Natasha Cloud hugged Peddy and slapped her hand on the way back to the locker room, as did Ariel Atkins. The guard nodded her thank-yous, but these weren’t gestures of farewell. Cloud and Atkins were welcoming their former teammate back — as a coach.
Peddy, who has played all but one month of her seven-year career overseas after getting cut after WNBA training camp three times, has checked off two life goals in a five-week span. On June 8, she became a WNBA rookie at age 30 after signing with Washington as a stopgap addition while Emma Meesseman and Kim Mestdagh were away playing EuroBasket. Then, with her playing contract coming to an end last week, she accepted a position as a video and analytics assistant with the Mystics, taking the first step toward what she hopes will be a career in coaching.
Accepting the job was a no-brainer, in part because Mystics Coach and General Manager Mike Thibault gave her an out: If another WNBA team picks her up on waivers, she’s free to go play.
“It’s a lot of firsts going on,” Peddy said with a smile after Saturday night’s game. “To be able to learn at the highest level and get to stay around the girls? It’s an opportunity I didn’t want to pass up.”
The 5-foot-7 guard had made a name for herself over the course of seven years playing in Israel, Austria, Germany and, most recently, Latvia.
Living most of the year abroad was Peddy’s status quo until a month ago. She had grown to enjoy the lifestyle, but it’s not how she imagined her career. As a young girl who grew up watching her mother play in a small local women’s league in the Mission Hill projects of Roxbury, Mass., Peddy dreamed only of the WNBA.
Chicago drafted her 23rd overall in 2012, and she joined a training camp roster loaded with guards: Epiphanny Prince, the No. 4 pick in 2010; Courtney Vandersloot, the No. 3 overall pick in 2011; and Ticha Penicheiro, one of the best point guards in the history of the league. Peddy knew her chance at making the roster was slim. It didn’t help that she froze in camp.
“I grew up watching Penicheiro; I was star-struck.” Peddy said. “I don’t think I said a single word all camp. Ticha was telling me, ‘You know, you’ve played basketball your whole life; you know how to do it.’ Pfft! Easier said than done.”
After Chicago waived her, Peddy went to play in Israel and worked on her game enough that Thibault invited her to training camp in his first year with the Mystics in 2013. But when she failed to make the roster, she went into a tailspin.
“I thought, ‘Maybe I’m not good enough to make a team; maybe basketball isn’t for me,’” Peddy said. “My confidence was shot. I’d never been cut from any team I’d been on, and I had two chances at the WNBA. I thought, ‘I’m not going to get a third chance.’ I was just a wreck. And then you have to tell everybody.”
Peddy trudged forward, playing one year in Vienna. While overseas she started asking about coaching jobs in the States. But as badly as she wanted to quit playing, Peddy knew that opportunities such as hers were rare. That and her pride kept her going.
After that year, an agent called with an offer from a team in Germany, so Peddy took it as an opportunity to rededicate herself to the game. She started getting attention from bigger leagues in Europe — a boon for both her confidence and career because she wasn’t commanding the type of salary WNBA stars do when they play overseas.
Last season, Peddy’s first playing in the top-tier EuroLeague, she averaged 15.2 points, was the seventh-highest scorer in the league — just one spot below Brittney Griner — and was nominated for league MVP honors.
Her standout season reignited Thibault’s interest, and he asked Peddy back to training camp six years after his initial invite. He again cut her on the last day of camp, but knowing he would need a replacement player while Meesseman and Mestdagh were absent, he told her to stay ready.
On June 4, Peddy was on a plane headed overseas, where she was hoping to secure a Latvian passport that would allow her to travel and play with that country’s national team. The next day, Thibault called to offer her a short contract. Because she had given her word to the Latvian team, Peddy asked Thibault for 24 hours. During that time, the Latvian team manager called to say the Latvian government had denied her passport request.
Peddy was on a flight back to the United States on June 7 and finally made her WNBA debut June 9, in the waning minutes of a 24-point win against the Dallas Wings — garbage time she’ll never forget. She posted on social media after and was taken aback when her tweet got hundreds of likes.
“It was funny. I was like, are they happy for me? Or is it just like, ‘Oh, this old lady is making her dreams come true'?” Peddy said, laughing. “I’m 30 — I know I don’t look 30 — but my body doesn’t feel 30. I’m a young 30.”
Peddy hardly played in her stint with Washington, scoring seven points across eight games, but Thibault had a hunch even before he offered her a contract that she would be a good addition to the team. Fortuitously, the Mystics had a spot open on their coaching staff.
“She just felt like a good person, a good fit for the organization,” Thibault said.
Peddy can’t practice with the team five-on-five, but she can help with warmups, film breakdown and scouting reports — the building blocks for a coaching career. That momentum, taking the next step in a sport she nearly quit years ago is what excites Peddy the most.
“Rejection — three times! — from something you’ve worked your whole life for is a bitter pill to swallow,” Peddy said. “I’m a different person now. I learned that some things you have to work harder for, and no matter how hard you work, it still might not go your way. But you have to keep going. Here I am. It’s been a good year.”