Ask 100 athletes why they play their preferred sport, and you’d likely get 100 similar answers. Winning, playing the game they love, and being around teammates are familiar platitudes often given by the players when asked about their motivations. Rarely do you hear someone say they want to do it for the accolades and recognition, those are typically the icing on the cake.
Seattle Storm point guard Alexis Peterson, who will be inducted into the Greater Columbus Basketball Legend Association this weekend, says that when she received news of her induction in April, it was the first she had ever heard of the Legend Association.
“I wasn’t aware at all,” Peterson said. “When I found out and I did my research on it, I saw the history behind it. I was like ‘Wow, this is something really nice to be a part of.”
The association honors ballers who played as long ago as 1955. Peterson, who wasn’t even born until 1995, joins a group of inductees that includes five former NBA players. Peterson is the third member of the Legends Association to have played in the WNBA. Helen Darling, who made a name for herself at Penn State before scoring over 1,000 points in the WNBA, was inducted in 2014. Jessica Davenport, who stayed local to play her college ball at Ohio State, appeared in 174 games for the New York Liberty and Indiana Fever.
Typically thought of as football country, the greater Columbus area has produced its fair share of hoopers. Peterson urges people not to underestimate Columbus, and Ohio in general, as a legitimate basketball breeding ground.
“Columbus, and Ohio period, I feel like people sleep on.” Peterson said. “There have been several players that I grew up with that have been extremely talented and could have played at any level.”
Peterson attended Northland High School in Columbus, where Jared Sullinger and Trey Burke starred for the men’s team before Peterson arrived on campus. Georgeann Wells, notable for being the first woman to dunk in an NCAA game, also donned the green and gold Viking jersey. In her junior year at Northland, Peterson served as the class president. During her four years at the school Peterson’s team compiled an 87-14 record. The Storm rookie was named to an all-state team three times, with first team honors in her junior and senior years.
This understandably drew the eyes of college recruiters, who began to covet Peterson for her quickness and scoring ability at the point guard position. She eventually chose to leave the Midwest for the upper northeast, landing at Syracuse University. Four years later, Peterson had put together one of the best careers in Orange history. Her list of accomplishments includes three spots on the ACC All-Defensive Team, a nod she was given after the 2015, 2016, and 2017 seasons. She is first in Syracuse’s long, storied history in career assists, and second in points. In her senior year she not only led the Atlantic Coast Conference in scoring, she was named conference player of the year and teamed with Brittney Sykes (now of the Atlanta Dream) to form the nation’s highest scoring backcourt.
Peterson’s collegiate career features a Final Four run in 2016, a Carrier Dome record 45-point outing against NC State, and a selection to the AP All-American second team. When the Storm came calling with the No. 15 overall pick in the 2017 draft, it was a culmination of years of hard work from a kid from northern Columbus.
“It’s super special, especially because not many people have made it out of Columbus,” Peterson said. “To be recognized, to have them see how special your contributions have been and want to recognize your athletic career is something super special.”
When she came off the bench for six points, two assists and two steals to spark Seattle’s upset of the Minnesota Lynx on August 16, Peterson helped Seattle earn back-to-back wins for the first time since May. That huge win for Seattle got the ball rolling on a four-game winning streak that has pushed the team into the playoff’s seventh seed. This being her first year in the league, and having the opportunity to learn under the tutelage of Sue Bird, we could see Peterson take on a bigger role with the Storm in the future. While getting the Storm to the playoffs is atop her list of priorities right now, she is certainly not taking this hometown honor lightly.
“This means a lot to me and a lot to my family. This is something that I’ll cherish forever. I’m always repping for Columbus.”