Libertyville’s Mr.Basketball


Katie Felsl

Drew Peterson celebrates with his teammates, who are ecstatic after a huge 3-point shot, during their home game against conference opponent Lake Zurich.

Hearts beating, clock ticking, sweat dripping– the student section in the Libertyville gym is quiet. It’s a close game coming down to the last shot, and there is only one player that everyone expects to take that shot — senior Drew Peterson.



Peterson has played basketball since second grade and was mentored by his older brother, a two-year varsity player for Libertyville High School who was a preferred walk-on at Xavier University. Their relationship helped Peterson’s game throughout his childhood and into high school.

“My dad always played with me and my older brother, and I really liked it a lot. And my brother started playing it and I started playing rec league in second grade and I always loved watching [basketball]. It was the main sport I played with my dad and my brother,” said Peterson.

Since sophomore year, Peterson has been a vital part of the varsity boys basketball team at LHS. “Some kids who are playing basketball at the high school level, they peak their sophomore year or they might peak their junior year. Drew has gotten better each of the three years I’ve watched him play on varsity,” expressed the Daily Herald’s Lake County High School Sports Editor, Joe Aguilar, in a phone interview.

Through his three elite years of competition at LHS, Peterson has received much recognition: he has been named the Chicago Tribune player of the month multiple times as well as Comcast Sportsnet’s “High School Lites” Wintrust Player of the Week. Last year, he was named to the IHSA All-State third team.

In addition to that recognition, this year, he is in the running for Illinois’ Mr. Basketball, an award given to the best player in the state. This award has been won by household names such as Lake County’s own Jalen Brunson (currently playing at Villanova University), and professionals such as Jahlil Okafor of the Brooklyn Nets, Jabari Parker of the Milwaukee Bucks, and Shaun Livingston of the Golden State Warriors.

On the Court

Through several different conversations with reporters and Head Coach Mr.Brian Zyrkowski about Peterson for this story, there was three aspects of his game that stood out: his versatility, his passing and his ability to shoot.  

“I think he’s showing he can play multiple positions at the next level, which is gonna be at the Division I level you know, so he can play [small forward], he can play [shooting guard], [and] I think he can play [point guard] in certain situations,” said Aguilar.

Peterson has endless range, according to multiple sources, and he has vision on the court to create open shots for teammates, such as junior Josh Steinhaus and senior Chase Eyre; Peterson is averaging four assists per game this season.

“His game is unique. The mid-range jumper is one of those shots that’s kind of gone away in basketball. Normally guys shoot threes and layups. Drew has brought the mid-range game back,” said Coach Zyrkowski. “He can shoot a shot inside the arc and it’s like a lay-up for him. He’s [a] very consistent shooter, and he’s a great passer.”

In AAU, Amateur Athletic Union basketball, Peterson plays for the Illinois Wolves, and his game is a lot different. According to senior LHS teammate Brandon Simberg, who has seen him play in AAU, Peterson plays with a lot of other Division I players, so in AAU, he doesn’t have to work as hard to get open and do as much on the offensive end. But at the same time, he is more efficient because he gets more open threes and more open shots, and he’s able to show off his passing.

This year’s varsity team was the North Suburban Conference co-champions, which is their first conference title since 1990. The Wildcats have a season goal to win a sectional title, according to Peterson. As of March 5th, they have a record of nineteen wins and nine losses, and Peterson — averaging 25 points per game and bringing in eight rebounds per game — has the ability to get Libertyville basketball to heights it’s never seen before,such as a sectional title,which hasn’t happened since 1991.

The IHSA state playoffs began on Feb.27, and the Peterson-led Libertyville squad will have to go through conference foe Lake Zurich if they want to reach their goal of a sectional title.On March 2nd the Wildcats won an IHSA regional title,  on a buzzer beater in overtime by Peterson, who scored 20 straight points to lead a comeback in the fourth quarter against Conant.

Leading by Example

As the senior team captain, Peterson has had to step up as a leader. “Last year we had Harrison Bach as our point guard, and he was one of our best leaders last year. And this year, with a lot of juniors coming in, I had to develop more of a leadership role and be more confident, and be able to be a lot more vocal; it’s really helping us this year,” said Peterson.

Libertyville has been through ups and downs this year as a team and “he’s not afraid to criticize people or call people out, but at the same time, he can accept blame if he messes up. He’s not afraid to put blame on himself,” said Simberg.

One example of his leadership was during the conference opener against Warren, on Dec. 5. It was a tight game and Peterson was given a technical foul for arguing with the referees in the fourth quarter. Coach Zyrkowski benched him for the rest of the game. Peterson didn’t sulk or hang his head while on the bench; he was engaged in the game and was vocal with his teammates.

“I talked to Drew afterward and he said all the right things, which is pretty heavy for a high school senior. He said [his technical foul] was wrong, he can’t be doing that, he’s gotta support his teammates,” said Aguilar. “The way he carries himself, if he was my son, I’d be proud. I always go up to star players after a tough game and try to talk to them and see their character. Drew’s body language and the way he talks [shows that] he carries himself very well.”

Peterson consistently pushes his teammates to get better, due to the fact that he wants to play at a high level and represent the town and LHS well. “He’ll text me asking to get shots up and getting me to work on my game, and we make sure we’re both working on our game…we both need to be working hard and we’re constantly pushing each other to get better,” said Simberg.

LHS Legacy

Peterson is being heavily recruited by colleges and is one of the top players in the state, according to Joe Henricksen, a prep hoops reporter. In an email, Henricksen added that Peterson is the top uncommitted senior in Illinois.

As far as next year, Peterson has many Division I schools recruiting him, such as Rice University, the University of Wisconsin, the University of Illinois and others. He said he is not committing until after the season to weigh all of his options.

In the interviews conducted for this story, many of the sources said in order for him to improve his game going into college, he needs to become stronger and to improve on his skill development. Many sources believe he can be an elite scorer at the next level.

According to Simberg, Aguilar, Henricksen, and Coach Zyrkowski, he is the best player in the county this year and ranks among the best in the state as well.

As far as players to go through Libertyville High School, he is an 1,000-point scorer, the first to achieve that feat since Matt Heldman did so in 1994. Heldman, who played at the University of Illinois, had his career cut short due to a tragic car accident.

“He’s the best player we’ve had since Matt Heldman. You can argue that his complete game, in terms that he can score, or he can pass, he’s doing all of those things and we haven’t had a player like Drew in years. He’s a game changer. He causes issues on the other team to defend him,” said Coach Zyrkowski. “He might be one of the top players we’ve ever had in this school, and I don’t know if we’re going to have a player like him in a while. He’s a unique player.”