This season ArkansasRazorbacks.com will be running a weekly feature series highlighting a member of the 2012-13 team. This week the series focuses on junior Keira Peak.
Last season's edition of the Razorbacks was very successful, winning 24 games and advancing to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The squad was senior-laden, and left some big shoes to fill. The success of this year's team relied on the team finding new players to step up and star in larger role. One player that quickly announced her presence was junior Keira Peak.
As a strong two-way player, Peak was an integral part of the rotation last season. She averaged 4.3 points, and 3.0 rebounds, but finished the year strong, starting the final game of the regular season and scoring 14 points in the opening game of the NCAA Tournament against Dayton.
This season, Peak stepped right into the starting lineup. In an early road game at Tulsa, she set a new career high with 17 points and started to find her groove. Then the team took a trip to Hawaii.
Over Thanksgiving break, the Razorbacks traveled out to Honolulu for the Waikiki Beach Marriot Classic. In addition to an early-season bonding trip for the squad, the Razorbacks played three games against tough opponents. And Peak was up to the task.
In the opening game of the tournament, Arkansas took on 13th ranked Oklahoma, and Peak was hitting on all cylinders. Giving the Sooners everything she had, Peak scored a career high 30 points, including four three-pointers. After the tough loss, Peak stayed hot, propelling the Razorbacks to victory against Hawai'i and Oregon by scoring 16 and 24 points respectively. The performance earned her both Tournament MVP and SEC Player of the Week honors.
"It was probably the best I've played," Peak explained "I felt like whatever I threw up, it was going to go in. It was just going to happen and it was going to go in. My scoring this year - it's just happened. Teams weren't guarding me or respecting my shot and I took advantage."
Her outstanding play was certainly appreciated by Arkansas head coach Tom Collen, who was excited to add Peak to the arsenal of weapons. Playing alongside seniors Sarah Watkins and Quistelle Williams, Peak gives the Razorbacks an additional scoring threat.
"She's been spectacular at times," Collen said. "She's makes spectacular plays that the crowd loves. We feel like she's capable of a double-double on any given night. She's given us another weapon. Not just a defensive player, not just a rebounder, she's a threat to score, and people had to start respecting that."
Another key facet to Peak's game is her all-out playing style. During the game, Peak is always flying at full steam from the opening tip to the final whistle. She is constantly diving on the court after a loose ball, or going hard to the hoop with no concern for the consequences. Peak has taken a number of blows this season - walking off gingerly to the sideline. Nonetheless, she is always quickly back into the game and right back into the thick of things.
"Even I high school I did the same thing with diving on the ground for the ball," Peak said. "I worried about my body later on. It's kind of catching back up to me, my body is worn out - but I'm going to keep doing it until my body tells me no. I feel like I'm an important aspect of the team. I can't let an injury stop me from playing. I just have to shake it off. It's all a mind thing. Being hurt is a mind thing, so I have to get it out of my head and go out and play hard."
Peak's determined mentality has been an inspiration for the Razorbacks this season. She has lead by her example on the court, and that attitude has rubbed off on the rest of the squad.
"My goal is whatever my team needs me to do," Peak said. "I'm going to make sure I give 110%. If they need me to score I'm going to make sure I score, if they need me to rebound, I'm going to make sure I rebound. If they need me to defend, I'm going to be the best defender out there. For the team, we need to go out there with the same mentality that we can't lose, that whoever straps up, they're going to be in for a battle and we're not going to be that easy and lay down for anybody."