Just 25 high school freshmen across the country earned a spot on ESPN’s recent list of the top talents in the class of 2025.
One of them isn’t quite satisfied with his placement, even with only three names ranked above his own.
“I got a target on those guys’ backs, so when I play them I’m just gonna try to kill,” Canton, Ohio, native Darryn Peterson told Eleven Warriors at the Nike EYBL event in Indianapolis on April 22.
With no composite rankings yet for members of the 2025 class, ESPN’s list – as early as it may seem – makes it clear Peterson is among the elite players in the nation at this juncture.
Wrapping up his freshman year at Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy, Peterson may have a legitimate chip on his shoulder to continue improving his stock among his contemporaries. But the 6-foot-5 shooting guard was still pleased to see his name turn up as high as it did on ESPN’s rankings just the same.
“It’s very exciting. Some of my hard work’s paying off,” Peterson said. “Continue to work hard and fight for that No. 1 spot. … Great feeling man. Just knowing that there’s a lot of people playing hard trying to get to where I am. I just feel like if I continue to work hard, I get better every year, I’ll keep getting better.”
Nothing about his performance at the second session of Nike EYBL play in Indianapolis at the end of April contradicted the ranking he earned just one day before the action began. By the end of his first game of the event, playing alongside the 15U NJ Scholars AAU team, Peterson’s squad had put up 66 points in a double-digit win over its opponent.
After the game, a glance at the stat sheet at the scorer’s table revealed Peterson had 31 of those points. It came as little surprise to those in attendance.
One such spectator was Ohio State assistant Jake Diebler, who was officially promoted to associate head coach with the Buckeyes on Thursday. Despite spending the first several hours of the EYBL event watching 17U competition at the Pacers Athletic Center, the primary gym of the event, Ohio State’s top assistant took a 30-minute drive to Noblesville East Middle School around 10 p.m. to watch Peterson.
Diebler, like the rest of the fans, family members and scouts on site, witnessed Peterson slice his way to the rim time and time again, demonstrating his superiority while looking like a man among boys during the contest.
Peterson had 31 of his teams 66 points in a win for NJ Scholars against the Oakland Soldiers. https://t.co/O9JuO6gALD— Griffin Strom (@GriffinStrom3) April 23, 2022
But Diebler and the Ohio State coaching staff had already been well aware of Peterson’s talents. In fact, he earned an offer from the Buckeyes all the way back in August 2021, and it was a moment he won’t soon forget.
“I was excited as ever because that’s my hometown. So I loved that one,” Peterson said. “And I knew some people there; Malaki Branham, Meechie (Johnson), I knew those guys. So those were big homies for me. … (The coaches) talk to my dad more than me. The relationship’s there. I love those guys.”
Peterson listed Branham, who officially announced he will be a one-and-done at Ohio State on April 27, as his favorite Buckeye. When comparing their position and size, it’s not hard to see why. Both prolific scoring guards and Ohio natives, it only makes sense that Peterson would look to Branham as a role model. Given the Big Ten Freshman of the Year’s projected first-round NBA draft status next month, he figures to be an ideal mentor for Peterson.
But Peterson may soon grow beyond Branham’s physical frame. As just a freshman in high school, Peterson is already 6-foot-5 and 195 pounds, which is just as tall and 15 pounds heavier than Branham’s own measurables as a freshman at Ohio State.
And if you ask Peterson, putting on more weight to add strength over the summer is one of his top priorities as he heads into year two of varsity basketball.
“Definitely (working on) my body, trying to get stronger,” said Peterson when asked what he’s trying to fine-tune about his training regimen in the coming months. “Eating more healthy, stretching before and after games, and my jump shot.”
Attending a private school for the first time as a high school freshman, Peterson’s transition was a rather smooth one considering he earned a spot on the Ohio Prep Sportswriters Association Division II All-Ohio first team this past year.
Peterson said his first year went well, but he still has his eyes fixed on bigger goals moving forward.
“I loved it. Going there, private school, first year at a private school. First year of varsity basketball, it wasn’t what I expected,” Peterson said. “They were a lot stronger, bigger, I had to adjust. … It’s been a good year. Fell in the district championship, wanted to get a little farther, but worked hard that year. Coming back next year stronger.”
Ohio State – which doesn’t even have a commit in the 2024 class, let alone 2025 – will be no lock to land Peterson when the time comes for one of the nation’s top talents to decide on a collegiate destination. During his interview in Indianapolis, Peterson already had offers from Indiana, West Virginia, Arizona State and several other schools, but that list only continues to grow by the day.
“I got 11 or 12 offers right now,” Peterson said back on April 22. “That’s very great. They’re noticing me, coming to games and stuff. That’s very pleasing to me, I love that.”
Since then, Peterson has been offered by Missouri, Illinois, Michigan, TCU and Kansas State, and it’s likely that his recruiting profile will only continue to grow if he keeps performing like he did at the aforementioned AAU event.
And in case it wasn’t clear, Peterson has a lot of motivation to do so.
“I think I work very hard. I got my parents and little siblings counting on me,” Peterson said. “I told them they’re not gonna have to work all day every day. So I work hard for them.”