DILLON — It wasn’t long ago that Peyton Ferris was leading the Montana State Bobcats to the NCAA Tournament and the winningest season in team history.

1,328 points prior, Ferris was a star at Class C Twin Bridges. In just a few short years, she has gone from a local high school star in smalltown Montana to a professional basketball player in Spain. But no matter where or how far the game takes her, she hasn’t forgotten her roots, and she has shown that by helping other local high schoolers improve their respective games.

She has worked with fellow Twin standouts Kailee Oliverson and RaeAnne Bendon, as well as Dillon star Brynley Fitzgerald. Of the three, Oliverson and Fitzgerald are committed to Division I programs, while Bendon has still not committed to a college program.

But Ferris has had a special impact on Fitzgerald, who has committed to play hoops for the Bobcats in 2018.

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“She had a little bit of (influence on my decision),” Fitzgerald said. “She said (I) should follow my dreams and kind of do what makes (me) happy…I definitely think she helped me with the whole process of that.”

Fitzgerald led Dillon to a conference title in 2016, but still had work to do if she wanted to achieve her ultimate goal of playing at Montana State. Ferris was more than willing to help the Dillon product in the offseason, and Fitzgerald quickly found out the commitment that took her tutor to the top of her game.

“Everytime you go in with (Ferris), she’s dripping sweat within the first three minutes of the workout,” she said. “Just to see her mentality and her work ethic — you can definitely see that it’s taken her far in life.”

But the MSU commit wasn’t the only one impressed during these workouts.

“Working with her was great,” Ferris said of her pupil. “She knows how to work hard — very coachable working with her. She’s really motivated.”

Fitzgerald made the most of what she calls one of the coolest experiences of her life, and her coach Gabe Walker is noticing the payoff.

“Bryn had a tremendous summer,” Walker said. “Peyton was a big influence on her this summer. I notice a big difference and it’s carrying over to our other girls. Bryn’s kid of taken (Ferris’) mentality, so it has been great for her and our team.”

One more season and one more shot at a state title lies ahead for Fitzgerald before she continues her quest to follow in the footsteps of a local legend, but when the time comes, Ferris thinks the young star has what it takes to make an impact at the Division I level.

“I’m excited to see what she can do when she gets over to Bozeman,” said Ferris. “Her frame is so strong…she knows how to use her body, and nobody’s going to stop her going to the basket.”

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