OXFORD — She was talking about the basketball court that played such a big part in turning her into one of the most-accomplished women’s players ever to wear a Miami University uniform.
But Peyton Scott’s conversation was not about the highly-polished hardwood of Millett Hall, with its big red M at mid-court and, hanging up above, those tournament banners and the retired jerseys bearing names like Embry, Harper, Szczerbiak and Coles.
One day, her No. 24 jersey may be up there, as well. The past three seasons she’s won all Mid-American Conference honors and her 1,863 career points are third on Miami’s all-time list.
Although she’s returning next season as a fifth-year grad player — a special NCAA dispensation due to the wreckage COVID caused in past seasons — and very well may end up Miami’s all-time leading scorer, she was honored on the Millett court Saturday, part of the Senior Day festivities before the RedHawks’ 77-68 season-ending loss to Ball State.
She was joined near the free throw line by Miami coach DeUnna Hendrix, her dad, mom, stepdad and maternal grandparents, Terry and Pam Davidson, who are the link to that basketball court — and that’s using the term loosely —that was so big in her life.
Terry put the hoop up behind their house on Wise Road southwest of Lynchburg for his and Pam’s daughter — Heather, Peyton’s mom — when she was in junior high 35 years ago.
And as soon as she could hoist a ball, Peyton, who grew up on the same road, inherited the hoop.
“It has a wooden backboard and it’s on a wooden pole, though I’m not sure it’s a 10-foot basket anymore,” she laughed. “It might have sunk down some over the years.”
One thing she is sure of:
“The court is gravel. If you fall hard on it, you get scraped up. And if you dribble, the ball sometimes bounces back crazy. It goes over that way one time and then it comes back this way on another. It teaches you to be a ball handler. It teaches you to be ready for things you don’t expect.”
And that has been the perfect primer for her Miami career.
In her first four years, she’s had to deal with a lot of unexpected things:
»Before she even got to Miami out of Lynchburg Clay High School – where she was the all-time scoring leader with 2,202 points – the coach who signed her, Megan Duffy, left Oxford to take the Marquette job. Three other players in her recruiting class de-committed and went someplace else, too.
»In her four seasons at Miami, her teams have lost 80 of 115 games and have never played in the Mid-American Conference Tournament which only takes the top 8 teams (of 12) from the regular season.
»In the final game of last season, she was fouled by an Akron player on a driving layup, landed badly and tore her right ACL.
Yet, no matter what the circumstance, she had persevered in exceptional fashion — from winning All-MAC Freshman Team honors to being the MAC’s ninth-leading scorer (15.4 points per game) this past season while playing with a big brace on her right knee.
She’s on the Dean’s List, is interning in the office of Miami president Gregory Crawford and is already taking some classes toward her master’s degree.
She credits a lot of her ability to adjust to life’s bounces to Hendrix.
“Since Day One, there’s been a connection, a mutual respect for each other,” Scott said.
“As I’ve grown up through this program, I’ve latched onto her for the way she goes about things. I just respect her so much for her views and how she carries herself.”
When Hendrix took over the Miami job in late April of 2019 ― after seven seasons at High Point where she was one of the youngest head coaches in the nation, won 125 games and had been named the Big South Conference Coach of the Year — she met with the only two RedHawk recruits who had stayed on board — Scott and Amani Freeman.
“When you send your daughter off to college, you’re not quite sure what is going to happen,” Heather Pierce said. “But after we met the new coach, I remember saying, ‘I feel like I know her and her staff.’
“They’re like an extension of our family. And Coach Hendrix and Peyton have a great relationship. "
As Hendrix explained it: “We’re wired the same. The staff makes jokes about that all the time.”
Scott has heard them: “They’ll say ‘You two are twins. You two even sound alike in the things you say.’”
“We are the same person at the core,” Hendrix explained. “What matters to her, matters to me. We’re both competitive. We’re both driven to self-improvement.”
It’s with that latter that Scott said Hendrix has really helped her:
“The girl who came here from Wise Road just hated losing. I had no patience.
“I remember sophomore year, after a tough road game at Central Michigan, I was irritated and very emotional. She brought me into her office the next day and we just started talking about emotional intelligence and the difference in being passionate and emotional.”
In the 69-51 loss to Central Michigan, Scott had played all 40 minutes and led the team with 18 points, but had gone 0 for 6 from three-point range.
“I do wear my emotions on my sleeve and sometimes they’d get the best of me,” she remembered. “She had me break it down and realize I could be passionate, but still keep my head.”
Over the years Scott said she has learned to “reset” herself thanks to Hendrix: “She’s into meditation and journaling and Zen-ing out. Growing up I never really heard about those things.”
She said she’s also learned: ‘Losing can teach you a lot of life lessons too. And that has helped me grow as a player and a person.”
‘The epitome of loyalty’
When Scott suffered that serious knee injury in the season finale last year, everyone in the program was shaken.
“For three years it had been the Peyton Scott Show,” Hendrix said.
The 5-foot-8 guard was revered not just for what she did on the court, but who she was off of it.
“She’s the epitome of loyalty, not just to our program, but to the school and to her family,” Hendrix said. “She never wants to let anyone down.”
And that heightened the sense of loss.
“It’s crazy to say the word grieve, but we did,” Hendrix said. “It was a grieving process for the entire staff. It took us a while to get through it and it took Peyton two or three weeks, as well. I joke with her now, but she pouted for the first time ever.”
“But underneath we all knew two things: She’d come back quicker than anyone would and she’d come back better.”
Scott said she was determined to beat the odds: “They say it takes at least nine months to come back, but I wanted to be the outlier. I wanted to come back quicker.”
After her surgery, she immersed herself in five-days-a-week recovery.
She met with a nutritionist and then worked with Oxford physical therapist Jessica Brechin, whom she calls: calls “a superstar. She’s the reason I’m back.”
Seven months after her injury, Scott was back on the court.
She is a different player though, Hendrix admitted. Where she once could simply use pure athleticism, she now must also rely on angles and finesse. She also has had to rely more on her teammates and realize she doesn’t have to shoulder the whole load like she once did.
While some fifth-year players in struggling programs look to transfer out for a final quick fix of success, that’s not Scott’s plan.
There’s her loyalty and the fact that one day she wants to coach and believes she still has more to learn from Hendrix and her staff.
“Besides, the grass isn’t always greener someplace else,” she said.
“For me, it’s about unfinished business right here. We’ve been here four years and not gotten the results we’ve liked, but we’ve been building and building and I’ve been a core piece of that. And I want to be a core piece of the success when it comes.
“And if I’m not, I’ll at least have set up the next class coming in so they succeed.”
Once again Peyton Scott is showing those lessons from the gravel court are paying off:
No matter what the bounce, she’ll handle it.
About the Author