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Emotions ran wild Friday night for Phoenix Mercury guard Shey Peddy before her season debut against the Los Angeles Sparks. The last time Peddy stepped on the court, she ruptured her Achilles in the 2022 playoffs against the Las Vegas Aces.
She addressed the overwhelming thoughts racing through her mind before the game.
“There’s a lot of emotions; happy, excited, nervous, anxious, I just want to get the game over with and rip the Band-Aid off,” Peddy said. “It’s been a long nine months. I’m excited to be here and I really just want this game to be over with.”
Before stepping in the press conference room, Peddy retweeted a Mercury video of her return and said, “LFGGG!!!!!!!”
Added support from players and coaches
Head coach Vanessa Nygaard and teammate Megan Gustafson sat next to her and echoed their shared support. Nygaard explained why this day and game was so important.
“It is a huge day for Shey,” Nygaard said. “I’ve seen her work, her dedication and I’m looking forward to the warm welcome our fans will give her on her return.”
Moments after Nygaard talked, Gustafson chimed in as well. She acknowledged this game was Peddy’s moment.
“I’m just excited to be back on the court and I’m just really honored to share this day with Shey because she’s worked so hard and she’s such a great teammate,” Gustafson said. “I’m just excited for her return.”
Peddy splashed 3s everywhere in warmups, ran agility drills and continued the same pregame workout regimen, which included too many calf raises. Peddy said we cannot imagine how much she did.
“I did 1,000 calf raises, you would not imagine,” Peddy said. “Once you rupture it, in the first couple of months, it was barely anything and not getting up at all. I think now, I still probably can’t fully get all the way up, but it’s a process. It’s just thousands and thousands of calf raises. Seriously.”
The emotional rollercoaster
After the opening tip, everything paid off. The uncertainty, doubt and fear were cast away. The extensive training, advice and willingness to play so quickly paid off.
Gustafson, Michaela Onyenwere and Nygaard hyped Peddy up when she walked to the scorers table. When she checked in, she received a standing ovation from the X-Factor. Peddy soaked in the overwhelming moment after the game.
“Honestly, I thought I was going to cry,” Peddy said. “I was getting a little emotional, it just all hit me at once. I really appreciate the warm welcome that they gave me and I’m glad it’s over, to be honest.”
Onyenwere didn’t want to make Peddy cry when she checked into the game. However, the 2021 Rookie of the Year shared what went through her mind.
“When she checked in, I thought she was going to get emotional, but I was thinking, ‘Shey, yes!'” Onyenwere said. “So I didn’t ask her, but I wanted to ask her. I didn’t want her to get emotional, but I know it’s just a testament to who she is as a person. She’s worked really hard to get to this point.”
The former Temple standout played 5 minutes through the first half. She posted 2 points, with all of her points coming from the charity stripe after being fouled on a 3-point attempt. Her performance didn’t matter; it was just about being back onto the court.
Inspiration through her recovery
“My team worked with me throughout the whole offseason,” Peddy said. “I was here the entire nine months, five days a week, almost 23 hours a day. Our athletic trainer Hannah [Wengertsman] and coach Nikki Blue stayed around too and helped me a lot. It was motivation, like I was tired of being hurt. I wanted to get back as soon as possible, but I wanted to be ready and I feel good. I feel really good.”
Peddy certainly felt good and played music throughout warmups. Peddy put on one of her favorite songs, “All My Life” by Lil Durk and J. Cole. Although she didn’t relate to every part of the song, Peddy explained how it truly impacted her recovery.
“For me just being able to get back out there, everybody’s been doubting, you might have doubts, you might say you can’t do this and then I’ll try to keep you in a box, and that’s just a perfect song to say, ‘You can do it,’” Peddy said. “It’s your life, just go out there and do what you have to do throughout the whole process.”
Shey Peddy’s impact on her teammates
Not only did Peddy feel good, but her teammates felt the presence of “Playoff P.” Her effort, defense and toughness were on full display. However, players saw Peddy’s fun-loving and caring nature. Onyenwere spoke on how welcoming Peddy was.
“I mean, she has been somebody who has embraced me since I’ve come,” Onyenwere said. “I came here a little bit later than most people on the team due to overseas commitments. She was one of the first people to embrace me and really show me around.”
Peddy shows leadership on and off the court. In 2022, she had a career year, averaging 9.9 points and 1.6 steals in 28 minutes per game. Her acumen of defense, hitting 3-pointers and setting up teammates is unquestioned. Onyenwere immediately went to Peddy for advice on certain plays and matchups.
“She’s just such a great person to have in your ear, and even when she was out, she was really vocal about being a really good leader,” Onyenwere said. “I came to her with questions.”
Maintaining her ‘zen’
The former second-round pick had questions of her own. Continued thoughts of fear, doubt and uncertainty creeped in during her recovery. Luckily for Peddy, she tapped into her “zen.”
“I meditated a lot, that really helped,” Peddy said. “I was nervous as far as thinking it wasn’t going to work, but it really helped me calm my mind. Especially on days that I just was having a really, really tough day, like, I just try to meditate. I got into Pilates, that honestly helped me get in my ‘zen’ mode. I just have like my trainers and coaches to try to rely on, you know, my teammates. I would reach out to them when I’m feeling off.”
How Peddy performed
Peddy matched up with guards Zia Cooke, Lexie Brown and Jordin Canada. After the game, she acknowledged her progress and getting her rhythm back.
“I’m pissed that I didn’t make the 3,” Peddy said. “I missed my free throws, but other than that, it was more about just getting my rhythm back. Just trying to make sure I contain my person in front of me.”
Considering Peddy hasn’t played in over nine months, she held her own. The Mercury lost to the Sparks 99-93 in overtime. Peddy logged 8 minutes on a minutes restriction. With her season debut in the rearview mirror, she knows she can focus on what lies ahead.
“I’ll give myself a grace period,” Peddy said. “No matter what I did, everybody is gonna be excited. I was back, and that’s not my goal. I don’t wanna just say ‘I’m back.’ Like, I want to be able to pick up where I left off. We got Dallas coming up and you got Arike [Ogunbowale]. That’s gonna be a tough matchup, but I’m excited to get back out there and just work my way back.”