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ND Women’s Basketball: Post presence

Meaghan Veselik | Thursday, January 20, 2011

Critics of the Irish team this season have said Notre Dame is too young to be good, with a major weakness in the post. Senior forward Devereaux Peters is making sure those critics know they’re wrong. And she manages to do so while sitting out for up to 15 minutes per half.

“A lot of people were talking about how we’re low in the post this year and how we don’t have a post game and that was going to be our weakness. And the posts we’re kind of like, ‘Oh, OK, that’s our weakness, huh?'” Peters said. “We took that as a shot at us, so ever since then we’ve been fighting back. In practice, we’re running if we miss them so it’s really ingrained it our heads this year that we have to box out and get on the boards, especially because we’re not as big as most people. They really lit that fire under us early.”

Standing at 6-foot-2, Peters knows she is not one of the tallest players at her position, but that hasn’t stopped her from making the Big East Honor Roll for three consecutive weeks. Peters makes sure to bring her all to the court each game, leading her squad in rebounds (6.5 per game), blocked shots (1.5) and field goal percentage (.570), while placing third in scoring with an average of 11.1 points per game. Peters also ranks among the top players in the conference in field goal percentage (fourth) and blocked shots (eighth).

Helping keep Peters on her game is the very youth for which many have criticized Notre Dame.

“You can never take a play off,” Peters said. “We’re quick paced, we push it, you can’t really take a break at any time because we’re always moving, we’re always trying to push it and get it in transition. So you can’t really sleep at any time because we’re always moving, always pushing. It’s not like you have any time to really think about everything and take it all in, you have to go, go, go.

“We may be a young team, but we still work hard. We take pride in that we’re ready every game, no matter who it is, we’re always ready and we want to work past that point, to get to the point where people say, ‘they’re a good team,’ and you don’t have to put in the young factor. I think that everybody thinks about that every day because yes we are a young team, but we’re still playing teams that have grown and have a lot more upperclassmen. So I think there’s a lot of pressure there.”

Most of the pressure Peters feels doesn’t come from the outside, but rather from within herself. A constant perfectionist on the court, Peters does her best to make sure she gets everything right the first time.

“I’m somewhat of a perfectionist on the court,” she said. “I hate being wrong and I hate letting other people down. If I make a mistake, I’m really on myself. I hate making mistakes. My teammates I think are way more forgiving of me than I am of myself.”

Peters doesn’t see pushing for perfection as being a negative aspect all the time, however, as she feels it helped her bring her performance to where it needs to be this season after a rough start.

“I think I started out really slow and I was getting really frustrated with how I was playing. I wasn’t playing well in the big games, I felt like I wasn’t really coming through,” she said. “So I tried to pick it up more in practice, my teammates were pushing me more. I expected more of myself, and I think it’s starting to come out now. But once I finally had a really good game where I started to pick the pace back up and started to finish and do the things I used to do, it was just uphill from there and once I started playing better I got that confidence back.”

Peters wasn’t worried about her playing meeting her own expectations as much as she was concerned about doing the best for her team. She could sense a trend coming out in her performances earlier this season, a trend that wasn’t getting her anywhere and almost lost her spot on the court.

“I saw how I was playing was affecting the team as a whole,” Peters said. “My play had downgraded a lot from last year and last season, even though I didn’t play the whole season, I really wasn’t performing at all, I wasn’t doing much of anything. It was getting to the point that they [her teammates] were like, ‘I don’t know if we’re going to have to take your spot or what’s going to have to happen to make you turn it around.’ So that kind of woke me up. I thought ok, I have to pick it up, I’m not really doing much of anything.

“I don’t want to let the team down and I don’t want to sit on the bench either. So I think that really motivated me to pick it up and really get back to playing how I used to.”

The Peters on the court this season sports knee braces on both knees after tearing her ACL earlier in her career, and struggled with tendonitis early on, but has turned her play around to become one of the most explosive players on the Irish squad. And her efforts have not gone unnoticed.

“This is really the best that she’s played,” Irish coach Muffet McGraw said. “She had a preseason this year — she was able to work out this summer and then the preseason, and so she really came into the season ready. But she’s been on the all-Big East honor roll three weeks in a row. She’s really been playing well really all season, but certainly since we got into Big East play.”

Coming into the season ready gave Peters not only a chance to work on her own strengths and weaknesses but to also mature as a player and to see where she can most help her team.

“The biggest thing she’s doing is she’s staying in the game,” McGraw said. “Foul trouble plagued her early. She’s been really smart, she’s really maturing, and she’s finding ways to score, in addition to the great job she’s doing on the boards and on the defensive end. Really pleased with the way she’s playing right now — she’s definitely become a force inside.”

McGraw wasn’t ready to let Peters’ fouls be an excuse for making a lesser impact on the court, and she let her know it.

“I think at first, with me fouling so much, Coach still expected me to get the numbers. She told me at the beginning of the year that she wanted me to average a double-double,” Peters said. “And she still expected that from me even though I was fouling. After your second foul in the first half, you sit out. So I was sitting out for about 15 minutes, but she was still expecting me to get 10 and 10.

“It really pushed me to work harder even if I wasn’t getting as many minutes because she was still expecting a certain standard out of me. I was really pushing to work hard in those minutes that I was in because I knew I wasn’t going to get as much. Now that I’m getting them [minutes] more, I’m already trying to get my average, so it’s just a bonus to have that extra time.”

And Peters has been working toward that double-double each game. Peters has secured four of them, most recently at Pittsburgh Jan. 15 where she had 15 points and a game-high 10 rebounds, as well as two blocks, two steals and four assists. Peters snared her fifth double-digit rebounding game on Tuesday night against Georgetown when she made a game-high 12 rebounds, outdoing her previous performances this season. It was the seventh double-digit rebounding effort of her career and is exactly the kind of play Peters expects out of herself. Not for her own stats but for her team.

“Everybody’s really working on getting the rebounds in because if you out-rebound a team, you are most likely going to win the game,” she said. “I just want to do my part. I don’t necessarily need to be making the great plays. Sometimes it’s not for me to make the big plays. Sometimes it’s for me to guard a certain person or to make sure I box out or do the little things like come high when I’m supposed to. So I really want to make sure I do my role in every game, whatever it might be, and not necessarily make sure to be the big time person, even if it’s not getting noticed, I just want to do whatever they need me to do to win that game.”

She may not need the attention, but Peters has definitely become a firework on the court for Notre Dame this year.