Transfer guard Peppers uses injury as motivation off bench


Junior guard Gavin Peppers dribbles in a basketball game against the University of Michigan on Nov. 13 at the Crisler Center. 

A torn Achilles tendon may have landed Gavin Peppers on the Central Michigan men's basketball team. 

Peppers averaged double figures in scoring in two seasons at junior college schools, then aimed to play Division I basketball with Cleveland State. 

That plan was cut short with injuries.

Peppers said he suffered a "slight tear" in his Achilles tendon and tolerated plantar fasciitis, a condition that causes heel pain. 

The redshirt junior never played a game for the Vikings. He has played in all 20 games at CMU. 

He has yet to start a game for the Chippewas, but Peppers said he’s comfortable if he’s helping the team win. 

“Coming from junior college and then not playing last year — it has been an adjustment I’ve never made before,” Peppers said. “Coming off the bench, I try to bring energy and shoot my shot when it’s there and mainly be a solid defensive guy.

“I like my role. It’s different, but I stay in the gym everyday just trying to increase my minutes.”

Off the bench, Peppers averages 17 minutes a game and 6.6 points per game while totaling 31 assists and 10 steals.

Davis said his progression since arriving at CMU has been good and he’s someone the team excited to have for the next two years.

“Gavin can pass, he can score, he can shoot, he can defend — really he’s just very versatile,” Davis said. “As we continue to build a program next year and bring in new pieces, I think he’s a guy that will fit in with anybody and help us.”

Central Michigan junior guard Gavin Peppers clutches a basketball for a portrait before practice on Jan. 25 at the practice court.

The Brookeville, Maryland native said he had some conversations with Davis and the assistants over this past summer to lead him in the direction to become a Chippewa.

“Some of my coaches at Cleveland State told me there was a lot of schools interested in me and I had the chance to graduate earlier if I took classes over the summer,” Peppers said. “I got to talking with coach (Jeff) Smith and Keno a little bit, we set up a visit and I liked it a lot.”

While Davis had already found fellow transfer guard Shawn Roundtree to help replace former guards Braylon Rayson and Marcus Keene, he felt Peppers would fit with the culture of the CMU men's basketball program.

“He’s just a great kid to be around,” Davis said. “We knew he had some experience and could play immediately on top of his character. We knew whether we asked him to start, come off the bench, score, distribute or whatever we asked of him he would be willing to do, he’d do it."

Roundtree, who also played at junior college, said they have a relationship that’s grown since he arrived.

“Gavin and I both have been through some of the same stuff and were both guards,” Roundtree said. “We both help each other get better in practice and push each other, I think playing at JUCO schools has kind of made us work harder.”

Peppers agreed.

“Me, (senior forward) Cecil (Williams) and (Roundtree) always joke about things we didn't have at JUCO schools like some of the food we would eat and the road trips,” Peppers said. “At JUCO, we never really got it but now we can joke about it.”

When looking back on his road map to Mount Pleasant, Peppers said he doesn't have any regrets and is “living in the moment."

“I’m a firm believer in 'everything happens for a reason' so it’s just a part of my journey and it’s made me a better person and someone who doesn't take stuff for granted,” Peppers said. “I think this team has a lot left in the tank. I just want to do my part in helping.”