Quinyotta Pettaway heard about the value of hard work, even when her raw athletic prowess and 6-3 court presence was enough to dominate the local sports scene as a Perquimans girls basketball player.
Now a junior at Clemson and facing the ACC’s best, she wished the lesson had sunk in deeper.
“My coaches at home would tell me, ‘Yotta, do you know how hard you have to work to play in college?’” Pettaway said. “But I was thinking, ‘I’m good, I don’t have to work hard.’ Now I’m trying to catch up, and I used to think about that a lot. I can’t turn back time though, and I just have to work hard now.”
Pettaway has done more than catch up, she’s become a leader in hopes of greater fortunes for a 4-7 Lady Tigers squad without seniors and low on depth, thanks to recent transfers and defections.
After a breakout sophomore year, the 2010 Daily Advance Player of the Year has kept the momentum going. She leads Clemson in rebounds and blocks, and had her second double-double (10 points, 11 rebounds) of the season in the team’s last game, a win against Samford.
Another challenge comes knocking today: the conference opener at home against No. 16-ranked North Carolina.
Today’s game brings back good memories, and where Pettaway recalls her renewed work ethic reaping its biggest rewards.
She scored 16 points and hauled down 12 rebounds in an upset win at Chapel Hill last year, going 8 for 10 from the field in front of family and friends in her home state.
“It’s scary and exciting at the same time,” Pettaway said about facing the Lady Tar Heels again. “It made a big difference with my family in the crowd. It will be nerve wracking, too, because they’ll be out for blood after the last time. It’ll come down to who wants it more.”
The 3.0 GPA student earned a starting job by her fourth game of last season, and has started in 10 of Clemson’s first 11 games.
Pettaway’s transition has even amazed her, since she is drawn to her family and the small town life afforded at Perquimans. While being recruited, she had leaned towards Old Dominion in major part because of the Norfolk, Va. school’s closer proximity to home.
But being hours away at the South Carolina school doesn’t faze her. A recent trip home for a holiday break, however, showed others are still curious.
“Maybe some of the younger girls will see me and ask, ‘Are you still playing at Clemson?’” Pettaway said. “I guess some are still a little shocked I left to go to Clemson since I’m so family oriented. Coming from where I came from, it’s hard to think outside of the town because you don’t get a lot of recruiters there.”
Pettaway is enthused on her new role at Clemson, and one she knew all-too-well throughout her prep career in Hertford: the go-to player. She believes the turnaround has already started with the Lady Tigers’ current three-game winning streak.
“We’re in a position now that we’ve lost some players, and it’s made us realize we have to come together more,” Pettaway said. “I think we will have a great season, and we don’t care that we’re down to eight players, we will step up.
“My main goal is to prove everybody wrong, because we have so much talent on this team. We know we have it in us. Coming here has really opened my eyes because the girls here can really play.”
Although busy with college academics and athletics, she keeps a close eye on news from home.
That includes her former team’s fast start to the 2012-13 season. Perquimans, which hasn’t had a winning year since Pettaway left in 2010, is 8-2 on the year. Pettaway stays in touch with cousin and Lady Pirates player Tykia Wood about the latest happenings and feeds her the values she once heard just a few years ago.
“I’m proud of them, and it’s great to see the girls are really taking it seriously and going after it,” Pettaway said. “I tell the girls that hard work will pay off in the end.”