Grangeville's Pederson makes hoops debut

Idaho's 57-55 loss to Utah State Wednesday night was disappointing to the players, the coach, and 477 fans in the Cowan Spectrum. However, there was one Vandal highlight that was especially welcome to local fans in attendance familiar with area prep basketball. The debut of Grangeville star athlete DEBBIE PEDERSON (6-3), a four-year letter winner with the Vandal volleyball team.

The game marked the first game appearance for the newest Vandal, 6-3 senior post Debbie Pederson of Grangeville. Highly recruited both as a basketball player and volleyball player in high school, Pederson settled on a volleyball scholarship with Idaho and was a four-year letter winner.

Her career as a Vandal athlete was seemingly over until Idaho freshman post Jessica Graham went down with an injury earlier this month. Pederson met with Idaho head coach Jon Newlee and decided to join the Vandal basketball team for the remainder of the season. Wednesday night she checked into the game with 12:11 left in the first half and the Vandals trailing 18-7. She wound up hitting a pair of free throws, collecting two rebounds and handing out an assist in 7 minutes of action.

"I tried not to get nervous," Pederson said. "Just tried to stay calm and just play. Just go for the boards and tried to get open and don't let ‘em shoot." Asked about her decision to join the team Pederson said she just wanted to help out in any way possible. "I just wanted to come in and, like coach said, help out the team as much as I could doing whatever, whether that was being a practice player or being able to come off the bench, just help the team out as best I could."

The transition to NCAA Division I hoops is an ongoing process. "Getting used to college ball is way different than even five years ago, high school," Pederson commented. "I really haven't played basketball, so it's just like getting the rust off and getting used to running plays again and running defense and that kind of stuff."

"I thought Debbie played hard, came out and did a good job," coach Newlee commented after the game. "We're limited in what we can do when she's in the game as far as play calls, just because she's never going to catch up to all the plays we have, but in our basic stuff that she's doing I thought she did a great job. I thought she battled hard, held her own against their big kids.

"I was real happy. I told her before the game at shoot-around that she was going to get in and to be mentally ready to play, not sit there. Her sitting time was done and it's time for her to get in the action and see what she can do," Newlee said. "I was very happy with the way she played tonight…She can shoot the ball, and I think you'll see once she gets more comfortable in what we're doing from an offensive standpoint that she's going to be able to step out and shoot the ball. She almost took that one three and I thought she was going to, but I can tell you next game or the following game she's gonna take it, and she can shoot it. She's gonna get the green light to take the ball and do what she can with it."

At Grangeville High School Pederson led the Bulldogs to Idaho state championships during the 2003 and 2004 seasons, and earned Idaho State 2-A Player of the Year honors.

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