West Mifflin native Joncelyn Peterkin living her basketball dream in Latvia
West Mifflin native Joncelyn Peterkin has had trouble figuring out how many lats she'll need at the local grocer — not to mention the fact that some of those lats are being siphoned away from her on a monthly basis just because she opened a checking account.
All quirky parts of the adjustment process in moving to an Eastern European country. But one thing Peterkin seemingly has had relative little difficulty adjusting to is playing professional basketball.
The 6-foot-2 Peterkin, a Point Park University alum, is the second-leading scorer for Liepajas Papirs 10 games into the LSBL season in Latvia.
“For this being my first pro, overseas experience, I don't think it could be going any better,” Peterkin said via email.
Just to suit up for a professional team and get paid to play the sport she loves was the fulfillment of dream for the 22-year-old Peterkin, who was named to the Daily News Fabulous 15 team after leading West Mifflin to the 2008 WPIAL Class AAA championship game.
“At times it still seems so surreal,” Peterkin said. “I'm actually halfway across the world, experiencing a whole new way of living and doing one of the things I love most — and that's playing basketball.”
After posting 725 points, 556 rebounds and a school-record 192 blocks during her three years at Point Park, Peterkin this past summer took part in an overseas scouting combine camp in Las Vegas and signed with an agent.
Offers came in from outposts such as Bulgaria and Slovenia before Peterkin and her agent settled on the opportunity with Liepajas Papirs in early October. Within a week, she was on a plane to Latvia for the season opener Oct. 13.
“I think what happened in Jocelyn getting noticed last year was we were second in the nation overall in points per game given up ... and she was one of the main reasons,” Point Park coach Tony Grenek said.
“And the other thing about her is she's 6-2 and so long and lean. We played man-to-man, and she's very capable of stepping out and guarding a guard. She's not just a post player; she's athletic enough to go do that, which was very beneficial for us.”
Peterkin is averaging 10.8 points and team highs in rebounds (9.7) and blocks (1.3) per game. She's averaging 31.2 minutes per contest heading into the regular-season finale.
Peterkin, who transferred to Point Park after spending her freshman year at Carlow, originally had career aspirations to be a sports agent. A sports and entertainment management major, Peterkin also is considering grad school at some point.
She has done some modeling and might pursue that more seriously if and when her playing career ends. While coaching is an option because it would keep her involved with basketball, don't look for Peterkin to stop playing anytime soon.
“My career goals are to accomplish the most that I can out of basketball during my time playing, whatever that is,” Peterkin said.
“I just love the game so much. But I guess only time will tell.”
The Liepajas Papirs regular-season finale is Saturday. Peterkin plans on returning home after the season ends but will return to the club — or another overseas team that wishes to sign her — when a new season begins.
“It has always been one of my dreams to play professional basketball,” Peterkin said. “And surprisingly, that dream became a reality.”
Chris Adamski is a freelance writer.