Peters gets opportunity in Smolinski’s absence

YOUNGSTOWN — Alison Smolinski got some playing time her freshman year at Youngstown State.

The North Royalton native, a 5-foot-9 junior, had her opportunities.

She made the most of them and became an integral part of the starting lineup, the small forward averaged less than 10 points a game.

During a Dec. 20 game against Penn State-Beaver, Smolinski went down with broken foot and is now wearing a boot on her right foot — one she still wears today.

YSU women’s coach John Barnes said he’s unsure when Smolinski comes back from that injury, but forsees her back before season’s end.

They needed someone to step up in her place.

Freshman McKenah Peters, who also is 5-9, was tabbed as that person.

“I think she’s done a great job,” Barnes said. “As a freshman, you’re still learning and still gettting better every day. Super proud of all of our freshmen that are playing a lot of minutes.”

Ironically, the two played for the same club team, TNBA, which is located west of Cleveland.

Smolinski’s TNBA coach, Kevin McNamara, told her she had to keep an eye on a younger player, Peters, who later went to Keystone High School in LaGrange.

The two eventually practiced and scrimmaged each other.

“She was a great shooter and I saw so much potential,” Smolinski said. “I knew she was going to be a great player. It’s ironic we’re at the same college now.

“It’s a good experience to play with each other now.”

Peters scored in double figures in both of the team’s Horizon League wins against UIC (14) and Detroit (11).

“With Al being out, we definitely need a couple of people to step up,” Peters said. “Coach (John) Barnes put me in a position and I took advantage of it and do the best I can to help the team. My teammates have definitely gained more confidence the past couple of games. They’ve worked hard to get me the ball and get me open looks.”

She gets a helping hand from Smolinski, who is out for a while.

“We’re really close and she definitely helps me out, now me being a position she’s used to being in,” Peters said. “She’s definitely given me more confidence and she just helps me out there.”

Smolinski is getting used to walking around in a boot and added it will come off in a couple weeks when she sees her doctor.

In turn, Peters is getting used to be an important part of this YSU team — filling in for Smolinski.

“She’s doing a great job of making the most of every opportunity she has,” Smolinski said of Peters. “She’s doing well out there. She’s a great shooter. She’s going to have a lot of success.”