Peighton Melton isn’t surprised she’s playing post-secondary sports, but what surprises her is what sport.
In high school, Peighton was a star on the Lacombe Rams volleyball team and even had an offer to play in the United States in Arkansas.
Today she’s an emerging star on the RDP Queens basketball team.
“I always played volleyball and basketball was a side sport for me,” the 18-year-old said. “I played with Team Alberta multiple times, played club for several years and even was going to Team Canada in Vancouver but that was ruined by Covid.”
She received an offer to attend Arkansas to play volleyball but Covid once again ruined that.
“I never thought much about basketball but Nadine (Rams coach Nadine Cunningham) was on me and kept telling me I could play and could see me playing at the next level.
“I thought about it and thought maybe I could play.”
That she can.
The five-foot-11 forward, who grew up on a farm near Bentley, has not only made the jump but has grabbed a starting role despite being the only rookie on the team.
“That surprises me,” she said. “Being the only rookie I thought I’d be on the bench and maybe see 30 seconds a game, so it’s a huge shock to me to be playing so much.”
Cunningham (nee Traptow), who is a former member of the championship 1991 Queens and a current assistant coach with the RDP squad, liked what she saw in Peighton from the first time she saw her.
“We (husband Murray and Nadine) coached the Summer Games team when she was in Grade 8 in Bentley and she caught our attention then. She came to Lacombe in Grade 9 and so I was fortunate to coach her for about four years.”
Peighton, who got into basketball in Grade 7, made the Rams senior team in Grade 10. In Grade 12 she was thinking of taking a gap year after high school.
“That usually never works,” said Nadine. “In most cases, the athlete loses interest or doesn’t come back at the same level.”
Peighton is glad she decided to continue on and while she’s undecided exactly what road to take in terms of her academics she’s planning on staying with the Queens program.
“I’m taking Open Studies right now … I change my mind on what I’d like to do almost every day but I have time for that.”
Joining the Queens this season under newly signed head coach Avery Harrison hasn’t been all roses. He started training camp two weeks early and ran two-a-day practices.
“That was the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” said Peighton. “But I think it was worth it.”
You can see it in the games as the Queens level of play doesn’t drop late in games because of lack of conditioning.
Peighton has impressed with her inside play. She’s one of the premier rebounders on the team, has good hands and the ability to score inside.
She also fits in with the Queens fast-paced game.
“I like that although I had to get used to it,” she said. “When I first came out I couldn’t believe how fast it was and how quickly they moved the ball. I was lost the first couple of days … I didn’t know what was happening but my mom has always said I have a good way of quickly adapting and I’d figure it out.”
She did and now it’s the next step
”I need to continue to work on my shooting from the outside.
“I’m kind of like a deer in the headlights out there,” she said with a laugh. “I’ve never done that before but I’ll get the hang of it.
‘That’s my goal to be able to continue to improve my game.”
Nadine believes so.
“She’s taken steps everywhere she went from Bentley to playing 4A in Lacombe to Summer League to now. She’s an excellent athlete and the fact she was good in other sports helps.
“She’s strong, has good hand-eye coordination and foot speed. She’s also learning how to use her body properly which is good.”
Peighton agrees that playing volleyball was a benefit.
“For sure. It helps with my jumping and I played three years of club under Keith Hansen and learned a lot and got used to three intense practices a week.”
She also likes what she’s learned from Harrison.
“My conditioning is a lot better and it’s pretty crazy the technical things he knows … things I’ve never thought of before … that’s cool.”
Peighton is expected to continue to play a key role as the Queens look to move up in the standings this season. They open their season this weekend with a tough test against St. Mary’s University — Friday at the Gary W Harris Canada Games Centre and Saturday in Calgary.
Danny Rode is a retired Advocate reporter and member of the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame know can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org