Thanks to hard work, Union
star finding Peace on court
By Joe Simon
New Castle News
It’s hard for Markel Peace to hide on a basketball court.
The Union High junior is 6-foot-2. He can dunk with ease and he’s one of the elite scorers for the Scotties.
Still, at times last season, it was hard to find Peace.
“Last year, a little adversity would hit, and he might have buckled under it a little bit,” Union coach Dave Smialowski said. “And that was his youth.”
Peace made sure he grew up for this season.
A year later, Peace is front and center, no matter the situation. He leads the Scotties in scoring (15.0 points per game) and is tied in rebounding (7.1 per game). Smialowski said the explosive forward spent the spring, summer and early portions of winter in the gym improving his game. And the work has created a player no long afraid of the moment.
“This year, he doesn’t look at it that way,” Smialowski said. “The adversity hits, and he wants to keep going. It’s been fun to watch him progress through the year.”
His development reached new heights last week, when Peace scored 25 in a loss to Lincoln Park, the top-ranked team in Class A by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, tossed in 28 against Western Beaver and added 18 in a nonsection win over Mohawk.
The performance earned him Lawrence County Athlete of the Week honors, an award sponsored by Washington Centre Physical Therapy and selected by the New Castle News sports staff.
Peace has quickly matured into one of the best all-around players in Lawrence County. His speed and explosiveness allow him to wreak havoc in the open court, while his size and strength make him difficult to handle down low. Add in a newly found mid-range jumper, and Peace is a matchup nightmare.
“He’s a great athlete,” said Smialowski, gushing with enthusiasm when describing Peace’s talent. “He’s one of the best jumpers I’ve seen. He gets off the floor quick, he has strong hands and he has good acceleration. In the open floor, if that ball is out there, he’s getting it and he’s going to the rim.”
Much of Peace’s physical talents came naturally, he said, but his basketball skills took practice. He worked day in and day out on his jump shot — and continues to perfect it. At this point last year, Peace had five 3-pointers. He has 12 through 15 games this season, and his mid-range jumper has been deadly at times.
“I knew going into the offseason that I had a lot of work to do,” Peace said. “My outside shot is coming around. Slowly, but it’s getting there.”
The emergence of Peace has been vital to the Scotties’ resurgence. Union, coming off a 2-19 season, is 8-7 overall and 2-3 in Section 1-A. The Scotties are currently holding on to the fourth and final playoff spot. Peace is a big reason why.
He’s quick to deflect praise, especially with numerous teammates able to score in double figures on a nightly basis, but Smialowski said his contributions can’t be overlooked.
“He’s really having a nice year,” he said. “And we knew that he was going to be solid for us because he’s put the time in. He’s worked at it. Sometimes kids don’t do that. They don’t go out on their own and work at it, and he has. And like I said, he’s a good athlete and his basketball skill, it’s only going to get better because he’s going to keep working at it.”
Not all of it needs work. His dunking? That’s pretty good. He might need to start working with teammates on that, particularly Joe Salmen, who came up a few inches short of finishing a slam at practice Monday.
“He’s coming along,” Peace said with laugh.
THE MARKEL PEACE FILE
KNOWN FOR: Peace led the Scotties in scoring last year at 9.8 points per game, but he’s taken his game to the next level this year. He averages a
team-high 15 points per game and also grabs seven rebounds per game. His array of skills make the 6-foot-2 junior a tough matchup for anyone.
PARENTS: Kelly and Derrick Peace.
FAVORITE PRO PLAYER AND WHY: Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls. “I like how he’s a good, explosive player and he’s kind of built around my size.”
FAVORITE PRO TEAM AND WHY: Chicago Bulls. “They’ve got that history with (Michael) Jordan and (Scottie) Pippen, and I’m a big Derrick Rose fan.”
FUTURE PLANS: Peace said he wants to continue to play basketball in college, but he’s not sure where and is undetermined on a major.