May 24, 2014

Peete Emerges As Complete Middie for Saints

by Jac Coyne | | Coyne Archive | Twitter

"I was always thought about what my abilities would be with a long stick, but it never really crossed my mind to pick up a long stick. I was anti-long stick." - Limestone short-stick defensive middie Jamar Peete. (Stacey Wylie)

When Mike Cerino decided to hang up the whistle at Limestone to become the school's athletic director, hiring J.B. Clarke to replace him, he did not opine much about the roster during the transition process. The hands-free handoff marked a show of respect by Cerino, as no one wants to be told how to run their own show, even if the old coach is now the boss.

But the former coach did pass along one little tidbit.

"I'll never forget when Mike Cerino said, 'I'm not going to tell you about too many players, but whatever you do, don't try to put a long stick in Jamar Peete's hands,'" Clarke said. "'You are going to be tempted to, but don't do it.'"

When Clarke took over the reigns at Limestone, Peete had just finished up his redshirt year and was eyeing serious time as a short-stick defensive midfielder. With his speed, strength and ability to guard at a high level with a short wand, any coach would want to give him a shot at long pole.

"I always thought about what my abilities would be with a long stick, but it never really crossed my mind to pick up a long stick," Peete said. "I was anti-long stick."

"I didn't know at that the time that it was because Jamar would have killed me had I put a long stick in his hand," Clarke said, laughing. "It turned out to be great advice. I haven't coached many players who are short-stick defensive midfielders and are more important to a team, not just our defense, than Jamar. He's a special player at that position."

Peete's insistence on remaining with a short stick is a way to remain relevant offensively, and in this, his senior year, it has certainly paid off.

At Walbrook High School in Baltimore, Peete was a big-time offensive threat, finishing third in scoring in the Baltimore Metro area while helping Walbrook earn a pair of City Championships. His final year, he was an all-conference selection and played in the state all-star game. As is the case for many prep players making the transition to college, there was a learning curve.

As a way to get on the field quicker, Peete took a redshirt year to get acclimated. He then became an impact player as a shorty. Peete's offensive opportunities were blocked by a stacked group of attackmen and midfielders, so he embraced the defensive midfielder position. His sophomore and junior years, he finished fourth on the team in caused turnovers.

Scoring was not a big part of the equation. During those first three seasons, one of which featured a championship game appearance in 2012, Peete amassed just 11 points (3g, 8a).

This year, while keeping a familiar tight lid on opponents, Peete has emerged as a option offensively, ranking eighth on the team in scoring with 10 goals and eight assists.

"Jamar has always wanted to play offense," Clarke said. "We work really hard to try and develop our players, and if they buy into that and they do a lot of work on their own and work hard during practice, they can develop. Jamar is a guy we let play offense in the fall when we don't use defensive middies. He played just like a regular middie in the fall just so he could further develop those skills offensively. There are times we'll let him stay out there and play some offense in practice. His teammates give him a lot of crap about it, but I think that has really helped him develop."

Peete said getting more chances on the offensive side of the ball has been empowering.

"That helped me a lot in transition, or if I had an opportunity to shoot, or to draw a man to slide or the pass the ball," he said. "Just playing smart lacrosse."

The offense will always be an added bonus. Limestone's ability to return to the national championship game on Sunday against LIU Post has been predicated on Peete's ability to take on all offensive comers. With the perception that short-stick defensive middies are the weak link on any backline, Peete is usually targeted in opposing offense's game plans.

This year, foes are trying to run him ragged.

"It's mainly tiring me out," Peete said. "Usually I can handle the dodgers. I'll get a lot of inverts. If we were to switch, and me and one of the other defenders switch, the person that I get would be the one with the next dodge. They would just try to run it. I always expect the unexpected."

At times, teams have tried to create size mismatches with Peete, but at 6-foot and 190 pounds, he can handle his own.

"Jamar is strong, and usually I say that about guys who aren't good-looking," Clarke said. "He's committed to the weight room and a guy who actually does a lot of yoga. Strength-wise, that's not a problem for him."

Peete will likely create problems for LIU Post on both ends of the field on Sunday, and he's looking forward to the opportunity. He will have plenty of family and friends in the stands at M&T Bank Stadium in his hometown, and there is the underlying desire to make up for 2012, when the Saints lost by a goal to Dowling.

"It was pretty blurry, but I don't remember leaving the field," Peete said. "I just stayed there for a while and I guess I was eventually helped off. There is an eagerness to get back there."

You will be able to see Peete on Sunday. He'll be wearing No. 3 and using a short stick.

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