The Story of Marc Gasol and Jason Peters (Part III)

Apr 22, 2017; Memphis, TN, USA; Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol (33) celebrates during the second half against the San Antonio Spurs in game four of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at FedExForum. Memphis Grizzlies defeated the San Antonio Spurs 110-108 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 22, 2017; Memphis, TN, USA; Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol (33) celebrates during the second half against the San Antonio Spurs in game four of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at FedExForum. Memphis Grizzlies defeated the San Antonio Spurs 110-108 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports /

Jason Peters, Marc Gasol’s high school coach, knew he could be something special before anyone else did. For Gasol, it was all about getting in good shape.

Jason Peters was surrounded by talent ever since high school. This is a man who played a playoff basketball game against Treadwell’s Penny Hardaway and Elliot Perry. A man whose father is a legend in the Mid-South. A man who coached Jerry West’s son, Johnny, on the Marc Gasol teams in 2001 and 2002.

Oh and by the way, Johnny West would go on to play for Bob Huggins’s Mountaineers. Even his dad Jerry West, famously known as “The Logo”, would stop by at practice from time to time to give Peters a few pointers.

Jason Peters is the man who knew Marc Gasol could be something special before anyone else did:

"“He could shoot from the outside. In high school, it was kind of funny…we would play a lot of teams that we would be up by 30 points of the first half. And so I would play him on the wing because I didn’t want to not play him because I wanted him to be happy, and I wanted him out there continuing to try and get in better shape.”"

So what did Coach Peters do?

He would play him on the wing so that he wouldn’t dominate opponents from the inside, a sign of good sportsmanship. Then the unbelievable happened.

“We found out that he could shoot from out there unbelievably well,” said Peters.

He would drive to the basket, penetrate through the middle of the lane and even pass the ball out to the open man; he just played guard.

“It was so weird looking having a six-foot-ten, 300-plus pound guy playing wing,” Peters recalled.

Back in high school, Jason Peters and Marc Gasol would go to the gym on the weekends. They would shoot around for hours, launching everything from right-handed skyhooks to 3-pointers.

Said Peters: “I could shoot with him for an hour, shooting 3-pointers and he could go like 45 out of 50. And he could shoot above 80 percent from the 3-point line in practice.

Asked if he knew that Marc Gasol could get to where he is today, Peters scratched his head.

"“I had no idea he could get to where he is now. You know, I thought he could get to maybe half of that or three quarters of that, and that might be enough. Kind of like when we saw him first come to the Grizzlies. He was still a little big, but he could use that size inside and push people around a bit and stuff like that. But for him to evolve into what he is now, I don’t think I could have imagined that.”"

The Evolution of Marc Gasol

The evolution of Marc Gasol is something special. Rarely does one see a seven-foot beast shed over 60 pounds of fat while gaining muscle, quickness, and maintaining one’s net-burning jump shot. Back in high school, it was hard for Marc Gasol to get in shape. No, not simply because of American fast food and countless Big Mac’s, but because Gasol would go home during the summers.

Peters’ team would workout for two months during the summer, go to camps and do weight workouts and conditioning. Gasol was never around for that, so that certainly didn’t help Big Spain slim down. But finally when he went back to Spain after he graduated from Lausanne, he addressed his conditioning and, as you can see, he completely transformed his body.

He’s also showcased his 3-point shooting ability to the whole association, scorching 39 percent of his attempts from behind the arc. Almost no one knew Marc Gasol could shoot that well from downtown. Not Lionel Hollins. Not Dave Joerger. Nor any analyst in the business. But do you want to know who did?

Jason Peters.

Spain and Throughout

When it was all said and done, Marc Gasol earned first-team All-State, averaging 26 points, 13 rebounds, five assists and six blocks per game in his senior year. He would go back to Spain after high school, not accepting a walk-on spot at the University of Memphis under Coach John Calipari.

Gasol, along with his family and Coach Peters, “decided he would do just like Pau had done: full-time club basketball for FC Barcelona.”

Marc’s schedule was very stringent. He would wake up and practice, doing an individual basketball workout with a trainer that lasted about two hours. After that, Gasol would go to his team’s regular practice for another two hours. Following team practice, he would do his strength and conditioning, which was another three hours with a personal trainer. Gasol had seven hours of pure physical exercise…for three straight years.

Scouts with the Grizzlies were keeping an eye on him because they obviously knew him. Soon, Marc Gasol began to win FIBA World Championship gold and silver medals in 2006 and 2007, respectively. He was winning championships on European teams, and people began to take notice – especially the Memphis Grizzlies front office.

On 2007 NBA draft night, the Los Angeles Lakers selected Marc Gasol with the 48th pick. But on February 1, 2008, his draft rights were traded by the Lakers to the Memphis Grizzlies as a part of a trade package that sent his brother, Pau, from Memphis to Los Angeles. Marc Gasol was coming home to where it all started, and Peters was thrilled:

"“Basically what it boils down to is Marc goes to high school in Memphis, goes home, and ends up playing NBA basketball in the same place where he played high school. I wonder how many times that’s ever happened.”"

Not once.

Related Story: In the Shadow of a Superstar, Peters/Gasol Part I

Staying In Touch

Believe it or not, the two still talk today.

"“We talk about the good old days. Really what we do is, when we see each other, we just kind of laugh because we remember where he was versus where he is now. He doesn’t even like me to bring things up from the past because it’s sort of embarrassing to him. You know, he was a high school chubby kid, but back then he didn’t think anything of it.”"

In fact, Coach Peters recently talked to Marc Gasol before he headed to his third All-Star game. He asked him to go back to his junior year of high school and think how did this happen? Marc’s response was an honest one.

“I don’t know, coach, I was very blessed,” said Marc Gasol.

Indeed he was. But so was Jason Peters:

"“I feel lucky as a coach to have gone through that experience. And he is a lesson for anybody that God is going to give you some ability and it all depends on what you do with it. He could have easily faded off, not taking himself seriously and not being dedicated to get himself right. But I just always knew just from a basketball perspective that he had the ability to do it and it’s just a great story overall.”"

A great story, indeed.

ICYMI: In the Shadow of a Superstar: Peters/Gasol Pt II