Of all the athletes at Chadron State College through the years, few have expended more energy or worked harder than Jori Peters while she was playing basketball for the Lady Eagles the past four years.
And, she certainly got to play a lot — some 3,140 minutes, or something like 52 hours and 33 minutes. It averages out to 32 minutes a game. That suited her just fine.
“I never liked sitting on the bench. I always wanted to be playing, ”she noted.
As both a sophomore and a junior, Peters played an average of 35 minutes a game. College games last 40 minutes. She was on the floor 80 percent of the time. She started 91 of the 98 games the Eagles played during her career, and was in the starting lineup all but one game the past three years.
“We had to have Jori on the court as much as possible,” said her college coach, Janet Raymer. “She did a great job all four years. She was our best ball handler and worked so hard. She was so quick and capable in everything she did. She also was a team leader and was one of the captains each of the last three years. Her teammates liked and respected her. ”
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Chadron State Athletic Director Joel Smith is also a member in her fan club.
“Jori was a sparkplug, always worked hard and did the little things to help the team,” Smith said. “Her energy and passion were contagious.”
The 5-foot-4 guard came to Chadron State after having four outstanding seasons in three sports at Mitchell High School, where she was also the valedictorian of the 2018 class.
Peters said basketball was always her favorite sport, but she also enjoyed playing volleyball very much. She also starred in track as a middle distance runner, but says it was not a fun sport for her, even though she placed 13 times at the Nebraska State Meet, counting both individual events and relays.
Her mother, Michelle, who was Jori’s coach in both volleyball and track, recalls that near the end of Jori’s senior year in high school, an assistant track coach at the University of Nebraska called her to see if she was interested in joining the Huskers.
When the conversation ended, Jori showed no emotion in receiving the call. When asked why she did not seem thrilled with the contact, she said, “Mom, I do not even like Class C track, so I sure do not want to run Division I track.”
Highlights of her track career including winning the Class C 800 meters at the State Track Meet as a junior and placing at least fourth at state five times in either the 400 or 800 meters. She also ran on two silver medal relay teams at state.
Track is also in her family’s portfolio. Perhaps an unprecedented example occurred in the spring of 1997, when the Bridgeport Bulldogs broke the Class C 4×400 relay record at the Nebraska State Meet. The runners were Rich, Todd, John and Anthony Vergil, one of them her mother’s brother and the others her mom’s cousins.
Basketball was Jori’s choice for a college sport and Chadron State was the fortunate recipient of her talent and all-out, non-stop efforts. CSC had an edge in the recruiting process. Both of her parents, Heath and Michelle, who had been high school sweethearts in Bridgeport, are Chadron State alums as is her grandmother, Joy Schoolcraft Peters, and several other family members. Heath Peters is the Mitchell High principal.
During Jori’s high school career, the Mitchell Tigers had an 88-17 cumulative basketball record, and won the district championship and played in the state tournament each of the last three years. They finished 20-7 her sophomore year in 2015-16, when she averaged 9.6 points. The next two years the Tigers were even better.
When she was a junior, Mitchell had a 23-2 record, losing only to Sterling, Colo., In the finals of the Western Conference Tournament and to Ord at the state tournament. She averaged 13.7 points, shot 49.8% from the field and 69.3% from the free throw line. She also passed for 105 assists and had 62 steals.
In 2017-18, her senior year, the Tigers were 26-0 when they went to state. They beat perennial power Pierce in the first round, before losing to eventual state champion Columbus Scotus in the C-1 semifinals and to Lincoln Christian in the third place game. That year, Jori averaged 13.7 points, shot 44.6% from the field, led the Panhandle in 3-point shooting (23-57 for 40.4%) and free throw shooting (79-94 for 74.5%) as well as assists with 120. In addition, she was fourth in steals with 92.
The Omaha World-Herald ranked Mitchell eighth in Class C-1 at the end of the 2016-17 season and sixth in 2017-18.
For her career, she tallied 1,197 points, an average of 11.5 per game, and handed out 456 assists and had 299 steals. She was a first-team all-conference choice in both the Western and Western Trails Conferences each of her final three years in both volleyball and basketball, was honorable mention all-state in both sports as a sophomore and junior and was a second-team all-state selection in both her senior season.
The Scottsbluff Star-Herald named Jori its top choice among its Dynamic Dozen Female Athletes following the 2016-17 school year and two more special honors came her way in the summer of 2018, when she was named the Most Valuable Player in both the Panhandle Prep and Nebraska Coaches Association All-Star Basketball Games.
Jori gives lots of credit for the Lady Tigers’ success to her teammates, such as Celeste Cardona and Kenzy Kanno, both of whom were also recruited by Chadron State coaches but for sports other than basketball. Cardona became a college hurdler and ran on some excellent relays for the CSC track team and Kanno, the first girl from the Panhandle to sink nine 3-pointers in a high school basketball game, is a stalwart on the Eagles’ golf team.
Another of her high school teammates was Keyana Wilford, who is one year younger and grew into a 6-2 center for the Lady Tigers basketball teams. She was tabbed captain of the Class C-1 all-state team chosen by all the media as a senior in 2018-19, when she ended up her prep career having scored 1,694 points, third highest all-time among Panhandle girls.
Wilfred now plays for the University of Nevada at Las Vegas.
“I was fortunate to have had lots of really great teammates in high school,” Peters said. “We all played volleyball and basketball and ran track. We all worked hard and got along really well. It was so much fun. ”
With graduation just six weeks away, Jori said she’s also enjoyed her time at Chadron State, even though none of the basketball teams she has played on fared well, winning just 18 games in the four years.
“We all wanted to win a lot more games, but it did not happen,” she noted. “The Rocky Mountain Athlete Conference is tough. But I built good relationship with my teammates and enjoyed getting to know them. Many of them will be my friends for life. I would not trade my experiences here for anything. ”
Those experiences have included being a high honor student who has earned all A’s except for B’s she received as a freshman for Music of the Minds on-line course and one of her first legal studies courses.
Legal Studies became her major and she has been accepted to attend Law School at the University of Nebraska beginning this fall.
Her basketball stats are also pretty significant for a 5-4 player in a game where giants often dominate. During her career she has shot 38.8% (288-742) from the field, including 36% (82-228) from 3-point range, and 79% (143-181) from the free throw line. After averaging 9.8 points this year, she has scored 801 points for the Eagles in 98 games for an 8.1-point average.
She also grabbed exactly 400 rebounds, racked up 323 assists and came away with 99 steals. Last week, it was announced that Peters along with redshirt freshman Shay Powers received honorable mention on the RMAC all-conference team.
Another huge honor came Jori’s way last fall when she was crowned Chadron State’s Homecoming Queen, indicating that many students knew and admired her. While no surveys were taken to determine how she was elected, its logical that the grit and passion she displayed while playing basketball for the Eagles were contributing factors.