TWIN BRIDGES — Walking toward her old high school gym, Peyton Ferris mused that she departed a snowy northern Spanish landscape in early January and arrived stateside to a bone-dry Montana.
"Not what I was expecting," she said with a smile.
Her departure from Europe was also earlier than she had originally anticipated.
After a three-year stint with GDKO Ibaizabal, a team in Spain’s second level of women’s professional basketball, the former Twin Bridges and Montana State star injured her knee in the preseason.
"Mentally it kind of took me back because I couldn't play at the level I wanted," Ferris said. "I couldn't move how I wanted."
Over the next months she tried to play through injury, but it began to take an emotional toll. At one point, a group of Twin Bridges girls basketball players watched one of her games on TV and Ferris was painfully aware that she wasn't playing at her "full potential."
Realizing that her most productive days were likely behind her and not wanting to further aggravate her injury, Ferris announced in December that she was retiring from professional basketball.
A former Montana Gatorade player of the year and Bobcat standout who outscored Kelsey Plum in her final college game, Ferris' lifelong dream of playing basketball for a living took her to Spain's Basque Country.
"It wasn't easy at all," Ferris said of the decision to retire. "My whole life I've had the game of basketball and I had to push through a lot in college and that was where I didn't know if I could keep going for too long after. I didn't know if I was burned out.
"But I had a great experience over there professionally. I stayed healthy for three years of it."
Professional hoops may be in the past, but Ferris is still grateful for her time overseas. And she's still thankful for the experience she got as both a Falcon and a Bobcat that prepared a small-town kid to make it to the next level.
"Walking into this gym and Brick Breeden Fieldhouse at MSU, it's always going to have that special feeling," Ferris said. "It means everything that you can play a sport and eventually have that be a career.
"People don't necessarily want to call it a career because there's so much that goes on behind the scenes. But if it was easy everybody would be doing it. To do what you love is the best kind of job you can have."