By Brian Yauger
“I got hustle though, ambition flow inside my DNA.”
There’s no better way to describe the game of McKenah Peters, guard for the Youngstown State University women’s basketball team, than this Kendrick Lamar lyric. Hustle is a key part of her game, a trait that came from her parents.
“My parents have always told me to work harder than everyone else, ever since I started sports,” Peters said. “Actually, I have it tattooed on my body in my mom’s handwriting. That’s just like a huge saying that my parents have ingrained in my brain. I just take pride in my work ethic, and I do my best to work hard out there and outwork the opponent.”
Her love of basketball also came from her parents, who played the game, too. The sport has been a constant in her life from early memories of watching her sister to beginning to play herself.
“My older sister played basketball, and both my parents started varsity as freshmen and throughout high school,” Peters said. “I just really started loving the game ever since I started watching it, either on TV or when my sister was playing. I’ve been playing since like second grade.”
Peters has had a breakout year on both sides of the ball in her sophomore season, nearly doubling her points-per-game total from her freshman year. She’s averaging 8.9 points-per-game and reached her career high of 18 points last month in the game against Northern Kentucky University.
In addition to her scoring efforts, Peters has been given high praise from her teammates and coaches, who have said she deserves a nod to the All-Defense Horizon League squad. Peters is proud of that, but would rather praise her coaches and teammates.
“Yeah that’s pretty awesome,” Peters said. “I just give credit to coach [John] Barnes for believing in me and letting me be that person to guard the best players on the other teams and I just love to help my teammates in any way possible and just have fun with it.”
Peters’ defense has been stellar to watch. So much, that it may surprise readers to know that she hasn’t been a primary defender for long. In fact, in high school she says she didn’t play much defense.
“Now that I’ve been in college I definitely respect the defensive side of the game so much more,” Peters said. “In high school, I honestly did not play defense like I do here now, but once I got here I actually learned the mechanics of it and really take pride in defense now, and that’s probably one of my favorite parts of the game getting a stop and helping my teammates.”
Peters attended Keystone High School in her hometown of LaGrange, Ohio, which is where she won the Lorain County Miss Basketball Award her senior year. Funny enough, winning the Mr. Basketball award that same year was YSU men’s basketball star Naz Bohannon.
The two were aware of each other in high school, but grew close after both came to campus. That friendship has caused Peters to follow the men’s team quite closely, even to the point of asking for score updates after postgame press conferences.
“I’m best friends with two of the guys, Garrett Covington and Naz Bohannon … I just love to support their team and I love to see them win,” she said.
Speaking of following, Peters’ parents attended at every game, making the drive in from the Cleveland area. They are even there for quite a few of the men’s games, seated in the same spot every night, right behind the press table.
“We’re just a huge basketball family,” Peters said. “So, having them support me every single game even on the road — they’ve only missed one game … having their support means everything to me. They’re my biggest fans and I couldn’t do it without them.”
Growing up in the Cleveland area, Peters, in her words was “obviously” fan of LeBron James. It’s not just James though, Peters has a few more players she’s been a fan of throughout the years.
“I really respect Kyrie [Irving], he’s amazing. Maya Moore, Skylar Diggins was probably one of my favorites to watch at Notre Dame, she was pretty amazing,” she said.
When asked if she modeled her game after any of those players or any players period, Peters denied it. Explaining the style of her game quite simply.
“Not really,” Peters said. “I just go out there and work as hard as I can just to help my teammates in any way possible.”
Helping fellow athletes is a pursuit Peters aims to accomplish with her degree. Peters is a psychology major with a minor in coaching. She looks to study sports psychology in graduate school.
“I’d really like to get into sports psychology and study that more for my master’s degree,” Peters said. “Possibly become a GA somewhere, still stay involved in basketball as much as I can because I love the game so much. I’d love to help student athletes with the psychological part of the game.”
Music is a pregame staple for Peters, who also enjoys a rest before games. As for what type of music she listens to, it all depends on her mood.
“I listen to music, relax, take a pregame nap,” Peters said. “I do that every game. That’s important, but I put in my music. It depends on how I’m feeling that day, sometimes it’s slow R&B and sometimes it’s pop.”
When she’s off the court, Peters likes to return home and spend time with her family. Basketball is never too far from her mind, and when she’s not at home or with the team, she’s usually with some of the other Penguins.
“I’m a big family person,” Peters said. “I only live an hour and a half away so as much as I can, I go home and spend time with my family. When I’m here I pretty much just relax, hang out with Naz [Bohannon] and Garrett [Covington]. That’s pretty much all I do.”
Being able to go home was a huge reason as to why she attended YSU, but having her family close to home is probably the biggest.
“I’m a homebody. My parents can make it to every game, even on a school night. That was huge, having my supporting cast to be able to follow me throughout my career,” Peters said.
From her hustle, to her family ties, it’s safe to say that basketball is in her DNA.