The 5-foot-11 sophomore out of Edmonds-Woodway High had a big tournament after Thanksgiving, and the Huskies are excited about the possibilities.
Washington’s two-year search for someone to complement Amber Melgoza’s all-around brilliance has unearthed another candidate: Missy Peterson.
“Amber gets keyed on a lot because people know how great she is,” Peterson said. “She does so much. … But what’s great about this team is everybody from 1-11 can score.
“We have so many different weapons that when Amber gets a box-in-1, it’s OK because we have other people that can score, shoot, pass and rebound. That’s one thing that’s really special about our team is that we go deeper than just a starting five.”
Finding and developing multiple scoring options has been a top priority since coach Jody Wynn took over the UW women’s basketball team last year.
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“That’s huge,” she said. “We’d like to have three consistent scorers, but we’re trying to figure that out right now. It’s still early. We got some young kids that are still learning.
“But I do think that there’s some parts in there that are going to develop into consistent performers.”
The Huskies have more options this season than in 2017-18 when virtually everyone was new, and Melgoza had to carry a team that finished with the worst record in school history at 7-23.
Even though Melgoza still leads Washington in scoring (18.3), rebounds (5.8), assists (3.3), steals (1.6) and minutes (30.0), the Huskies (3-3) have showcased a more diversified offensive attack.
In the first two games, senior forward Hannah Johnson took over the secondary scoring role while tallying 16 and 12 points during wins against Cal State Fullerton and Northern Arizona, respectively.
Freshmen post players Haley Van Dyke and Darcy Rees, the only players other than Melgoza and Peterson who have scored in double figures in multiple games, have provided an offensive boost inside.
And last weekend, Peterson showed a glimpse of her potential with a sensational three-game performance at the Gulf Coast Showcase while averaging 14.7 points and shooting 53.1 percent from the field.
The 5-foot-11 sophomore guard began the post-Thanksgiving tournament in Estero, Fla., last Friday with a career-high 17 points on 6-for-9 shooting, including three three-pointers during a 71-64 upset win over Duke.
“She’s been waiting so long to play a game like that, and we’ve been waiting right with her,” Wynn said. “She’s been building towards this moment. Had a great spring. Just worked her tail off. And that confidence is starting to show.”
Two days later, Peterson set a personal best with 18 points in an 80-73 defeat to Michigan.
Heading into Friday’s 6 p.m. showdown at crosstown rival Seattle University (0-6), Washington (3-3) may have finally discovered a running mate for Melgoza.
“I’m ready to have a big season,” said Peterson, who is second among UW players while averaging 10.8 points. “I’m healthy, I feel good, I feel confident and those are things that I couldn’t say for a long time.”
After dealing with a broken foot and a left knee injury the past two years, Peterson is finally pain free.
“Sports are up and down, and it’s a roller-coaster ride,” she said. “People get injured. I got really unlucky last year. I tore my MCL and lost about half of my season. It was hard. It was adversity that you have to face, and it’s hard to bounce back from certain injuries.”
After 18 games, Peterson’s freshman season came to an abrupt end when an opposing player fell onto her left leg midway through a 78-75 overtime defeat at Washington State last January.
Before the injury, Peterson, a four-time All-WesCo 3A selection, struggled early on with the Huskies largely because she missed offseason workouts and training camp while recovering from broken foot that occurred her senior season at Edmonds-Woodway High.
Admittedly, Peterson also battled bouts of insecurity last season.
“Last year I didn’t really take very many shots at all,” said Peterson, who averaged 3.3 points as a freshman. “I didn’t believe in myself as much as I do now. I didn’t think I was capable of doing the things that I am now.
“It was intimidating for me to get in the paint. I wanted to be more of a perimeter shooter last year. I was intimidated to go up against Pac-12 bigs and make mistakes. But I’m over that now, and it feels good to know I can do a lot more than just shoot threes.”
Peterson leads UW with eight three-pointers, but she’s also displayed an efficient low-post attack that explains why she’s shooting 53.1 percent from the field.
Through six games, she’s already scored more points this season (65) than she did last year (59).
“I think I’m a little better and a lot of it comes with confidence,” said Peterson, who wouldn’t change anything about the past two years. “I think I needed to go through that to get to where I am now. The transition from high school to college was really eye-opening. … It was a gruesome experience, but it was a learning one too. And I’m so grateful for it.
“Now that I have a year under my belt and I have a team and coaching staff that believes in me as a player and they know what I can do and they support me 100 percent. It makes it so much easier to go out on the court and play with a team that’s so unselfish.”