Vaught's Views: Peek realizing NCAA dreams again

March 10, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

Cassandra Peek says going back to the NCAA Tournament is an "indescribable" feeling.

"Growing up it was always my dream to play college basketball and play in the NCAA Tournament, but to have done it three years in a row is amazing," said Peek. "It's indescribable and really hard to put into words what it really means to me."

The former Lincoln County High School standout is the starting point guard at Austin Peay. She had five points in Saturday's Ohio Valley Conference Tournament title game win over Eastern Kentucky that put the Lady Govs (23-7) back into the NCAA Tournament.

"I dreamed about this as a little girl, but truthfully I never thought it would end up this way," Peek said. "My college career has truly been a dream come true, and I think it goes to show that no matter where you are from or how big you are, your dreams can come true.


"I always had people tell me I was too small to play college ball and that I could never do it in Division I. I have enjoyed proving that I can and showing other girls who are dreaming about it that that it can come true if they put their heart and soul into it."

Peek's heart is immeasurable. That's always been her biggest attribute. She was playing on the Lincoln varsity team when she was in middle school and has almost always been the smallest player on any team she's been on. However, she's always been able to succeed.

She's started all 30 Austin Peay games this season. She's averaging 6.7 points, 3.7 assists and 2.6 rebounds per game. Her 39 steals lead the team. She has shot 39 percent overall, including 35.7 percent from 3-point range, and 71.4 percent at the foul line.

"I have been consistent shooting and distributing the ball," Peek said. "But I think a lot of things I do for our team never make it to the statistics sheet. That's fine with me, because I love to do the little things that a lot of people do not recognize."

Peek was asked to assume more of a leadership role this season along with seniors Gerlonda Hardin and Jessica Grayston. Her attitude about doing the little things to help a team win made that an easy transition for her.

"I believe my overall game has improved here," Peek said. "I think the big thing that has improved its the defensive aspect of my game. College is so much different than high school, and to be on the floor you have to be able to play defense.

"I also think that I have become a smarter player. I have learned a lot more about the game. I have learned a lot of things that will help me become a great coach one day."

She had to adjust to a new coaching staff

She's playing for a new coach, Andy Blackston, this year and said it took time to adjust to the new coaching staff.

"It was a big challenge for me to learn everything fast than everyone else so I could see things on the floor that the coach would want," Peek said.

Peek said one of her best moments this year actually came in a game Austin Peay lost at Kentucky.

"I grew up going to their games and dreaming about playing in front of fans like that," Peek said. "One of my better games this year was at Eastern Kentucky, and that meant a lot because most of my family and friends were at the game."

Peek and her teammates have midterm exams this week while they await pairings for the NCAA Tournament to be made Sunday.

"It's good to have a couple of days to enjoy yourself," she said.

However, don't think she's not already thinking ahead to the NCAA Tournament. Austin Peay barely missed knocking off North Carolina last year, and Peek thinks that experience will help her team this season.

"I learned last year that anything can happen in the tournament," she said. "Losing by only two points to North Carolina showed me that we can win that first-round game. That is our plan this year and has been one of our team goals from the beginning of the year."

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