Freshman Kellen Tynes called him “a walking double-double.” Senior Gedi Juozapaitis said he’s “a rebounding beast” and the “glue guy,” while coach Chris Markwood said he’s the University of Maine’s sixth starter.
Peter Filipovity, in his second year with the Black Bears men’s basketball team, is having a breakout season in a myriad of ways.
Just 10 minutes into a Jan. 8 game against the New Jersey Institute of Technology, Filipovity injured his pinky finger on his right hand, forcing him out of the game. The junior then missed three games that ended in losses to New Hampshire, University of Maryland Baltimore County and Vermont.
When Filipovity returned to the team for a Jan. 22 contest against Bringhamton, UMaine was in the midst of an eight-game losing streak. Filipovity scored 12 points and pulled in nine rebounds in a 78-57 win.
After the game, Juozapaitis interrupted Filipovity getting interviewed and said, “Screw the interview — just say, ‘he’s back’ like MJ did.”
He was back, and since Filipovity has returned to his spot on the team, the first player called off the bench, UMaine has won four of its last five contests.
He leads UMaine in rebounds (124) and boards per game (6.2) while also scoring the third-most points per game (9.9). Filipovity has five double-doubles on the season with Tynes in second on the team with three.
“I just try to keep it consistent,” Filipovity said. “That’s my role, get a double-double, be good defensively.”
Talk to anyone on the Black Bears and they’ll bring up “energy” when discussing Filipovity. He crashes the boards, makes the right play and can score from all over the court.
“He brings the hustle plays, the energy. I think he’s playing with nine fingers right now,” said Juozapaitis in reference to Filipovity’s finger that is now in a splint. “He brings a huge lift for us. We struggled in the few games he was out, and he came back and we grabbed our first win. He’s leading the team in rebounding, doing the tough things and doing the right things.”
Filipovity leads UMaine in putback buckets with 18, 14 more than the next player, Ja’Shonté Wright-McLeish, and he shoots 63.7 percent at the rim.
“He’s got a knack for the ball and to score,” Markwood said. “He’s not going to shoot a ton of threes, but what he does is when we do shoot a bunch of threes he scores at the basket, which is a big deal. You can settle things down by getting him the ball down low. and he’ll make a tough finish.”
After the starting five, Filipovity is the first player up off the bench and averages 21.1 minutes per game. The consistency in which Filipovity shows every game is part of the reason he plays so much.
“You can make an easy argument that he’s been one of our most consistent players dating all the way back to our two preseason exhibitions,” Markwood said. “I tell our players all the time that he’s an ‘every day guy.’ You know exactly what you’re going to get. You’re going to get grit, toughness, fight every single time he steps on the floor. He’s not scared to stick his nose in there and get offensive rebounds or 50-50 balls.”
UMaine is without starting big man Kristians Feierbergs, with Ata Turgut in his place. With Feierbergs out, players have had to step up and sometimes guard different players than they usually would.
Filipovity said he’s comfortable guarding the two-through-four positions but will take any assignment he team needs.
“I am always up for the challenge, but with Kristians out, it’s Milos [Nenadic] and Ata that have to step up,” he said. “I don’t mind getting the bigger guys. I just love competing.”
Markwood loves what Filipovity brings on the defensive end.
“He brings versatility, first and foremost. He brings toughness,” Markwood said. “We didn’t have him down at UMBC, and their frontline hurt us. They played two bigs, and we didn’t have a matchup for their second big. When they played their two bigs last game, and he’s at the four spot, we didn’t feel like we were at a disadvantage because he’s 6-6, 215. He’s one of our strongest kids in the weight room, and he’s our toughest kid. He’s going to make them earn everything they get.”