By Eric Norwood Jr.
PNT staff writer
When young athletes get the opportunity to attend a university and play sports, it can be an exciting and frightening experience.
Luckily for Nelsha Peterson, a sophomore basketball player at Eastern New Mexico University, she has a few good role models guiding her in her father Nelson Peterson, a former basketball player at Idaho State University, and her brother Adrian Peterson, former running back at the University of Oklahoma and reigning NFL Most Valuable Player.
After a freshman season at Eastern New Mexico University in which she averaged seven points and four rebounds a game, Peterson was set to return when her coach Lindsey Wilson left the program for a job at Fresno Pacific University in May. After a 7-22 season, and the reality of the college coaching carousel hitting home, Peterson pondered her options.
But new ENMU women’s basketball coach Josh Prock convinced her that Portales was the best place for her. With her sophomore season approaching, she is anxious to get the ball rolling.
What made you come to Portales?
It came down to two schools, Eastern and (Henderson State University) in Arkansas. When I took my visit out here, the teachers and coaches made me feel at home. And that was the biggest factor for me. I’m from Palestine, Texas, which is a small town, and it felt like home to me.
The Zias have a new coach this year. Did this influence your decision in coming back?
Yes. I thought about leaving. But getting a phone call from Coach Prock and hearing his expectations for this year coming up encouraged me to stay. Coach Prock seems cool and I’m ready for what he’s got coming for us. I like new challenges.
What are your goals for this upcoming season?
First I’d like to be a team captain. I’d like to be named All-Conference First-Team. I want to be a key factor on the team and someone people can look up to.
What is your major?
My major is pre-med. I’d like to be a pediatrician.
Do you have tough classes being in pre-med?
Yes, they are so hard. I take a lot of science courses such as biology, genetics, cell biology, chemistry, physics. I hate biology but I love babies, so that’s why I want to work with babies.
Does the thought of medical school intimidate you at all?
That does make me want to change my mind sometimes because the schooling is so long, but in my family I have a lot of people looking up to me and believing in me, so I want to show them I can do it.
Tell me about Palestine, Texas.
It’s a small town in East Texas, about 45 minutes from Tyler, Texas. Most of my family was there. In seventh grade I moved from there to Dallas, which was crazy moving from a small town to a big city.
I know that your father played ball in college at Idaho State. Does he ever give you tips?
Yes, all the time. He always tells me about my footwork, my shot, my follow through. He is a big basketball person; that is what he does. He is my biggest mentor as far as basketball. I’m a daddy’s girl too, so he would make me play him one-on-one and make sure I was in shape, and get me ready for the college level. He’s always supported me and made sure I had the things I needed to be successful. It was cool having a dad who loved the game of basketball enough to teach it to his daughter.
Your brother Adrian won NFL MVP last year. How does that feel?
Well, a lot of people ask me about him, and it is hard to look at him in that way because I grew up with him and to me he is just my brother. But I recognize his accomplishments and I call him my hero. Sometimes I tell him that and he laughs like I’m not serious. But growing up so many people doubted him and us as a family, so now that he is there he has proved so many people wrong. He helps me keep my head on straight and encourages me because people are going to talk about you whether you’re at the bottom or the top. But we still joke and fight like regular brothers and sisters.
How often do you speak to him?
During the season he is very busy, but we talk on the phone and I’ve been to his camps and stuff. I went to his camp he had this summer with former Olympic track athlete Michael Johnson, and his workouts were killing me. But it was worth it though.