Dylan Peeters was a valuable asset off the bench for Davenport Assumption's boys basketball team this past season as a sophomore.

The 6-foot-6 wing averaged 7.6 points per game, was the team's second-leading rebounder and compiled a 17-point, 10-rebound showing against Bettendorf.

But if the Knights plan to make another leap this winter and challenge for a league title and a state tournament berth, coach Matt Fitzpatrick said Peeters has to evolve from a role player to a go-to guy.

"It is time for him to take that next step," Fitzpatrick said Friday afternoon after the opening day of the 14th annual Justin Sharp Memorial Shootout in Rock Island. "This team needs him to take that next step.

"He can't take a backseat. He has to be an attack mode at all times because when he is, great things happen for us."

Peeters has spent time in the offseason improving his offensive game and adding strength. He's concentrated on pull-up jumpers, attacking the rim and drawing fouls.

Colleges are starting to take notice. Peeters has heard from Boise State, North Dakota, Nebraska-Omaha and Northern Iowa.

"I definitely want to be that guy next year, help lead the team," Peeters said. "I want to be in the starting lineup, and I want to help our team out a lot more on the offensive end."

Rockridge coach Andy Saey has seen plenty of Peeters. Saey coaches with the Quad-City Elite and Peeters plays on their 16-U team.

"Love him. Kid has a huge ceiling," Saey said. "His feet need to get a little bit better and he needs to build some strength, but he's a fun kid to coach.

"He's one of those kids that doesn't understand how good he can become."

Assumption split games in the opening session, trouncing Rockridge 54-23 and losing to Iowa Class 4A perennial power Iowa City West 56-47.

In addition to Peeters, the Knights return starters Trent Fitzpatrick and Ray Thrapp along with guard Landon Dugan.

Peeters said last season's ending left a sour taste, losing to Dubuque Wahlert in the district final.

"I really like this group," Fitzpatrick said. "Our base is there, hard work and togetherness. Now the next step is the hardest step in getting over that hump."

Switching seats: Saey spent the past three seasons as the sophomore coach and Toby Whiteman's varsity assistant at Rockridge. They've switched roles.

Saey said the transition has been seamless given his time in the program. He and Whiteman are close friends and continue to bounce ideas off each other.

"The first thing you have to do is earn respect and trust of the players," Saey said. "In this situation, I've already done that. It is getting down to what we want to work on this summer, how we want to grow and develop as a team."

The Rockets are trying to identify roles this summer to pick up the scoring slack left from all-stater Gentry Whiteman and all-Three Rivers performer Carson Frakes.

Saey is encouraged with his junior class, which includes second team all-league performer Riley Fetterer.

"We're hoping to build a solid culture, a solid foundation on doing things the right way," he said. "We're continuing to head in the right direction."

New-look Bulldogs: Bettendorf won a MAC championship and qualified for the Class 4A state tournament with 10 seniors on its roster last winter.

Other than junior-to-be point guard DJ Carton, who received a scholarship offer from Wisconsin on Friday, Bettendorf does not return anybody who saw significant playing time.

It has created a slew of opportunities for playing time.

"For the most part, guys have been hungry," coach Curtis Clark said. "There are lots of opportunities and roles. With a guy like DJ, he's going to create lots of opportunities for guys."

Even without Carton and Phil Gist on Friday, Bettendorf managed to record wins over Sherrard and Dubuque Senior to reach the quarterfinals.

The Bulldogs received a boost from 6-3 senior Devyn Wakefield, a United Township transfer.

Clark admits it will be a process for a young team.

"We need to keep it in perspective," he said. "We're not going to have a high level of success early on. It is going to be a journey, and our guys are going to have to buy into the process of that. We're going to have our obstacles early."

Bettendorf has played fewer games this summer. Clark said that's by design.

"I don't think game experience is something this group needs," he stated. "We need just more gym time."

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Prep sports editor, with emphasis on covering the Mississippi Athletic Conference and Iowa area high schools. I've been in sports journalism for 17 years, the last five at the Quad-City Times.