I’m not too sure that many people saw this run coming; unless you’re a Peacock of course.
Nestled away in Jersey City, N.J., sat 2,134 undergraduate students, some we may call “modern-day prophets.” The Saint Peter’s faithful predicted that their Peacocks would not only win a first-round game but win the whole tournament.
And look at them now as Saint Peter’s is halfway there.
Squeezing past both Kentucky and Murray State in the opening weekend, Saint Peter’s followed that up with a victory against Purdue. Now, they have a date with one of the bluest of blue bloods, North Carolina, for a trip to the Final Four.
THE NO. 15 SAINT PETER'S PEACOCKS ARE GOING TO THE ELITE EIGHT— SB Nation (@SBNation) March 26, 2022
Welcome to a moment in history pic.twitter.com/9bmU3C6ibC
You may know the story by now, but let’s meet the team.
As the great Mark Wahlberg once said, “I’m a peacock, captain! You gotta let me fly.”
Holloway has made history his whole life. This stage is nothing new to him.
Growing up in the Bronx, N.Y., he assembled a team that resembles him. Half of the program is from either New York City (where he grew up) or New Jersey (the state he played college basketball in). A good majority of the other players are prep school guys from Africa.
“I’ve got guys from New Jersey and New York City,” Holloway said during a media availability last week. “You think we’re scared of anything.”
In high school, Holloway quickly became one of the best high school point guards in the nation. He chose to stay close to home for college and played at Seton Hall. Starting 109 games for the Pirates, Holloway was the point guard on the last team from New Jersey to make the Sweet 16 prior to this run by the Peacocks. That’s not where the story gets interesting though.
One of the seven other schools in the Elite Eight, Duke, gave him an offer. He visited twice and didn’t commit. Mike Krzyzewski later told Holloway that he is the first player to ever visit the school twice and not commit to the program. Now, there’s a chance they meet up in the Final Four.
Holloway’s stellar high school play led him to make the 1996 McDonalds All-America game, where he played alongside Kobe Bryant, Richard Hamilton, Jermaine O’Neal and Stephen Jackson and opposite Mike Bibby. Despite all this NBA talent, Holloway won the game’s MVP award by scoring seven points, dishing eight assists, and registering six steals.
Hi coaching career began at MAAC rival Iona, where he served as an assistant on Kevin Willards’ staff. After three years with the Gaels, Holloway followed Willard to his alma mater Seton Hall. In the spring of 2018, Holloway received his first head coaching job by taking over at Saint Peter’s.
It’s safe to say that he has a long, successful coaching career ahead of him.
Everyone always loves to talk about how Ja Morant was under-recruited. Well, get back to me after you read through this piece. There’s talent everywhere.
Daryl Banks III
Although Banks is one of three Peacocks to attend nearby Patrick School in Elizabeth, N.J., he is a clear outlier on this team. Originally from Los Angeles, he is the only American Saint Peter’s player from west of Philadelphia.
Just like the rest of his team, Banks was not highly recruited. He had two D-I offers: Wagner and Saint Peter’s.
Immediately he made an impact with the Peacocks and started 21 games and made the MAAC All-Freshman team. He followed that up with two consecutive seasons to the All-MAAC Third Team.
The team's starting guard showed that he can produce in big games. Against Providence earlier this year, he scored a career-high 26. He would then go on to beat that with 27 against Kentucky.
Fousseyni and Hassan Drame
The twins are from Mali and are another Holloway recruiting gem.
After an impressive international career, the two found their way to Jersey City. In 2019, they led Mali to the U19 FIBA World Cup Finals, combining to average 22.6 points, 16.3 rebounds and 5.6 assists per game. To follow that up, they won a combined five MAAC Freshman of the Week honors and both made the MAAC All-Academic team during their sophomore year.
Hassan only had one college offer as Fousseyni had five, but it seemed like they always wanted to play together, and oh boy was that a great decision.
There aren’t many better all-around defensive players in the country than Ndefo. He’s won three consecutive MAAC Defensive Player of the Year awards.
Completely shutting down stars like Oscar Tshiebwe and Zach Edey over the past week, he had recruiters all over the country scratching their heads. Saint Peter’s was his only D-I offer.
The name should have been known last season as he led the country in blocks. He put his name in the transfer portal, but no offer was as intriguing as the one in Jersey City.
Now look what he’s helped build.
Something clicked around the MAAC tournament for this young fella. The freshman didn’t start a game until the conference tournament opener against Fairfield and has not left it since. He wasn’t even the best freshman on his team during the regular season.
Although the playing time has been limited, Rupert has been huge for the Peacocks down low. Through three NCAA tournament games, he has scored 24 points, including 11 against Purdue. This total matched his season-high against St. John’s.
Rupert was one of the most highly recruited players on this roster, getting offers from Bryant, UMass, Norfolk State, Georgia, Temple, Old Dominion, Murray State, Saint Louis and Wichita State.
Lee is another starter who only had one D-I offer. He’s made the most of it, starting 48 games over the past two seasons.
Leading the team in assist rate, you can say that he the closest resemblance of Holloway on the basketball court. He even kind of looks like him, just with more hair.
Murray has carved himself the ultimate sixth-man role. The only Peacock to make MAAC All-Freshman team, he has made at least two baskets per game in the NCAA tournament, averaging 13.3 minutes per contest.
He chose Saint Peter’s over the likes of Saint Bonaventure, UMass, Dayton, Seton Hall and Texas Tech.
Edert, America’s sweetheart, has more than just buckets on the basketball court in his future.
Last week, he scored a NIL deal with Buffalo Wild Wings. That’s what happens when you score 20 points off the bench and are perfect from 3-point range in an NCAA tournament game against Kentucky.
He’s been doing it for a while, ranking near the top nationally in several offensive categories. He sits 20th in offensive rating, 33rd in free throw rating and 79th in 3-point percentage. You can argue that there aren’t many offensive players better than him.
Edert followed that Kentucky performance with two more double-digit scoring performances.
Mustache and all, players like him are what makes this tournament so great. A lot of people's unknowns become known.
The Peacocks face-off against North Carolina on CBS Sunday at 5:05 p.m. ET with a trip to the Final Four on the line. They will look to become the first true mid-major program to make the Final Four since Loyola (Ill.) in 2018.