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All-American girl: Barton’s Peterkin named to elite Division II unit

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Upon confidently realizing she could shoot and score the basketball, the proverbial sky became the limit for 6-foot-2 junior Barton College women’s basketball star Shanika Peterkin.

The resident of Virginia Beach, Virginia, is continuing to reach in that direction after, this week, being proclaimed third-team NCAA Division II All-America by the Conference Commissioners Association and accorded All-America honorable mention by the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association.

Peterkin becomes the Lady Bulldogs’ first women’s basketball All-American since Nyesha Willie, also a Virginia Beach product, in 2014. Kianna Wynn, also an inside performer, was accorded All-America honorable mention last season.

The All-America accolade comes on the heels of Peterkin being proclaimed Conference Carolinas Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year. She landed the defensive award for the third consecutive season.

FIRST-TEAM GOAL

“My goal next year is to be first team All-America,” the elated Peterkin exclaimed in a telephone interview Tuesday afternoon from her home. “I think I can do it by working really hard over the summer and during this (coronavirus shutdown) break. I will have to add something else to my game. I will have to be focused every game and know what I want to accomplish every game.”

Peterkin, the possessor of a 3.6 grade-point average in seeking a nursing degree, accomplished plenty in leading Barton to a 24-6 overall record, a 19-3 conference mark, a runner-up conference finish and an appearance in the tournament championship game.

The All-Southeast Region first-team selection led Barton in scoring this past season at 18.5 points per game and ranked first in the league in both rebounding (12.3 per game) and blocked shots (101). Peterkin is the program’s all-time blocked shots leader with 343. During the 2019-20 season, Peterkin was named the conference’s player of the week on five occasions.

‘PRETTY AWESOME’

“Pretty awesome!” veteran Barton head coach Wendee Saintsing described Peterkin’s recognition. “She had a great year and deserved to get it. I’m glad she was recognized.”

Expressed Peterkin: “I was shocked and a little excited. It was not really a goal until I realized I had gotten so much better. I started thinking: ‘What if I got All-America’?”

She’s among the 16 players saluted on the three All-America units after not only continuing her defensive prowess but doubling her scoring average from her sophomore season. Peterkin is the lone Conference Carolinas representative.

Remembers Saintsing: “She was afraid to score, afraid to shoot and afraid to mess up. The same thing her sophomore year. She wanted to play defense and wanted to block shots. But the last two games (of Peterkin’s sophomore year), she really came around offensively. She came back (for her junior season) with a positive attitude and started doing the work she needed to do.

“She knew she had to step up offensively. She didn’t have a lot of help and she had it in her head that she had to score. She really did a great job. The amazing thing is that she has not nearly reached her potential.”

Peterkin assures she would still rather block a shot than score in double figures.

HAD TO DO BOTH

“But I knew I had to do both at the same time,” she explained.

The All-American insists the offensive turning point occurred in the Southeast Regional tournament her sophomore year when Barton opposed Anderson (South Carolina) University.

“I was making post moves and doing a lot of things,” Peterkin noted with a slight chuckle. “I realized I can actually score this ball and actually play offense.”

A challenge from Saintsing early in her junior season awakened Peterkin.

“We talked to her over and over that she could really be a lot better,” Saintsing noted. “Early this year, we had a conversation that she was not putting in the work she really needed to do. That kind of shook her up.”

Peterkin agreed.

“It hurt,” she said. “I didn’t want to her to think that I wasn’t working as hard as I needed and was not taking it seriously. I started going to the gym a little more; before, I never went into the gym (on her own).”

HELPED BY JAMI

Peterkin’s development was boosted, as noted by Saintsing and Peterkin, by the emergence of 6-0 sophomore Jami Tham-Morrobel as a big-time threat in the post.

Peterkin pointed out she bonded with Wynn her first two years. This season, she had to learn and adjust to Tham-Morrobel, and experienced some difficulty. However, Tham-Morrobel progressed rapidly and became much more productive than Peterkin expected. Peterkin soon discovered she and Tham-Morrobel could play well together, and proudly observes: “We were a really awesome high-low.”

Now, Peterkin is well on her way to transforming Saintsing’s early-career forecast into fact.

BEST POST PLAYER

“I told her during her freshman year that she could be the best post player I’ve ever had,” Saintsing acknowledged. “She’s probably the most athletic and tallest I’ve had. She has a natural instinct of how to play basketball. It’s just amazing because she started out at such a late age.”

Peterkin revealed she came to the United States from Jamaica, which did not offer high school girls basketball. She did play the sport competitively until her junior year of high school. Already at a height of 6 feet, Peterkin doesn’t deny that she was apprehensive about playing the game.

“I’m happy I got involved,” she clamored. “But I didn’t want to love it because I was afraid I wouldn’t be good at it. I didn’t want to put a lot of energy into it and not be successful.

“But a lot of good can come out of it and you can learn a lot from it.”

Spoken like an All-American.

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