Mel attended Wheaton College. While at Wheaton College, Mel was selected as a three-time All-American basketball player. He was also selected as the Most Outstanding Player of the 1957 NCAA Men's Division II Basketball Tournament, as Wheaton College won the inaugural NCAA Division II tournament. Mel finished his career at Wheaton College, averaging 22.7 points and 15.8 rebounds per game. He still ranks as Wheaton College's all-time leader in points per game, career points, field goals made, and career rebounds.
Mel was drafted with the fourth pick in the eleventh round of the 1960 NBA Draft by the Detroit Pistons. On August 15, 1963 Mel signed as a free agent with the Baltimore Bullets. In two games with the Bullets, Mel recorded a total of two points and one rebound. Peterson did not play for the following three seasons. Mel made his ABA debut on October 13, 1967 for the Oakland Oaks.