SHERIDAN — Both Dante Gonzales and Hayden Peterson wear the same grey warmups to every game. They stake a claim on the bench near one another, their cheers standing as the only thing they can do to help their team during 40 minutes of game time.
However, that all changes during a week of practice. Both Gonzales and Peterson blend in and appear as just one of the guys competing hard until the whistle blows.
Gonzales and Peterson are Sheridan College’s redshirts. Neither will see the floor this season, and they both know it’s for the best.
“Me and Dante, we enjoy it,” Peterson said. “It’s just as fun cheering the guys on while on the bench as it would be if we were out there. … I’m learning every day, and I’m enjoying it. I think it’s going to pay off big.”
SC men’s basketball head coach Matt Hammer conducts the conversation regarding a potential redshirt with the student-athlete prior to the start of every season. Those conversations were different for Gonzales and Peterson.
Peterson came to Sheridan with the knowledge that he would redshirt, while Gonzales’ was more of a last-minute decision. Gonzales played in the jamboree games and after having that and a month of practices under his belt, Hammer determined it would be in Gonzales’ best interest to redshirt, as well.
“[Hammer] broke it down on how the year was going to pan out for me,” Gonzales said. “He told me to get bigger, faster and stronger. He said it wasn’t my game; my IQ was there.”
Gonzales hails from Gilbert, Arizona, where he played his high school basketball at San Tan Charter School. He averaged 18.5 points, 7.7 assists and 6.4 rebounds per game. Gonzales’ team won back-to-back state titles during his time, and he claimed Player of the Year honors as a senior.
Peterson has a similar high school resume to that of his redshirt comrade. Peterson boasted All-State honors his junior and senior seasons, and helped the Bison claim the 10th state championship in school history as a senior, scoring 37 points in the title game. He averaged 17.7 points per game as a senior — second in the state — hitting 53 percent of his field-goal attempts.
Both Gonzales and Peterson were heavily relied upon within their respective high school squads. To go from that prominent role in high school to not playing in college has been a tough transition at times, and Hammer commends the pair for their unselfish attitudes.
“It takes a lot of character to go from being the man one year to being out of the spotlight the next year and not being able to step in and play,” Hammer said. “You got to give them both a lot of credit.”
Hammer hasn’t redshirted many players in his five years at SC. He tried in his first season, and it didn’t transpire well both on and off the floor.
That isn’t the case for Gonzales and Peterson. Both players possess high GPAs and bring energy to the practice floor every day.
“You got to be a special type of guy to redshirt and still be a positive influence on the team,” Hammer said. “Both guys have been great.”
Gonzales and Peterson both went back to their respective hometowns for the holidays. The two frequented their old stomping grounds during that time and both impressed their former coaches, teammates and friends with how much they’ve improved during their first year of college.
“I could tell my game has separated so much more,” Gonzales said. “It’s crazy, playing against the competition here at Sheridan. I’m a very mediocre player here, but when I go home, you could tell I’ve separated a lot.”
Gonzales and Peterson have watched and studied parts of their teammates’ games in an effort to try and emulate some of their best attributes. During film sessions, Gonzales will watch how Adham Eleeda runs off screens and how quickly he has his feet set for a 3-pointer — Eleeda leads the Generals, connecting on 49 percent of his shots from deep. Peterson watches starting point guard Josh Bagley and how he handles the ball and runs the offense. In a year from now, both Bagley and Eleeda will have moved on from SC, leaving a couple backcourt holes in need of filling for the Generals. That’s where Gonzales and Peterson come into play.
Redshirting isn’t easy, and it isn’t for everyone, but if utilized properly, the year of development and growth can benefit the player greatly.
Gonzales and Peterson have taken their redshirt year seriously and will look for the residual effects next season.