March 30, 2012
By NANCY ARMOUR, AP National Writer
NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Peyton Siva jokes that his father has gotten more air time than he has during Louisville's run to the Final Four.
Far from being resentful, it gives Siva a thrill every time he catches a glimpse of the "300-pound Samoan guy" wearing his jersey.
"To see him in the stands is really great, because I know he's not out somewhere else," the younger Siva said. "It's a good feeling to have him at your games and see that he's doing well right now."
Fourth-seeded Louisville (30-9) faces top-seeded Kentucky (36-2) in the Final Four on Saturday night in large part because of Siva and his steadiness, a maturity he came by the hard way.
Siva's father, Peyton Sr., led a troubled life when his son was younger. Struggling with a toxic mix of drugs, alcohol and depression, the elder Siva was an on-and-off presence. When he was gone, the family had to fend for itself. When he was around, there was no guarantee the kind of shape he'd be in.
"It was tough," the younger Siva said Friday. "But it helped make me the person I am."
And the son helped make the father the person he now is.
When Siva was 13, his father became so despondent he considered committing suicide. Even got himself a gun.
Despite being three years too young for a driver's license, the younger Siva borrowed a car and went looking for his father. When he found him, Siva begged his dad not to end his life, to be a regular part of Siva's instead.
"When I sit back and think about that, how blessed I've been to have such a wonderful kid in my life," the elder Siva said, breaking down in tears.
The episode was a turning point for Siva Sr. He cleaned up his life, getting sober and becoming an active presence in his son's life.
When Siva led the Cardinals to the BIG EAST tournament title, averaging 13.8 points, 6.3 rebounds, 5.8 assists and earning most outstanding player honors, his father was in the stands to see it.
"I am the most proud father," the elder Siva said. "To be able to witness it, it means a lot to Peyton and me, but it's really special to me. It's a gift."
Siva has been a gift to the Cardinals, too.
Point guards have always been the key to Rick Pitino's fast-paced offenses, and it's no different at Louisville. The speedy Siva is the one who gets the Cardinals off and running, and he's the one that keeps them under control, as well.
Or is supposed to, at least.
When Siva struggled with turnovers earlier in the season, Pitino thought the junior was playing too fast, trying to rush things. So he had him watch videos of Steve Nash.
He's averaging more than seven assists per game in the NCAA tournament to three turnovers. In the West Regional final against rough-and-tumble Florida, he had one - count it, one - miscue.
"He's definitely turned the corner, because he's very talented," said Pitino, who has likened Siva to Billy Donovan, the highest compliment he can give one of his players.
"He's the same type of person and very few guys like that I've met in 35 years," Pitino added. "Peyton is extremely humble, extremely hard working, do anything. And he just had too many turnovers in the beginning of the year because he was playing at too fast a pace. Now he's got it back."
Siva's father plans to be at Saturday night's game, wearing his "lucky" black and red jersey. It's the same one he's been wearing since Louisville's magical run began - yes, it has been washed - and he's not about to tempt fate.
He did that years ago, and it nearly cost him his life.
"He knows I forgive him," the younger Siva said. "I have no problem with how he lived his life. Everybody makes mistakes. I'm just thankful that he's still alive, thankful he's still going."