Bob Holt is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and voter for the Heisman Trophy, Biletnikoff Award and AP Top 25 basketball poll. Holt was awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year in 2000 and 2015.
Peak’s impressions leave mark at UA
Arkansas forward Keira Peak drives to the hoop for a layup on a fast break against Tennessee Tech in the first half of a Dec. 20, 2013 game at Bud Walton Arena in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE - For someone who didn’t think she’d play college basketball, Keira Peak has carved out a nice career with the Arkansas Razorbacks.
Peak, a senior forward from Clyattville, Ga., will be honored before her final regular-season home game when Arkansas (18-10, 5-10 SEC) plays Missouri (17-11, 6-9) at 2 p.m. today in Walton Arena.
It will be Peak’s 125th game for the Razorbacks and 63rd start.
Peak, a sprinter, hurdler and high jumper at Lowndes High School, figured she would compete in track and field in college, but she decided to accept a basketball scholarship to Arkansas when the Razorbacks made an offer late in her senior season.
Razorbacks Coach Tom Collen said assistants from Arkansas, Auburn and Georgia came to one of Peak’s games primarily to scout the team she was playing against but came away impressed by her performance.
“My high school coach said, ‘You did well and made a lot of new friends, you should be getting some calls,’ ” Peak said. “It all came out of the blue.”
Peak didn’t start playing basketball until she was in the eighth grade and never played in summer tournaments.
“She never had the opportunity to play in front of a lot of college coaches,” Collen said. “She was a diamond in the rough very late in the recruiting process.”
Peak picked Arkansas over Auburn.
“I was looking for a new experience,” she said. “I wanted to go somewhere I’d never been before.”
Peak, 5-9, is averaging 9.8 points and 4.9 rebounds this season and has career averages of 7.5 points and 4.8 rebounds. Last season she scored a career-high 30 points against Oklahoma and had a career-high 14 rebounds against Tulsa. She had a career-high five steals against South Carolina this season.
“The first thing that sticks out with Keira is her phenomenal athleticism,” Collen said. “She might be the best athlete in the SEC - I think that’s a pretty big statement - and she combines that with her effort and hustle.
“She has that unique ability to rebound out of her space, like no other kid I’ve seen to be honest with you. We could make a pretty good highlight reel with Keira Peak.”
Arkansas junior point guard Calli Berna said Peak is always ready to play her best.
“I respect that she doesn’t care who’s on the other side of the court, she’s going to play her game,” Berna said. “One of the fans always calls her ‘Sneaky Peaky.’ I think that’s so true. She comes out of nowhere and jumps out of the gym.”
Peak said she’ll have several family members attending today’s game, including her mother and stepfather, two aunts and four cousins.
“It’s definitely going to be emotional,” Peak said. “I didn’t really cry at my high school senior night, but I’m pretty sure I’ll cry at this one.”
Collen said Peak figures to be diving on the floor several times in today’s game with her hustle plays.
“She’ll be running the length of the floor to get blocked shots, grabbing some incredible offensive rebounds, creating a lot of havoc on defense,” Collen said. “She’s got a big heart and really cares about people.
“I’ve seen her come a long way, not just on the basketball court, but really grow up as a person.”
Sports, Pages 27 on 03/02/2014