#STINGDAILY: Proud As A Peacock

Aug. 2, 2012

By Matt Winkeljohn
Sting Daily

Lest one might imagine that there was a sense of wistfulness Thursday when Zach Peacock walked out of his Finite final because, well, it was the last exam of his college career, think again.

No way. Peacock will be one of a whopping four former Georgia Tech men’s basketball players to graduate tonight in ceremonies at the Fox Theater, and no, there will be absolutely no looking back. He played for the Yellow Jackets from 2006-’10, and returned to The Flats in each of the past three summers to finish up course work.

The first time back, there were still quite a few familiar faces. Last summer, after his first season playing professionally in Germany, not so many. Peacock, in fact, told Sting Daily last summer that, “I feel old,” even though he was 23 at the time.

Tonight, he’ll just be glad, ecstatic, really, to take that Business Management degree, and bolt. About a dozen of his family members will be in town from South Florida to watch. Peacock will be joined by former hoopsters B.J. Elder, who has also played extensively overseas in recent years, and seniors Nick Foreman and Derek Craig.

Former basketball players will represent nearly one-fourth of the 17 current and former Tech student-athletes who will graduate tonight, including quarterback Tevin Washington and offensive lineman Nick McRae.

It’ll be an emotional moment, of course, but when Peacock walked out of Finite yesterday, “it was just a good feeling, a relieved feeling . . . knowing I’m done with school for now. There is no sadness. I’m in a happy situation; there is nothing sad about it all.”

When he arrived in the summer of ’06 from Miami, Peacock was on the edge of the radar. Fellow freshmen Thaddeus Young and Javaris Crittenton were hogging headlines that summer and fall (Brad Sheehan and walk-on Ty Anderson were freshmen as well and have since graduated). Yet Peacock made waves once the season started by earning a starting spot. In fact, he started the Jackets’ first nine games in what became an NCAA Tournament campaign.

A big guy (he’s 6-feet-8), Peacock earned playing time on the strength of his understanding of the game and his unique ability to stretch defenses. He made exactly one-third of his long shots in four seasons with the Jackets while averaging 8.3 points in 122 career games.

That same skill set helped him land a job last winter with Bremerhaven, in a country that Peacock has come to enjoy. “I’m going to continue playing ball [in Europe] and see what develops,” he said. “It’s always different; you don’t know how it’s going to go,” he said. “I love Germany. Nice country.”

Peacock, who averaged 11.8 points for Bremerhaven, is part of a pretty big ongoing deal. Last August, Moe Miller and Lance Storrs graduated.

Just the other day head coach Brian Gregory was talking about his present players taking more ownership in the program. The sight of former players coming back to finish their degree work is yet another sign of the multiple ways that Yellow Jackets are encouraged to take advantage of their opportunity on The Flats.

“That’s big for our program. That’s six guys in a 12-month period,” Gregory said. “That’s a pretty good accomplishment, especially for where we were . . . and I just saw [Elder’s former Tech teammate] Jarrett Jack last week. He’s only got two more classes next summer. You see those guys getting in their schoolwork, and also in the weight room and working out . . . that’s what great programs have: guys who are still playing that are around using the facilities.

“It’s always an opportunity for the young guys to look and say, ‘That’s exactly where I want to get to.’ You have a degree in your hand, and you’re making a living playing. When their playing days are over, they’re going to have a smooth transition to whatever it is because they’ll have a Georgia Tech degree in hand. That’s a pretty good situation.”

Foreman agreed the other day.

He sounds very much like he wants to go to graduate school in his adopted hometown of Houston. He’s not sure of the timeline, however, and it will not be immediate. Much like Peacocke, who said he can imagine himself one day pursuing a graduate degree, Foreman has no immediate plan. He wants to be done with school completely, if just for a bit.

“This is a great school, and I’ve worked hard,” Foreman said. “I’m not even sure yet when. I haven’t applied, but at some point . . . “

Ditto, Peacock.

He’s confident that he’ll play again this winter in Europe, although he’s not yet sure for whom. That won’t be an issue for another six to eight weeks.

In the meantime, he knows Atlanta is likely to fit into his future, but beyond that he’s just going to . . . be.

“Right now, I don’t have a plan at all. That’s how I like to keep it. Just get up and do,” Peacock said with a chuckle. “I’ve got to split that love between Miami and Atlanta. This has definitely become someplace I call home.”

Comments to stingdaily@gmail.com. Follow on Twitter @mwinkeljohn.

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