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Bernhard Peat plays by the golden rule

Community Portrait
By: Michael Kirby
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“Geld sparen,” as translated from the German by Bernhard Peat, means “save your money.” That’s exactly what Peat did while playing professional basketball in Europe for 18 years. Now 53, Peat has been retired from professional basketball since he was 40, and now has the time and financial ability to give back to the community that accepted him with open arms so many years ago. A 1974 Placer High grad, Peat is considered by many local prep sports historians to be one of the best athletes to ever come out of the school. Born in Germany, Peat was a bit of an oddity in Auburn. “When I came to Auburn at age 8, I could not speak a word of English,” he said. “I was from a different culture, bi-racial, and this town embraced me like their own. I felt accepted without a doubt.” Peat was always a gifted athlete and excelled at all sports, “I was always small, but fast,” Peat said. At Placer, Peat played basketball, football and ran track. A few of his records still stand, and in his junior year his team won the Kendall Arnett Basketball Tournament. Scouted by many colleges, Peat ended up with a full-ride football scholarship to UC Berkeley, where he also played basketball. Knee problems put an end to his collegiate sports career, but he graduated from Cal with a degree in physical education in 1979. Back to Auburn with his wife and young family, Peat recovered well and was soon tearing up area courts again. Strong enough to have a tryout with a Swiss professional basketball coach scouting players in the States, Peat was signed to play pro basketball for a team in Lucerne, Switzerland. Scoring 28 points a game, with a 46-inch vertical jump and family in tow, Peat was playing professional basketball in Europe, living a dream. He was signed to play basketball in Germany, and holding a German passport, played on a series of German teams for the next 17 years, until his retirement in 1996. Peat always maintained a home in Auburn while playing in Europe and returned here during the off-season. He worked out daily running steps and lifting weights, always staying in touch with Placer High. “In 1983 I got into heavy weight lifting and during an exhibition I squat-lifted 725 pounds, which was an unofficial world record for my weight class,” said Peat. Peat now is able to dedicate some of his time giving back to Auburn. He coaches girls basketball at E.V. Cain School, and currently is Placer High School’s girls junior varsity basketball coach. Things change, yet remain the same, as he stands center court at the Earl Crabbe Gym instructing his girls on the ins and outs of a game he loves, on the same court where he honed his skills. Peat’s children are now grown. He has a grandson on the Placer High freshman football team and a granddaughter playing basketball at E.V. Cain. Last year Peat and his wife, Lisa, became foster parents, helping high school children find their way through sometimes trying life situations. In October, the Peats were honored as Placer County foster family of the month. “I just believe you have to give back what others gave you,” he said.