Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Louisville's Peyton Siva finding his inspiration Speedy guard Siva's time spent studying Suns' Nash continues to pay big dividends for Cardinals in tourney by Paola Boivin, columnist - Mar. 21, 2012 09:32 PM The Arizona Republic |

On the eve of the Big East Conference Tournament, Louisville coach Rick Pitino suggested Peyton Siva take a crash course in point-ology.

Call it Steve Nash 101.

This is homework, Siva thought? He's loved the Suns star, ever since he was invited to the Steve Nash Nike Skills Academy in New Jersey four years ago, an honor extended to the top 20 high school point guards in the country.

"So I watched over a hundred clips of Steve Nash moving around the court," Siva said Wednesday as Louisville prepared to meet Michigan State in an NCAA West Region semifinal Thursday at US Airways Center.

"It really helped me out by not forcing things and getting in trouble, by probing the court, giving other guys open looks and seeing the whole court a little better."

The cram session paid off. Siva was named the Most Outstanding Player of the Big East tournament, averaging 13.8 points, 6.3 rebounds, 5.8 assists and 2.8 steals in his four games.

"That's cool," Nash said from Florida. "It's very flattering."

Nash, who said he knew of Siva, also joked that Pitino could have just purchased Nash's instructional video, "Steve Nash MVP Basketball: Fundamentals of Basketball."

"It would have been easier," he mused.

Siva didn't mind. The clips were downloaded on his laptop and he watched them endlessly.

The 6-foot junior's great asset -- and sometimes his curse -- is his great speed.

"He plays at one pace and I wanted him to start to change his pace," Pitino said. "If he didn't have anything, continue dribbling out in a circle and take another opportunity, and nobody does that better than Steve Nash.

"Anytime you show them a great basketball player, they love to emulate that."

Siva, too, is a talented player. You don't receive an invitation to Nash's elite camp if you're not. He became Louisville's starting point guard his sophomore season and started every game.

He made his mark -- and landed on everybody's radar.

Not only were defenses targeting Siva at the beginning of this season, but he struggled with a badly sprained ankle and the aftermath of a concussion.

It took him time to feel comfortable again. He too often drove the lane at record speed and then made a bad decision with the ball.

The result was frequently a turnover, blocked shot or bad shot.

Pitino knew that's not who he was, that with a few adjustments and a little homework, his brilliant speed would take over.

The clips of Nash were the perfect solution. Anyone who has watched the way Nash breaks down a defense knows why.

"He's my inspiration, a Hall of Famer," Siva said. "Who wouldn't want to watch?"

That Siva will compete in Thursday night's region final on the same court that Nash plays his home games is a delightful twist. The past two seasons, the Cardinals have made a one-and-done exit from the NCAA Tournament.

Now they need to get past Michigan State and either Marquette or Florida to land in the Final Four.

No one is more excited about Siva's resurgence than his father.

Nine years ago, depression had overtaken Peyton Siva Sr. He turned to drugs and alcohol and one night left the family's South Seattle home and contemplated suicide.

His 13-year-old son was worried. Peyton Jr. took his older brother's car, tracked down his father and told him what he was considering was selfish.

"He saved my life," Siva Sr. told reporters last week in Portland, where Louisville was sent for the NCAA Tournament.

His father is doing fine now and the two have a close relationship. He plans to be at US Airways Center to watch his son take on a stingy Spartans defense.

Michigan State coach Tom Izzo is concerned about Siva Jr. -- and impressed.

"Silva is out of control, in control," Izzo said. "He's a unique guard. He can spin dribble, he can do all the things that sometimes you tell your guys not to do in traffic and he does it very well.

"How do you keep him out of there? Change the NCAA rules. Let us play with six guys, maybe, would be a big help."

No question, Siva is playing his best basketball.

In Louisville's first tournament game, against Davidson, he posted 17 points and six assists. The Cardinals (28-9) are 20-3 when Siva has five or more assists in a game.

"He's definitely turned the corner," Pitino said. "(He) is in the same line as (the person) I've been speaking so glowingly about, (Florida coach) Billy Donovan. He's the same type of person and very few guys like that I've met in 35 years.

"I still think he's one of the premier point guards in college basketball. He's playing great at the right time. Sometimes you can have a great regular season and you play terrible in the postseason.

"Nobody is going to remember that great regular season."

Said Izzo: "He is the straw that stirs the drink."

Sounds like another point guard we know.

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