineteen points per game, while being named first team all-conference by the AMCC and second team all-region by D3Hoops and the ECAC at the conclusion of the season.
"I knew we'd have an inside presence, but I didn't expect the kind of success I'd have," said Peters. "It came to the point where, if my role was to be a scorer and that's what it would take for us to win, then that's what I have to do."
Peters acknowledges that the presence of Zach Spitz, the senior guard for the Lions, has been a major key to his success. Peters and Spitz, both natives of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and graduates of Susquehanna Township High School, have been teammates since seventh grade and know each other's tendencies on the court inside and out. Their friendship has been just as important, bringing a unique chemistry into the gym.
"I've been used to being on the same team as Spitz, and we've been best friends ever since seventh grade," said Peters. "He knows what I'm going to do, and I know what he's going to do. You can't teach it. He's been a huge part of my success in both academics and sports."
He also credits his success to exposure to the game of basketball throughout his youth, both from his family and friends.
"My grandfather and father were both very good high school basketball players, so in that sense I've been around it my whole life," said Peters. "There are baby pictures of me with a basketball, and when I was younger, my friends and I used to play on a basketball court until my mom was dragging me off."
Peters appreciates the support that his family has shown to him throughout his basketball career, from helping him get started in recreational leagues in his youth to driving to watch him play college basketball now.
"My parents have always been there for me, and they've been to every game since I played rec league at 7 years old," said Peters. "My aunts and uncles and grandparents come to as many games as they can. I'm grateful for all of their love and support through my years."
Now, in the prime of his college basketball career, Peters feels that it is fitting to be peaking on the court just as he is headed into his senior year at Penn State Altoona.
"Through all of the years of playing against better opponents, I can definitely say I'm now playing the best basketball I've ever played," he said. "Going into my last year, I feel like that's appropriate."
When a basketball player eclipses the one thousand point mark for his or her collegiate career, the achievement is often viewed through a narrow lens. Instead of seeing the big picture, it is frequently perceived simply as an individual honor or a number that justifies an athlete's skill. But when Penn State Altoona senior Alicia Glasser became the second women's basketball player in school history to surpass one thousand points, it may be more accurate to describe her accomplishment as the culmination of a journey.
"It's special to me because I worked so hard over the years — not just to score one thousand points, but to just do well," said Glasser.
Glasser grew up in Marion Center, Pennsylvania, knowing that basketball would be a part of her life by default. Her father, Charles, had been a successful player during college and remained active in the sport by officiating games. There was also a full-sized basketball court at her house.
Before long, Glasser was attending youth basketball camps and playing on all-star teams during elementary school. By high school, she was beginning to hit her stride as a player. She was named to the Indiana Gazette all-star team and to the Heritage Conference all-conference squad all four years at Marion Center Area High School, and she became a one thousand point scorer for the Stingers during her career there.
After high school, Glasser continued playing basketball. But her promising collegiate career hit a bump in the road when she found herself in a less-than-ideal situation at another college. Because of that, the sport she had grown up with was no longer fun for her.
"After the experience I had during my freshman year of college, I didn't think I would ever enjoy playing basketball again," said Glasser. "My experience took away my enjoyment of the game."
Unhappy with the course her athletic career was taking, Glasser reached out to Donna Kling, head coach of women's basketball at Penn State Altoona, about transferring schools and playing for the Lady Lions.
Coming to Penn State Altoona proved to be an attractive opportunity for Glasser; she was given the chance for a fresh, new start while getting back to having fun on the basketball court. Glasser ultimately transferred, beginning her sophomore year in Altoona.
"Not that many people get to play college sports, so I wanted to be able to enjoy it," said Glasser.
The Lady Lions were in the midst of a turnaround when Glasser joined the team. During her three years at Penn State Altoona, the team improved from a 10-16 overall record during the 2007-2008 season to a 20-7 record during Glasser's senior year in the 2009-2010 campaign.
"After the transfer, I thought the next years would be a struggle here, but we started getting more talent and started improving," said Glasser. "It helped having returning players from year-to-year, plus getting players who provided quality minutes off the bench."
In a new environment on a team filled with talent, Glasser picked up where she left off in high school and thrived as a Lady Lion. Her scoring gradually increased, going from 11.0 points per game during her sophomore year to 12.6 as a junior and eventually 16.0 to lead the team as a senior.
On February 20 in a home matchup against Penn State Behrend — a game at which Glasser was also honored as part of the team's Senior Day ceremonies — Glasser became just the second women's basketball player in Penn State Altoona history to score one thousand points when she made a second-half free throw to clinch the milestone, drawing a standing ovation from the crowd in the Adler Gym. Her final total of 1,031 points in her Lady Lion career is particularly impressive because it came over the course of just three seasons.
While Glasser is proud of her own hard work, she also is grateful for the support of her teammates and coaches in helping her along the way.
"It felt great to be recognized for my hard work and all the time I put into things," said Glasser. "But hopefully people will look at it and know that my teammates helped me out, and that my coaches were like an extra set of parents to me. I want them all to know that they had a big part in it, too."
The month of February proved to be a fitting end to Glasser's collegiate basketball career. Aside from her Senior Day and one thousand point honors, she was named to the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference's all-conference team and helped lead the Lady Lions to the AMCC semifinals. But the feeling that she has come to the end of the road for playing Penn State Altoona basketball has yet to strike her.
"It still hasn't hit me. Every year, a season ends, but I always see other people being the seniors," said Glasser. "Now that it's me, I realize that next year I won't be here practicing every day, and it's kind of overwhelming."
Glasser knows that the success she has experienced, from learning the game as a young girl to being a respected college athlete, would not have been possible without the help of her parents.
"My parents drove me all over the place, and they spent so much money on hotels and meals," said Glasser. "Leaving family vacations early to go to tournaments seemed like a terrible thing at the time, but now that I look back on it and I see what happened this year, the friends I've made through basketball and the opportunities I've had ... it's definitely been worth it."
Glasser hopes to stay involved with basketball in the future, possibly in the realm of officiating or coaching. Either way, she has come to realize that basketball has been, and probably will continue to be, a central part of her life.
"There used to be days when I just wanted to be a student, without basketball," said Glasser. "Now that basketball is over, I'd never want to wish that away again."