SEATTLE — Fate, it seems, wanted Missy Peterson to be a University of Washington Husky.
Peterson grew up in Edmonds in a Husky family — both her father and brother attended Washington — and she was always a fan of the Husky women’s basketball team. However, she was barely recruited by the UW during a standout basketball career at Edmonds-Woodway High School. Heck, Peterson herself had designs of going away for college so she could experience someplace new.
But fate had other ideas, and it seems fate knew what it was doing.
Peterson is flourishing in her sophomore season for the surprising Huskies, and she’s thrilled with how fate intervened to keep her in the Pacific Northwest.
“It’s awesome being a Husky, I love it,” Peterson said. “There’s no other school in the country I’d rather play for. I love being home, I love playing in purple and gold under these coaches and with these players at this university.”
Peterson has been the breakout performer for the Huskies this season. Through Washington’s first 12 games, the 5-foot-11 guard is second on the team in scoring at 10.4 points per game and leads the team with 18 3-point field goals. This is a big jump from her freshman season, when she averaged just 3.3 points as a bit player. She has become a central figure for a team that has as many wins through 12 games this season (seven) as it had in all of 2017-18.
“She was by far our most improved player in the offseason,” said Washington associate head coach Derek Wynn, who’s the husband of head coach Jody Wynn. “She worked her butt off. We knew she had a lot of potential because we recruited her and felt she was a Pac-12-caliber player.”
But fate had to intervene to put Peterson in this position.
When Peterson was in high school, she received just fleeting attention from then-Washington coach Mike Neighbors, who built a national powerhouse team that reached the NCAA Final Four in 2016 and the Sweet Sixteen in 2017. But Jody Wynn, then the head coach at Long Beach State, recruited Peterson heavily, and Peterson signed with the 49ers early in her senior year.
That’s when fate began toppling the dominoes.
The Washington program was gutted following its Sweet Sixteen appearance in 2017. Stars Kelsey Plum and Chantel Osahor graduated, along with other key contributors. Neighbors departed to take the head-coaching job at his alma mater, Arkansas. Promising freshman point guard Aarion McDonald transferred to Arizona in the wake of Neighbors’ departure.
So who did the Huskies tab to pick up the pieces? None other than Jody and Derek Wynn, who were hired away from Long Beach State to take the reins of the program. One of their first tasks was to re-recruit Peterson, who had been released from her letter of intent by the 49ers.
“We knew she would be a kid we’d always want in our program,” Derek Wynn said. “And we didn’t have to do much of a sell job.”
Said Peterson: “It was a real easy decision for me to commit to Long Beach because of the coaches. So when they came here, I knew those were the people I wanted to play under, so it was a really easy decision for me.”
It may have been an easy decision, but there was nothing easy about the start to her Husky career. Peterson’s preparations for her freshman season were delayed because of a foot injury that required surgery. That made her transition from high school to the Pac-12 level all the more difficult. Then on Jan. 17 she suffered a torn medial collateral ligament in her knee in a game at Washington State, ending her season. Peterson was never able to find a comfort level.
“Last year, she did not want the ball in her hands,” Derek Wynn said. “It was like a hot potato, every time she got it she would get rid of it, and it wasn’t for the purpose of making a smart advancing pass, she just didn’t want it in her hands.”
Fate had conspired to wash out Peterson’s freshman season. But she was determined not to let that derail her collegiate career. Peterson, fully recovered from her injury, hit training hard in the spring, improving her game and rebuilding her confidence.
“I think I had a really strong mindset going into our spring workouts this year,” Peterson said. “I wasn’t exactly satisfied with how my freshman season went, so I went into spring workouts determined to get better and work on my versatility.
“This year I’m a lot better at not just settling for the 3-point shot,” she added. “Last year I pretty much set myself to just be a 3-point shooter, when my whole life I’d always done more than just shoot the ball. I worked on getting into the paint to get fouled or drive and dish, while also being able to hit the shot from the perimeter.”
Peterson’s coming-out party came in the fourth game of this season. The Huskies were big underdogs when they played traditional power Duke on Nov. 23 in Estero, Florida. However, Peterson had 17 points, nine rebounds, three 3-pointers and three steals as Washington upset the Blue Devils, 71-64.
“She was amazing,” Derek Wynn said. “She was just all over the floor, shot the three, handled the ball, and she’s got sneaky athleticism where she can go right by you.”
Now that Peterson has found her place at the college level, Derek Wynn said the sky is the limit, describing Peterson as a potential all-conference player by the end of her college career.
A career fate made sure was going to happen at Washington.
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