TWIN BRIDGES – Peyton Ferris wanted to make a big first impression.
The former Twin Bridges and Montana State basketball standout is in her first professional season overseas in Galdakao, Spain, and hoped to capture the attention of players and fans in Basque country during one of her first games in October. Ferris achieved that, but perhaps not in the manner she expected.
“We sit in these plastic chairs (on the court) and I was leaning forward in my chair too far, and all of a sudden the chair slipped out from under me and went into the bleachers. Everyone saw it,” Ferris laughed during an interview with MTN Sports in her hometown over the holiday break. “It was just kind of that foreign, just bad foreign luck, and everyone was like, ‘Oh, there’s the foreigner.’ No, it’s been great. Everyone has been nice and it’s been a great experience.”
Chair mishaps aside, Ferris is enjoying her time overseas. She says she is beginning to get settled in Galdakao, a city of nearly 30,000 in northern Spain, just miles from the Bay of Biscay of the Atlantic Ocean, and continues to focus on basketball for GDKO Ibaizabal, a League II club comparable to the NBA’s developmental league.
But Ferris has quickly learned that being the outsider in a foreign country does present its challenges.
“I kind of am apologizing to my old roommate (Rebekah Hatchard), who was from Australia, and she even spoke English. But just the being foreign thing, we joked around with her for things she did, like driving,” said Ferris. “But now there’s a language barrier. All of my teammates speak English really well, but going out and about, if I don’t have them with me, my Spanish is really rough. Some things that happen when you’re a foreigner, even asking for help, but they take good care of me. With the food, it’s different, but it’s really good. I’m happy to be back and eating American food for a couple of weeks.”
Cuisine, friends and family were all key benefits to Ferris’ return home for the holidays, but the Big Sky Conference MVP also found time to catch her former teammates in action. Ferris, who scored 1,328 points in her MSU career, 10th-most in program history, saw the Bobcats run their home-court winning streak to 31 games, second to only national powerhouse University of Connecticut.
The familiar faces were a welcoming sight to Ferris, who admits keeping in touch with friends and family from Spain has been much different than the typical phone call or text message.
“Now days, it’s crazy because we pay so much money for a phone plan here (in America), but over there, they use so many other things. I’m able to use Facebook Messenger, or WhatsApp is huge, because everyone in Spain uses WhatsApp anyway. They get the cheapest phone plan and 8 GB of data, and it’s only eight euros. They know how to work the system over there,” she said. “They got me a SIM card, so I have service over there, but I’m still hooked up with my old number, so it’s great.”
It’s given Ferris a chance to pass along her stat line so far: 13.9 points and 4.1 rebounds per game in the 12 contests she has seen the floor. She has also connected on 54 percent of her 2-point field goals, while nailing 77 percent from the free throw line. Ferris has added averages of just more than one steal and one assist per game.
Ferris has also transitioned back to a natural guard position, after spending time with her back to the basket at Montana State. She says League II isn’t as physical as the college game, giving her an edge over competition, while also allowing her to focus on other aspects of her game.
“Working on ball handling to bring the ball up the floor against the defender, that was something that was a bit rusty, I would say. Other than that, I mean, my style of play, you kind of carry my guard play into my post play as far as moves and fundamentals. Now, it’s the same, attacking the basket but also using footwork once you drive someone down,” Ferris said. “I never really knew what to tell players when they asked for advice, besides the typical ‘work hard’ and stuff. Now, my biggest advice is that, growing up, it doesn’t matter if you’re short or tall, develop your game at every position. Right now, it’s just whoever can play basketball. If you’re small and can post up other guards, that’s huge. If you can drive and shoot the ball as a post, no matter how big you are, to be an all-around player is the biggest thing.”
Ferris and her club currently rank in the top three in League II, with the top four programs qualifying for the playoffs. The winner of the postseason automatically moves up to League I, “a big motivator,” according to Ferris. Her favorite game to date came in the preseason against a local League I team, providing a packed gym with fans pounding drums and blowing air horns that sounded eerily similar to the shot clock she joked.
Basketball continues to come naturally, but the hard-working Ferris is locked in on improvement. But living overseas does offer its tourist moments for the former Class C all-star.
“It’s kind of ironic because I’m saying that Basque country up there is kind of like the Montana of Spain, but it’s right by the ocean. It has everything. That’s what people don’t know,” she said. “Everyone wants to go to Barcelona and Madrid, but if you fly into Bilbao, Spain, there’s the Guggenheim Museum, which is really famous. Game of Thrones was filmed all up in that area, so you can see all of that and do a Game of Thrones tour. There’s the beach there where they get these famous 30- to 50-foot waves off the coast right there, so there’s a lot of surfing, hiking and the cliffs.
“The scenery, some of it is like, ‘Am I in Montana or Spain?’ Then the ranches, too, they produce a lot of the beef for Spain, and do ranch and agriculture stuff. Then they grow the grapes there, too, for all the wine throughout Spain. It’s a really awesome experience and it’s a beautiful place to be.”
Forget that first impression. Peyton Ferris is living her dream.