BUTTE — Dougie Peoples’ next chapter is going to take him some 440 miles southwest of the hometown that has meant so much to him, and that he’s meant so much to.
But for the highest scoring high school varsity boy in the rich history of Butte athletics, the Mining City will forever be home.
“I had an amazing opportunity here, and I’m forever grateful for the people here in Butte, and I will always be a part of the Butte community,” said Peoples.
The recently crowned Gatorade Montana Player of the Year — whose iconic walk-off triple to clinch the 2022 State A championship for Butte Central stamped his name into Butte sports lore — committed to the College of Idaho men’s basketball team on Thursday, ending a lengthy stretch of speculation about what collegiate program the 6-foot-4 senior would land at.
“I think C of I was just a place where I could bring who I am,” said Peoples. “Me as a player and as a person. And I think that’s why I chose C of I.”
I am excited to announce my commitment to The College of Idaho! I am extremely lucky to be able to join the National Champions. Thank you to my family, coaches, friends, and everyone who has helped me get to this point. pic.twitter.com/MpqS0uhbFj— dougiepeeps (@dougiepeeps101) March 30, 2023
The Yotes, fresh off a 73-71 win over Indiana Tech in the NAIA national championship game, are coached by Colby Blaine, a Montana Western product who has been a mentor to Peoples as the head coach of a Select AAU Program that draws top high school talent from Idaho and Montana.
Whittling down his list of possible college choices was "one of the hardest decisions" he's ever had to make but, in the end, a championship player will be joining a championship program
"I think that C of I is a great place and it's an amazing opportunity or me to grow as not only a player but as a person as well," said Peoples.
He's now poised to become the third Montanan on the Yotes' roster, joining Scobey's Caden Handran and Great Falls' Drew Wyman, who set the precedent of a Montana Gatorade Player of the Year joining C of I.
"It was kind of reassuring that someone from Montana has also gone there and (Wyman) is obviously extremely successful there," said Peoples. "And he's a great person. I feel like C of I is just filled with great people."
Butte Central brought home state tournament hardware in three of the four years Peoples was part of the program. His first season saw the Maroons title game against Hardin halted by covid and Central forced to settle for a co-championship with the Bulldogs.
In his next season, the Maroons were routed by eventual State A champion Billings Central in the opening round. Central ultimately bowed out of the tournament in the consolation semifinals.
Peoples' junior campaign is the one he'll be most well-remembered for, where the Maroons seized their first state title since 2008 thanks to Peoples' well-documented game-winning bucket.
Wow…Butte Centrals Dougie Peoples at the buzzer!— Brandon Sullivan (@BSullytyme) March 13, 2022
Maroons win it 61-58.
Peoples finishes with 37 points and is an instant Butte America legend. pic.twitter.com/LFFPjhQ13Y
His senior year saw the Maroons looking to piece together a back-to-back championship season. But that dream was extinguished a few weeks ago by Dillon in the semifinals as the Beavers topped Central 62-53, bringing the Maroons hopes of claiming three titles in four years to a halt.
Storming to a title-sealing, storybook finale is one thing. Recouping from a heartbreaking loss is another. But it was on championship Saturday — with defending state champion Butte Central on the other side of the bracket — where the Maroons proved their mettle.
"It was a gut wrenching loss," Peoples said. "We were miserable and we found a way to stick together and I think that's what Butte Central is all about, we love each other."
The Maroons won two straight games on that Saturday to claim third place and bring home a trophy. And for Peoples, the fortitude that his team showed after realizing they wouldn't be playing for a championship spoke volumes about, not just his school, but his town.
"That's what Butte is all about," he said. "We're tough, even in the bad times. Butte peoples just persevere and I think we truly showed that on Saturday, winning those two games."
Peoples will depart Butte Central as one of the all-time great high school players in Butte history. He's left an indelible mark on sports in this town, but Butte — where Peoples first starting honing his game on the sunken court at the Knights of Columbus building — has had an equally lasting impact on him.
"I'm gonna just remember the relationships that I built at Butte Central that will last for the rest of my life," he said. "And the time spent with a legendary coach like Brodie Kelly and learning from him.
"I'll take what I learned here throughout all aspects of my life."