ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO/WQRF) — Boylan senior Peyton Kennedy has made quite a name for herself in the Stateline. The second she steps onto the basketball court, teams know they’ll have to get through her first.
A great shooter, rebounder and passer, Kennedy’s made her way to the top as arguably the NIC-10’s best player this year. She’s surpassed 1,600 points in her career, making her Boylan’s all-time leading scorer. Kennedy is also on her way to passing the 1,000 mark for rebounds.
“She’s got a tremendous work ethic,” Boylan Head Coach Paul Perrone said. “A lot of girls will play basketball during the season, but they don’t have that extra drive to go beyond and Peyton has been with an athlete trainer for four years. When we’re done with practice, she’ll go lift weights, do other kind of agility workouts. [She’s] the kind of kid that’s self-motivated. As coaches, it’s hard to motivate players. We try our best. It’s the self-motivation that makes her a great player.”
With former Boylan star players Frankie Schiro and Ashley Reyes gone this season, teams have focused all-in on Kennedy. Defenses often times double team her or collapse on her, forcing her to find those open teammates and have as great of a passing ability as she does.
“You know, I told her at the beginning of the season she was going to be a marked girl and every game she goes into, she’s physically beat up but she is mentally prepared for that,” Perrone said. “We’ll use screens at times to get her open but in the same token, I said, you know you can’t be a one-girl team. If you’re going to have any kind of success, other girls got to step up and pick it up.”
“I guess I don’t really think about it as much,” Kennedy said. “I try to set that aside and just focus on just playing my game. … It’s humbling, for sure. The pressure is on me, but my teammates do a great job as well.”
Kennedy’s earned respect from her teammates and coaches throughout her four years at Boylan. At the same time, her leadership has grown. The senior said she used to be quiet as a freshman, but she eventually grew to speak her mind over the years.
“As a freshman, I couldn’t get her to talk and now I can’t get her to keep quiet – in a good way,” Perrone joked.
“I’m sure he’s irritated sometimes, but I think we’ve gotten closer, and he’s a great coach and he knows what he’s doing,” Kennedy said. “He really encourages the team and myself to be better everyday. … I guess as being a leader on the team, I guess I speak more like what we could do on offense better, what we could do on defense better and I think he really listens to my input, as well as I listen to his.”
The road to being as successful of a player as Kennedy is though, wasn’t always easy.
“When I was little, I wasn’t coordinated at all but I started getting into training and people developed me into the player I am today,” Kennedy said.
It wasn’t until just before Kennedy started playing high school basketball, when she learned she had asthma.
“My parents always thought that I was just out of shape – which I was – but I didn’t find out I had asthma until eighth grade and it really was a bum, for sure, but I’ve really overcome it and know how to handle it now and it’s way better,” Kennedy said.
Despite road bumps, Kennedy’s drive to become the best is what’s ultimately allowed her to reach her dream of playing DI basketball at St. Louis University.
“Visiting there was a great experience,” Kennedy said. “The things I was looking for [were] good atmosphere, safety, coaching staff and the teammates were great, and I got all of that when I went down there. I just fell in love with the campus.”
Kennedy says she’s excited for what’s to come in her basketball career, but she’ll definitely miss her Boylan family. The team says they’ll miss Kennedy more as a person, than as a player.
“She’s super tough on the court, but outside of the game, she’s super sweet and like, such a lovable person,” Boylan senior Mia Dally said.
“I’ve heard sometimes that people think I’m tough and aggressive, but I guess I’m different on the basketball court than I am in person,” Kennedy said.