Phoenix Mercury guard Shey Peddy (5) reacts after drawing a foul from the Las Vegas Aces late in the second half of Game 5 of a WNBA basketball playoff series Friday, Oct. 8, 2021, in Las Vegas. The Mercury won 87-84. (AP Photo/Chase Stevens)

Phoenix Mercury guard Shey Peddy has been overlooked and underrated since being drafted 23rd overall in the 2012 WNBA Draft by the Chicago Sky. At 5-foot-7, the Boston native is small, but her game is mighty. She has been Phoenix’s “X-factor” all season.

In Game 5 of the WNBA semifinals against the Las Vegas Aces, Peddy made a late-game hustle play to propel the Mercury to their first Finals since 2014. With about seven seconds on the clock (three on the shot clock) and the game tied at 84, Peddy jumped on a loose ball, turned to the basket and got fouled on a falling 3-pointer with less than five seconds remaining.

She made two free throws to secure the lead and the victory.

“We call her 'Playoff P' for a reason,” Mercury star Skylar Diggins-Smith said.

But even before the game-winning play, Peddy was all over the floor providing stifling defense.

“I think the biggest part of her game is the hustle points,” Phoenix head coach Sandy Brondello said after Game 5 of the semifinals. “That’s why we won the game. We could’ve gave Vegas some easy baskets there, but Shey just, she just out-hustled them. She got on the floor, got us the ball and gave us extra possessions. She just made plays.”

Not only does the Mercury's coaching staff expect that extra effort from Peddy, but her teammates do as well, knowing where that desire comes from.

“Her story, you know ... I’ve got so much respect for Shey,” Smith said as she fought back tears after Game 5. “Her story is just so inspiring. She just works so hard. We’re in the gym every day, and even when my confidence is down, she just pushes me. She’s just a great teammate. She already knows how I feel about her.”

The 2021 season was the first time Peddy wasn't cut from a WNBA team.

In 2012, she was let go by the Sky after training camp as they already had point guards Courtney Vandersloot, Epiphany Prince and Ticha Penicheiro on the roster. So Peddy began her professional career playing overseas, hoping for a chance to play in the WNBA the following season.

In 2013, she was invited to the Washington Mystics’ training camp but again was cut in preseason. She was not picked up by another team and again played overseas, this time with less hope.

However, the six-year overseas stint allowed Peddy to gain confidence in her game. She was a three-time MVP and two-time champion of the German league, playing against EuroLeague stars she’d been told she couldn’t play with in the WNBA.

In 2019, the Mystics went through a series of injuries, so head coach Mike Thibault signed Peddy to short-term contracts after originally cutting her for the second time. At 30 years old, Peddy made her WNBA debut and played 15 games for Washington, averaging 4.7 minutes per game. After three weeks, she was cut again but was hired by Thibault as a coaching intern, ultimately becoming a 2019 WNBA champion with the Mystics.

When the wubble season came in 2020, Peddy was given a roster spot and headed to Florida as a Mystic. However, she was waived during the season due to salary-cap issues. Before Thibault had a chance to try to pick her up again, she had found her new home with Phoenix in the wubble.

Peddy was welcomed right away by the Mercury, averaging 18 minutes in the last eight games of the season. She even hit a game-winning 3-pointer against Washington in a win-or-go-home situation.

In that full-circle moment, Peddy displayed the great determination and resiliency it took to finally make the WNBA. But the biggest change in her wasn't her effort. It wasn't even her scoring ability.

It was the lessons learned from adversity.

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