Growing up, Peter Kramer attended nearly every Hampton basketball home game during the program’s lengthy run as a perennial WPIAL title contender, idolizing star players like Ryan Luther and dreaming of one day donning the Talbots’ royal blue and white jerseys.
Kramer doesn’t have to dream any longer.
After playing a starring role in Shady Side Academy’s run to a WPIAL Class 3A championship as a sophomore, Kramer traded in his navy blue and gold Bulldogs jersey and decided to transfer to Hampton going into his junior season. Kramer has said he wanted to play alongside his older brother, Alex, who graduated from Shady Side last year after the two captured the WPIAL title together. But as hard as it was for him to say goodbye to his Bulldogs teammates, it’s safe to say Kramer feels right at home back at Hampton.
“It’s something that made coming back much easier, because I knew I would be welcomed back,” Kramer said. “I have all these friends, and it’s made it so much easier for me to be welcomed in the community. … [Shady Side] was a great school. Great people, great teachers, but I just thought I fit in better at Hampton.”
Having spent the entire spring, summer and fall training and competing alongside his new Talbots teammates — not to mention growing up and playing together with the majority of them up until high school — Kramer has fit in seamlessly while quickly establishing himself as the team’s top scoring threat. And as proven by his 37-point outburst Tuesday night to open up section play in a crucial 73-58 win at Highlands, the 6-4 shooting guard no doubt belongs in conversations about the top overall players in the WPIAL.
“Peter is our go-to basketball player. He’s our No. 1 option when it comes to our offensive sets. The team recognizes that, and they accept that,” said Hampton coach Joe Lafko. “It is something that Peter has worked really hard to make himself into that caliber of player. … Peter has some size that we can take advantage of in the high school game, especially as a rangy 6-4 guard. And he jumps well.”
Through the first 10 games of the season, Kramer leads the Talbots (8-2, 1-0) with an average of 19.4 points per game while knocking down 40% of his shots from 3-point range. He is also Hampton’s leading rebounder (6 rpg) and tops on the team in steals (1.8 spg).
“From my perspective of coaching Pete for this limited time that I have, the thing that stands out the most to me is his competitiveness,” Lafko said. “When the game is on the line, he is an extremely competitive player who turns it up a notch. That’s become evident in a couple of our close games that we’ve won.
“He’s accepting of taking the big shot. That doesn’t bother him, which is another characteristic of a go-to player.”
For many of Kramer’s formative years, Hampton was always in the mix for a WPIAL title and playing meaningful basketball games deep into February and March. From 2006-17, the Talbots made seven trips to the WPIAL title game, with their sole Class 3A championship coming in 2009.
Kramer isn’t old enough to remember that one, but you can bet there’s nothing he wants more than to add a second championship banner to hang next to it before his time at Hampton is up.
“It’s definitely a goal of mine,” Kramer said. “You win one, and it’s like, you feel like you’ve got to win another one. Being back at Hampton, it would mean a lot.”
Unfortunately for Kramer, if the Talbots are going to win a Class 4A title this year, they’ll have to do it without him in the playoffs. The WPIAL ruled Kramer ineligible for postseason play due to a rule regarding players who transfer after their sophomore or junior seasons.
Still, if Hampton is going to have any chance of making a deep playoff run without him this year, the Talbots are going to need all the wins they can get while they still have Kramer in the regular season. The higher the seed they receive, the easier their path to a championship will be — although it certainly won’t be easy.
“I think even though I can’t play in the playoffs — I think I can use that to become a better leader,” Kramer said. “I feel like I’ve become a leader on the court, but it’s hard to become a leader off the court. I think that will actually help me a lot when I can’t play in the playoffs.”
No matter what happens this year, Kramer will still have a full senior season ahead of him at Hampton with no playoff restrictions. And if he can find a way to lead the Talbots to a WPIAL title, he realizes he would join an exclusive list of players to win WPIAL championships as a starter at two different schools.
Not that he’s looking too far ahead or anything.
“I’m not looking forward too much. We’re focused on this year,” Kramer said. “That would be pretty special. We’ll see.”