Like most highly recruited players, the signing of Peyton Siva often overshadows the reality of Peyton Siva. Siva was the centerpiece of the 2009 recruiting class. Rakeem Buckles was a touted talent, but with Swopshire and Samardo still supposedly on the floor, his impact wasn't intended to be felt just yet. But Siva was the point of the future.
For a team that has suffered a biblical-style drought of star point guards since the gut punch of Sebastian Telfair (waht's he doing these days?) great things were expected of young Siva.
But as his freshman year progressed he still showed signs of immaturity, lack of physical stature, the inability to wrest the starting job from senior Edgar Sosa.
When he played we were treated to moments of quickness and grace weighed against dumb turnovers and, let's say it, freshman mistakes. It was hard for many fans to get their hearts back into that initial Siva love fest. Why bother? We have been burned before. This feeling is further inflamed when we see what some other top freshman point guards have done in the last few years - John Wall, Raymond Felton, Ty Lawson, Derrick Rose. Why isn't our guy doing that?
As the 2010 season opened, any swell of Siva-love was quickly checked by extended preseason minutes for Louisville favorite Elisha Justice followed closely by the explosive early season play of Preston! Knowles and Coach RP's expectation-lowering statements that this is a "bridge year." So what's a Siva? What's the point of this undersized, immature guard who once was the lightning rod for our hope?
The point is that, like UNC's Ty Lawson and Ray Felton before him, this kid is the quickest player on the floor at all times. Both of those guys decimated defenses, cut through the crowd and scored at will. Both of those guys led their teams to national titles.
Is Siva the same as those guys? No. Is this team as well-balanced at all other positions like the '05 and '09 UNC teams were? No. But given a chance Siva has taken games into his own hands and been the difference between winning and losing. Is he polished? Nope. He continues to play ahead of his game and his decision-making suffers lapses when he's leading the charge. But today we experienced something we haven't seen in many years. A guard who other teams don't seem to have an answer for in clutch minutes.
Does this mean that Siva is a top flight player? Maybe it does. Maybe we have a guy who is just now gaining the confidence of his team the way Sosa never could. He is growing every game. Today he outplayed the best guard in the country in the last 15 minutes of clutch play. Today he owned the floor when it mattered.
That feels good for us, but it feels better for him. It gives him the faith in himself to take over and make big plays. His teammates see that. He will be their leader on the floor. Siva is approaching a time when he may fulfill all of our expectations and make us remember that excitement we felt when he decided to jump coasts and play in Louisville.
We will not win a championship this year. Too many injuries, too many weaknesses. But we have the best shooters we've had since the Garcia/Dean days and they should be here next year (sans Preston!). We have a slashing guard the likes of which we haven't seen since before the days of Pitino.
I hope the pieces fall into place next year. I hope these guys stay calm and grounded. I hope they stay in games until my heart is about to stop. Because 2005 felt a lot like this, and let's not kid ourselves, that team overachieved like crazy. I'm not looking for anything more than what I've always felt this year's team would accomplish: top 6 in the Big East and a 2nd, maybe 3rd round out. But even with that we will have gained the most important piece for a team to grow on, an extremely talented, confident, upperclassman point guard. Peyton Siva.