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“My biggest fear became my biggest blessing”: Peyton Scotts road back from injury

<p>Peyton Scott has roared back to the court this season after tearing her ACL in the final game of last season</p>

Peyton Scott has roared back to the court this season after tearing her ACL in the final game of last season

It’s March 5, 2022.

Peyton Scott and the Miami RedHawks women’s basketball team are playing in their final game of the season against the University of Akron, already long knocked out of Mid-American Conference (MAC) tournament contention. It’s been a disappointing season. Still, Peyton Scott has balled out, averaging nearly twenty points per game (ppg), on her way to a second consecutive All-MAC honor.

About halfway through the second quarter in Akron, senior guard Vanessa Garrelts grabs a defensive rebound. She flips it to Scott, who cuts through Akron’s transition defense on the way to the bucket. Scott goes up for the layup, gets fouled and lands in a heap. One of the best players ever to call Miami home doesn’t know it yet, but she just tore her ACL. 

Head Coach DeUnna Hendrix sounded somber as she went through her post game interview, but what she said was true.

“She’ll be fine,” Hendrix said. “It’s Peyton Scott.”

Everyone who’s met Scott knows exactly what Hendrix meant. Scott is unbelievably tough. In a more recent interview with The Miami Student, Hendrix expanded on her sentiment.

“I don’t think you have enough time for me to describe her,” Hendrix said. “She’s resilient. She’s a leader in a servant type of way. She wants to get things done. She’s been with us for years now, and there's times where she’s going to get us [the coaches] lunch. It’s always about, what can I do for someone else [for her]. The past three years haven’t been easy on her, and she’s constantly thinking ‘well, where else can I give? What else can I do?’”

Scott is a kind, thoughtful person. And a killer on the court.

“She wants to leave a legacy. She works her butt off and she expects everyone around her to do the same thing. She plays harder than anyone I’ve ever seen play.”

Regardless, going through such an unfortunate injury wasn’t easy for the star guard.

“Last game of the season against Akron, right before half time I go up for a transition layup,” Scott said. “I just came down wrong. My first real injury. I had never had surgery before. It was a devastating thing. Going into it, my biggest fear was tearing my ACL. Out of all the injuries, that has one of the longest recovery periods, and once you do it the re-tear rate goes up.”

Scott, from Lynchburg, Ohio, a rural village about an hour and a half east of Oxford, was an incredible prep player at Lynchburg-Clay High School. She played varsity hoops from her freshman year on, earning All-District honors three times and being named All-Ohio twice. In her senior season, she averaged 27.4 ppg, 10.9 rebounds per game (rpg) and 5.0 assists per game (apg), on her way to becoming Lynchburg-Clay’s all time leading scorer with 2,202 career points.

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Fast forward to college ball, Scott is playing in her fourth season with Miami basketball. Her fourth excellent season. 

She started all 30 games her first year and averaged 12.5 ppg on her way to MAC All-Freshman honors. Her sophomore eason, she averaged 21.2 ppg, 6.7 rpg and 5.2 apg. She even threw in 2.7 steals on average, making for an incredible season that earned her a spot on the All-MAC Second Team. Last year she won Second Team All-MAC honors again, averaging 19.2 ppg, 6.1 rpg and 3.7 apg. This year hasn’t been easy. Scott didn’t play above thirty minutes until the team’s 10th game of the season against Northern Kentucky University. But still, it has been an impressive season from the RedHawk star. 

After the injury, Scott said that she was down about it for a few weeks, but quickly got back on her grind.

“Luckily I got my surgery a couple of weeks after it happened,” Scott said. “As soon as I could, I started to really work it. Getting in to PT five times a week, getting work outs in, getting back on the court, even if it’s just doing chair ball handling. I was doing form shooting forever.”

It hasn’t been easy, but Scott is grateful for the experience. 

“It became a blessing for me,” Scott said. “Just with how my career has gone here, you talk about the accolades, the numbers. Whether you want to admit it or not, you start taking things for granted. Practices, games. Throughout my process I really just honed in on being grateful, the first time I could pedal a bike again, when I could go run for the first time, the first time I could bend my knee past 100 degrees. My biggest fear turned into my biggest blessing.”

Hendrix knew it wasn’t going to be easy on Scott. But she knew Scott would prevail.

“I think we went through all the stages of grieving as a staff,” Hendrix said. “But we also knew who she is. We knew she was going to come back better than she left. It took us a couple of weeks to get there, but we got back to focus pretty quickly.”

Scott retook the court just seven months after tearing her ACL. For most people, it takes nine.

“People will say it was surprising I came back so soon,” Scott said. “But I’m like, ‘you should have expected it.’ That was what my mindset was. That’s what I expected. I was OK telling people I was going to be back sooner than expected.”

Since returning, Scott has been about as explosive as ever. For her, the goal for the rest of this season is clear. The MAC tournament, which is held every year in Cleveland for the league’s top eight regular season teams to determine a champion.

“We want to get to Cleveland by any means necessary,” Scott said. “I’ve been here for four years, and we have yet to get there. It’s less about the stats, less about the accolades. We want to get to that tournament. We know that once we get there it’s a whole new ballgame.”

The good news for Miami basketball and anyone who follows it: Scott isn’t done after this year.

“I’m planning on coming back to Miami,” Scott said. “Going into next year I’m planning to get 10 credit hours both semesters and graduate with my bachelor’s and master’s.”

Scott has made it clear that she isn’t focused on personal accolades. But she has a great chance to become Miami’s all time scoring leader at some point next season. Sitting at 1764 points on her career, Scott needs to score 444 in her last 35 games or so to break the record. She’s scored more than that in one season twice in her career.

Scott, a sports leadership and management major, plans to go into coaching one day. But not before she gives the professional ranks a shot. 

“I would love to play professionally for a few years, just test the water,” Scott said. “If I’m blessed with the ability to do so, I’d love to see where that takes me.”

According to Hendrix, she’ll be a perfect coach whenever her playing career ends.

“She’s made for it,” Hendrix said. “She’s made for it. You can see it on the court right now. She’s a coach on the court right now. We watch film a ton, we talk the game a lot. But even more than that, she’s personable, she’s relatable, she has a genuine care for people. I think she’s in it for the right reasons, but she also understands the game at a high level. She can teach the game at a high level.”

Scott says she wants to help others undertaking the journey she’s been on for the past four years. 

“I want to come back into college athletics,” Scott said. “I want to give back to the people coming up. Having first-hand experience and knowing what it’s like from a lot of different lenses, I feel like I have a lot to offer to coming generations. To be able to give back would be awesome. I’d love that.”

Before that, making the MAC tournament is at the front of Scott’s mind. The top eight teams in the league make it to Cleveland, and right now Miami is tied for eighth, but just one game back of fifth in the standings. With five games left in the regular season, these RedHawks control their destiny. 

They hit the court next on Saturday, Feb. 18, at the University at Buffalo. You can catch the game on ESPN+.