Jewels of the Virgin Isles is a feature series profiling Virgin Islanders in the diaspora who are excelling in their respective fields and/or positively representing the USVI abroad.
Devon Peltier is not your average millennial from the Virgin Islands. Having just signed a deal to play internationally with team Azpietia Azkoitia ISB in Spain, the St. Thomas native is living his dreams and flying high as a point guard in the international basketball arena.
Peltier’s journey began on the basketball courts in the Donoe housing community, Al McBean basketball court in Estate Tutu, Emile Griffith basketball court in downtown Charlotte Amalie, at Peace Corps Elementary School and Bertha C. Boschulte Junior High School.
Thanks to a strong support system consisting of his parents, his uncle and his basketball coaches during his youth, Peltier was able to avoid the dangerous path of the streets and hone his natural talent as a ballplayer. It is a journey that would eventually take Peltier to Missouri and Raytown High School, from which he would graduate in 2007. After high school, he received his associate’s degree in general studies at Missouri State Westplains, followed by his bachelor’s degree in African Studies (with a minor in Communications) in 2011 from Cal State Fullerton University in California.
Peltier is one of the lucky ones who had a team of adults looking out for his best interest and doing whatever was necessary to ensure that he reached his full potential. Today, with his formal education under his belt, Peltier is making his mark in the game that he says helped him to become the man he is today.
He especially credits his mother, Hermia Alcide, and her unyielding faith for the type of man he has become. “My mother is the real MVP! She raised my siblings and me to be respectful and treat others how we would want to be treated. She also instilled the importance of God’s power,” says Peltier.
Although he may not have grasped the seeds of faith that she was planting at such a young age, he did understand the value of respect. Today it is evident that his early spiritual foundation has blossomed with maturity. “I am so grateful to my mother for teaching us to love the Lord. Without His grace I know that I would not be on this journey.”
Growing up in the territory, Peltier was one of the shortest people in his class, but he lived and breathed the game of basketball. On the court his height was viewed as a disadvantage and he would be chased off the court by the older boys to sit out and watch the game. Ironically, his small stature would become a selling point for his professional career in basketball.
Knowing that he had an innate talent and passion for the game, Peltier began to build his discipline at the advice of his father David Peltier, his stepfather and basketball coach Wayne Harvey, his uncle Albert Lawrence, as well his childhood coaches “Tumba Dread” and Bello Richards.
“My Uncle Albert really pushed for me to leave St. Thomas after he saw my initial potential. Once I left, I really started to focus on the game just to prove that I was as good as, or better than the older guys,” he shares. “Children in the Virgin Islands love to compete; however, there aren’t enough outlets for them to display their talents and abilities, so I practiced and developed my skills.”
While living stateside as a teenager, Peltier would reflect on the dismissive attitudes of the older boys on his neighborhood courts and use that as fuel to excel. His diligence paid off with opportunities for him to play first with team Oviedo in Spain in 2012, the Zero Tolerance League, the USVI national basketball team, and then in the American Professional Basketball League, from which he has just transitioned to return overseas.
His career began during the National Basketball Association lockout, so his agent steered him towards an international career so that his options would be greater. Because of his Dominican roots and dual citizenship, Peltier was encouraged to broaden his scope as a professional athlete in order to be marketed as an international player. It was a strategy that has enabled him to have a wide range of experiences this early in his career.
Despite being uprooted from his home as a teen and having to adjust to Midwest climates at a young age, Peltier is very proud of his Virgin Islands heritage and culture. He gives back to local youth during the summer by assisting his stepfather at the Great Adventure Fundamental Basketball Camp held at BCB on St. Thomas.
The camp, cofounded by Harvey and fellow Virgin Islander and ball player Jamal Bruley, leads with the motto, “No books, no ball,” and teaches the art and the profession of basketball through fundamental drills to build skills and character on and off the court. “I just want to open kids’ hearts. It’s not even about me. I have already been through all of that stuff,” he comments.
“This isn’t for me but for the kids in the Virgin Islands. I want [them] to see this because I grew up in the same area they grew up in, riding my bike and playing marbles. I want [my achievements] to inspire [youth] to push no matter what.”
It is this genuine desire to be his brother’s keeper that has made Peltier a leader on his teams and among the children that he mentors. In fact, he views mentorship as his obligation considering the numerous doors that were opened for him for follow his dreams. “I had downfalls trying to attain my goals and dreams but that didn’t mean that I had to give up what I really wanted to do with my life,” he continues.
Peltier is quite familiar with disappointment. In an unfortunate series of events tied to the month he was born, he was deemed ineligible to play ball during his senior year of high school since he had passed the requirement age by one month. Unable to be scouted along with the rest of his teammates, Peltier could have chosen to give up, but he persevered.
Thanks to a $100 gift from his cousin Mervyn Clarke and lots of encouragement, he took part in and dominated at a Jerry Mullen Sports Showcase that allowed him to play in front of coaches who were seeking young players who had not yet signed with teams. Peltier was recruited by the coach at Missouri State, Brian Osterman, who saw his potential and gave him the opportunity to play for the junior college.
Now on his second tour in Spain, Peltier is heating up the courts and mapping out the rest of his story as a professional player in a league that is arguably tougher and more competitive. He is a shining example of what can be accomplished with positive role models, a supportive family, tenacity, passion and a “can do” spirit.
“I am so appreciative of the many relatives, coaches and extended family who have believed in me and supported my growth and development to this point. All of these people have made me the man I am today and I am eternally grateful,” Peltier says.
The world has just begun to see Peltier’s impact on the basketball world, and his home community in the Virgin Islands proudly awaits where this new road will lead him.
Nugget for V.I. Youth: “Each bump you go over isn’t the same. Keep pushing through the ups and downs! Sacrifice: If you want something you’ve never had, you must be willing to do something you’ve never done before!!"
Little Known Fact(s): “I think I am the best freestyle rapper!”
Loán Sewer is a marketing and tourism consultant and proud Virgin Islander who resides in Washington, D.C. She is also a founding member of the USVI Alliance Inc., an organization focused on reconnecting the Virgin Islands diaspora with the local community and host of the USVI Economic Development Summit on the U.S. mainland. Follow her on Twitter @LoTalksTourism or e-mail her at [email protected]