Zach Peters’ first football practice of the 2011 season ended in tragedy Monday at Prestonwood Christian Academy in Plano, Texas.
Prestonwood assistant coach Wade McLain, 55, died from a combination of heat exposure and heart disease during a prolonged break at the 4 p.m. practice — future Kansas University basketball player Peters’ first gridiron workout since his freshman year.
The 6-foot-9, 235-pounder had skipped the last two football seasons to concentrate on basketball.
He orally committed to play hoops at KU in April of 2010.
“The kids are in shock, still,” Peters’ dad, Tim, said Wednesday night in a phone conversation.
“I think there are 16,000 families at the (Prestonwood Baptist) church that the school is associated with, and all are devastated. Young kids ... they are not used to dealing with this.”
Zach and his teammates, who attended meetings Tuesday, were back on the football field at 8 a.m. Wednesday.
Zach hopes to pick up where he left off his freshman year when he caught 11 passes at wide receiver for 142 yards.
“My take on it is, I’ve told him to go down — don’t try to stay up and try to get extra yardage,” Tim Peters said with a laugh.
“Coach (Bill) Self thought it was a great idea. He played football. He thought for his (Zach’s) senior year ... the camaraderie and everything you have in football ...
“Zach loves to hit,” added Tim Peters, noting his son would have played football last season had he not sustained a concussion at the LeBron James Skills Academy in June of 2010.
“He’d rather be playing middle linebacker, but they won’t let him. He wants to go both ways, but the athletic director and football coach are keeping him (only) as a wide receiver. He’s going to Kansas to play basketball. They are trying to protect him from himself.”
Zach concentrated on basketball the entire summer.
“He did Michael Johnson Performance Training Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and ballet Tuesday and Thursdays,” Tim Peters said.
“He went to Kansas for a week and worked out with the guys (Jayhawks) at night. He worked out with John Lucas in Houston and a lot of the (NBA) draftees there.”
Peters lost about 10 pounds and is now a solid 235, Tim revealed.
“Michael Johnson Training is one of Nike’s top performance facilities. The Great Britain Bobsled team is there, the top ballerinas in the world are there, the top football speedsters. It is phenomenal,” Tim said. “It’s performance on every muscle — Nike’s highest technology performance. It is an incredible workout.”
Working out with former NBA coach Lucas proved beneficial to Zach, who is Rivals.com’s No. 135-rated player in the Class of 2012.
“Coach Lucas loves to see how physical Zach gets. He always puts him up against ‘Big Baby’ Davis (Glen Davis, Boston Celtics) or somebody like that,” Tim said.
What’s ahead are some taxing football practices in the Texas heat.
“He’s working his butt off. We are not too worried about the heat because he’s in the best shape of his life he’s ever been in,” Tim said.
A perfect scenario would be Prestonwood’s winning a third straight football state title followed by the school’s second state hoops title in four years.
Zach will be working out with the basketball team during first hour of each school day during this football season.
“In the state of Texas, football is a religion. Basketball is a sport,” Tim said. “The reason he is going to Kansas is because basketball is a religion. He wishes he was already at Kansas, but he has another year here.”
Maui pairings today: The pairings for the Maui Invitational will be revealed at 1 p.m. today on ESPN.com. Teams in the 2011 Invitational are: KU, Duke, Georgetown, Memphis, Michigan, Tennessee, UCLA and Chaminade.
Zimmerman has KU on list: Stephen Zimmerman, a 6-foot-10 freshman-to-be from Las Vegas’ Bishop Gorman High, has received scholarship offers from KU, UNLV, UCLA and UConn, according to Rivals.com.
“As a freshman, he has the highest potential of any kid I’ve seen at Gorman,” Gorman head coach Grant Rice told Rivals.com. “Just with his height, his ability and work ethic. He’s definitely going to be a special kid.
“It’s going to be one of those things where the small- to mid-level schools won’t even call because they know they won’t be in the ballpark. He’s one of those few kids that will be able to pick whatever school he wants to go to.”