From hardly speaking to each other in their first month as roommates to winning “Best Bromance” at the Night of the Owl awards, Rice seniors Seth Gearhart and Dan Peera have grown close as roommates and teammates over the last three years as their careers progressed on the court as well.
Both players have been named to the Conference USA Commissioner’s Honor Roll in each of their three years and both were named to the NABC Honors Court in 2014 for their successes in the classroom. But it all began in the summer before their freshman year, when the strangers first became roommates.
Peera recalled, “We roomed together for a month in the summer before the school year started and I don’t think we even said a word to each other. We would be on our computers on the internet with headphones on in opposite corners of the room. We didn’t really start getting to know each other until after the school year began. It’s weird to think about how well you’ve gotten to know someone and looking back at the dynamics of the start of the relationship.”
Just as they have grown as friends, the two players have grown in different ways on the court, as evidenced by how well they’ve each played to start out the 2014-15 season. Gearhart increased his scoring by nearly triple his career average early in the campaign and leads the Owls in scoring and rebounding, while Peera had a memorable beginning of the year as well. The guard knocked down 12 of his first 13 shot attempts of the year, including 7-of-8 three-pointers. That five-game stint alone was enough for him to double his career points scored.
Peera attributes the spike in production to a number of things. “First, I know we worked really hard over the summer. More so than in the past, we worked hard on everything from skills to conditioning. Personally, in addition to working hard, I have a different mentality now too. I don’t know if it’s because we’re seniors and things have clicked or if it’s something the coaches have brought out of us. But I know that every time I’m on the court, I’m going to be aggressive and leave it all on the court and see what we can make of it this year.”
Gearhart shared his own moment. “For me, I remember back to a practice when I didn’t have an open shot, so I passed the ball. Coach Rhoades stopped and asked, ‘What do you do if a guy closes on you?’ and I told him I would pass. But Coach said, ‘No! You have to drive the ball to the basket,’ and I had just never been coached that way before. He wants us to be a lot more aggressive and that mindset is something that has helped us play that way.”
Part of the fun for each senior has been the opportunity to watch the other flourish, knowing all the hard work they’ve put in over the years.
Peera said, “We’re enjoying it but we’re not content either. In a recent game, Seth drove and made a good move but he didn’t shoot – he passed the ball. When we got in the huddle a minute later, I screamed at him to shoot the ball when he gets in that position. We’re each other’s biggest fans, so it feels really good to see each other play well, but we don’t want to let it be ok to just be good enough. We want to keep moving forward and see where we can take things.”
Gearhart said of Peera’s hot start, “It’s been really cool because he works so hard and didn’t necessarily have these chances before. Now he has the opportunity and he’s taking advantage of it. Even my dad texts me just to say how great it is to see Dan have success on the court. I know everyone is really happy for him.”
The success on the court has made it easier for the pair to embrace their respective roles as senior leaders on the young team.
Gearhart said his role as a senior leader first hit him last spring when the team learned of a coaching change. “In that situation where we didn’t have a head coach leading us, Dan and I had to take a leadership role and make sure everyone stayed in control during the transition.”
Peera agreed and added, “Another time when it really hit me was at the beginning of the regular season, when the coaches would turn to us and we had a back-and-forth relationship. It was a unique position to be in, where we really got a look at what was going on in their minds and we had more of an equal relationship.”
The seniors have embraced their roles with a young team that features a handful of underclassmen. They described their method of leadership as a ‘Good Cop/Bad Cop’ style.
Peera said, “Since I’m a more vocal leader, what we agreed upon between us is that I’m the one that usually gets mad and is in-your-face, and then he comes in and is encouraging. That way the guys get both ends of it. They know that it’s not ok to make mistakes, but also nobody’s against you.”
Gearhart jokingly interjected, “After Dan brings someone to the point of tears, I bring them back so they can focus on what’s ahead.”
With their final seasons moving quickly, both student-athletes are beginning to look back and reflect on their time at Rice, and what they hope to leave behind following graduation.
Peera said, “The coaches have talked to us about it, and we know building up this program is not something that’s going to happen overnight. It’s the beginning stages of that process and we know that how we handle it right now is going to set the foundation for that. We’re teaching three years of guys behind us that will turn around and influence the next four years behind them and it will go down the line. If we can set our values and our work ethic and attitude into that and instill it with them, it’s the first step in building something special at Rice.”
Gearhart agreed, saying “In however many years, when Rice is winning 20 games per season, it will be really cool to know that we were part of the group that started it. That’s a lot better than looking back and wishing we would have done things different.”