If there is one word that describes Peter Ulku, it would be “tough.” The Grosse Pointe South senior plays some of the grittiest positions in all of sports, whether he is on the offensive or defensive line on the gridiron, or playing center on the basketball court.
Being tough comes with the territory of playing such positions like Ulku does. However, along with that toughness Ulku brings to every game, there is also a heart and passion for the sports he loves.
“In football, I’m getting hit every play,” Ulku said. “In basketball, I have toughness when someone’s driving into the lane I can knock them over, I’m not going to get knocked over. When the other team gets knocked down, they’re a lot more hesitant to drive the lane the next time.”
Inspired by his mom, a former basketball player, Ulku first got on the court in third grade, playing throughout elementary and middle school at St. Clare of Montefalco before becoming a Blue Devil. His mom also encouraged him to try football. Ulku was unsure at first, but eventually decided to give it a try due to his older brother playing the sport and his mom being president of the Grosse Pointe Red Barons at the time.
Now, Ulku is approaching the end of his high school sports career. He is taking the court this winter in his final games with South’s varsity basketball team and finished his final football season in the fall. The end may be bittersweet, but Ulku knows that the best thing to do is enjoy it and to stay in the moment.
“In the moment, I don’t think I realized everything that was happening and taking in that this will be one of the last times I suit up,” he said. “After the fact, it was cool sharing those moments with the team I’ve played with for the last four years.”
Ulku ended the football season with 40 total tackles on defense. Fourteen of those were tackles for loss and he brought down the quarterback seven times, earning him Second-Team All-Metro East honors from the Detroit Free Press.
From being an anchor on the offensive and defensive lines in football to being now a senior captain of the South varsity boys basketball team, Ulku embodies leadership. He may not always have the most outstanding stats or big plays, but anyone who has played with or watched Ulku can see that he is the type of player who often makes those around him better.
“(Peter) is the type of student athlete you can build your program around,” said South varsity boys basketball head coach Stephen Benard. “His sophomore year, we needed another post player to help our varsity team in practice. Peter would have started on the JV but chose to play on the varsity team his sophomore season to make the program better. His unselfishness made the team and program better.”
What makes Ulku’s last year more special is he gets to play alongside some of his closest friends in both sports. Student athletes like Karter Richards, Vince Vachon and fellow senior Anthony Benard were alongside him in the fall for football and are now with him on the court too.
“It builds chemistry like no other when I’m a right guard and my starting QB is the point guard,” Ulku said. “Anthony trusts me to protect him in football season and I trust him to make the right plays in basketball. The more time you spend with your teammates, the better your chemistry is going to be naturally. Vince Vachon was a receiver, Anthony (Benard) being the quarterback and Karter (Richards) being a receiver, we’ve spent a lot of time together and built relationships. I can trust all of them.”
The chemistry that Ulku and his teammates have built through both football and basketball also helps complement their individual styles of play. Especially in basketball, while Ulku does have the ability to score when the opportunity arises, his real strength lies in battling at the rim.
A big part of that leadership comes from his passion for the game. Whether it is blocking shots on the court or blocking defenders on the football field, Ulku is an example of doing whatever it takes to get the job done, while also remembering that competition is about loving what you do.
“I’ve always seen basketball as the sport I just have fun in and don’t have too high expectations,” he said. “I want to have fun all year and see our team win the MAC Red and win the district which I think is very achievable.”
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