Peyton Guice stared out the window of her parents’ SUV and, to their dismay, wasn’t impressed with what she saw.
“Look, Peyton,” her mom Sara said. “This is where I went.”
Peyton — more focused on the AAU tournament she just played — didn’t care about her mom’s alma mater.
“I don’t want to go there,” she responded. “It’s a party school.”
The brick roads, green hills and 13,080-seat Convocation Center weren’t enough to convince Peyton to commit to Ohio to play basketball. She was entering her senior year at Westerville South High School — the same school where her dad, Jermaine, became a basketball legend — and where she played collegiate ball had to be as serious as she was.
As she sunk back into her seat, the thought of being a Bobcat faded while her parents and four siblings headed toward Columbus.
Then, things changed.
A few months later, with her parents flanked on both sides, Peyton smiled big while the ink dried on her letter of intent to sign with Ohio. She was headed to Athens and destined to walk the same brick roads as her mom, who was a communications student in the ‘90s, and help fill the Convocation Center while playing the game her father introduced to her years ago.
For Peyton, her parents have always been at her side. Her dreams were once theirs. Both played collegiate sports. Their experiences have helped her navigate through the twists and turns of adolescence. But as Peyton transitions into who she wants to be, she’ll have to navigate and set her sights on a path not yet traveled.
To understand where the lanky, 5-foot-11 freshman with a megawatt smile is headed, one must first know the path that got her here.
Peyton’s journey started in France. While Jermaine played for French basketball teams, STB Le Harve, Le Mans and Elan Chalon, Peyton embraced the culture. She started school at 3-years-old and learned to speak the language fluently.
“She was our French girl,” Jermaine said. “There were times we would be together and someone would ask me something and I would look to her for the translation.”
The french girl quickly picked up basketball in a league called “Baby Basket.” That was where she learned of her ability to lead. Peyton was a skilled organizer and speaker. She was vocal and passionate from a young age.
“Peyton was born a leader,” Sara said. “Her personality has always been one where she’s willing to take responsibility.”
Sports were the perfect playground for Peyton to showcase those qualities. Sara remembers how her daughter used to organize the kids at the mall into working together to play cohesively. She was only 6.
Peyton’s ferocity helped most with her leadership skills. The girl was scary.
On the court, Peyton was a force. She could go through anyone. Foul trouble was a commonality for the girl with pigtails, goggles and pads on her knees and elbows. She looked more like a linebacker than a guard, and she played like one, too.
“I was a very, very hyper child,” Peyton said.
Peyton’s energy was one of the many things she packed when the family moved back to America. She was 7 and transition was difficult, but not impossible. A close-knit family and the love of basketball was all she needed to settle into a new life. Over time, those relationships started to evolve.
It was in the eighth grade when she realized that basketball was her golden ticket. That wasn’t surprising considering that the game ran in the family.
Peyton’s grandpa Eddie was a basketball staple in Columbus up until his death in 2012. He was a star at Linden McKinley High School, and at one point in college, he was the third-leading scorer in the nation. When it was time to hang up his sneakers, he became a coach and started the Ohio Hoopsters, so young players like his grandchildren could hone their skills.
Grandpa Eddie’s basketball greatness transferred to his son, Jermaine. Westerville South has had dozens of great basketball players walk its halls, but Jermaine was another level. He was the Division III player of the year his senior year before he embarked on a legendary career at Butler.
The Guice’s pedigree was hard to carry for a 14-year old, but Peyton embraced it. It wasn’t forced upon her, but once she decided she wanted it, Jermaine made sure he would show his daughter how to thrive in the family business.
“I never wanted it to be something I was forcing her to do,” Jermaine said. “I’m like, ‘Hey, if this is something you want to do, I’m more than willing to help you do it.”
Jermaine and Peyton’s father-daughter relationship carried the burdens of coach-player responsibilities. Jermaine was tough. When others praised Peyton’s performances, he made sure she knew of her shortcomings. Sometimes things were rocky, but that only ended up tightening their bond.
“It made our relationship stronger and made me stronger as a person,” Peyton said. “There were days we didn’t like each other or talk to each other, but at the end of the day we knew we loved each other.”
Ultimately Jermaine’s influence worked. As Peyton grew, so did her skills on the court. That reckless tenacity that put her in foul trouble turned into a controlled daunting defensive presence. Her hyperness turned into a quick pace that often found her points and open teammates for assists. The newest era of Guice had arrived.
As Peyton entered high school, the weight to live up to her family name grew heavier. She was playing in the same gym her father used to run. She wore his No. 11 proudly. She had four years to prove that she was a Division I level talent and she wasn’t going to waste time.
Peyton made the most of her opportunities. She led the Wildcats to conference titles and deep playoff runs even though she was one of the few consistencies of the program.
Peyton had three coaches during her time in high school, and they all coached her differently. Silas Williams was a go-getter pushed Peyton every day up until her junior year. Then there was Tomeka Brown-Whitehead, a women’s basketball legend in Columbus who many people looked up to. Her arrival at the program was exciting, but her departure only three months later for personal reasons put the program and Peyton’s senior year in disarray.
While Westerville South looked for a replacement, Jermaine, who was coaching the boys as an assistant, stepped in running the open gyms. He was always a coach she could count on.
“Even though I wasn’t under him because I’m related and talk to him every day and have seen the practices, it was almost like he was coaching me,” Peyton said.
When Westerville South finally found its replacement, Erick Herzberg, the season was just around the corner. Herzberg didn’t have time to get to know his team, but it didn’t take him long to know his senior captain was special.
“She was every bit as valuable as anybody on the team,” Herzberg said. “She was a hell of a player for us.”
A first-year head coach was just one of the many transitions Peyton had to prepare herself for. Her recruitment was in full swing, and different coaches wanted her to commit to their program. But only one’s calm, emotionless demeanor won her over.
When Ohio coach Bob Boldon set his eyes on recruiting Peyton, his work was cut out for him. She didn’t want to play at a school with a reputation for good times and Natty Lights.
That wouldn’t deter Boldon, though. He knew Peyton’s skills would be a valuable addition to a team already loaded with talent, but it was her demeanor that made him feel she’d be a perfect fit.
“Peyton is an easy kid to recruit,” Boldon said. “She’s very mature for her age. She didn’t want to come here because she thought it was a party school. Usually, it's the other way around.”
As Boldon made his pitch to the Guice family, they became more and more impressed. There was no smoke with Boldon.
Peyton soon realized that Boldon and Ohio were about business. Her parents knew that Boldon could take their daughter to the next level.
“He wasn’t trying to sell us on anything,” Sara said. “He cares about his team. He cares about his girls.”
Boldon’s meeting with the Guice family was enough to convince Peyton to visit the campus. This time, she didn’t see an old relic from her mom’s past. She saw the beauty in the bricks, the complexity in the hills and her potential on The Convo’s court.
Ohio was the next step on her path.
A few months later, Peyton sported the No. 11 jersey for the Bobcats. Her family was in the stands cheering for her first game.
“Being able to know I have that support still even though I’m away from home, I greatly appreciated it,” Peyton said.
Peyton’s home support was crucial many times during her first semester.
Peyton’s first semester as a freshman at Ohio was rough. The school workload was heavy, the days seemed short and her family wasn’t just outside her room. She wasn’t playing much, and the stress of it all felt overwhelming at times.
It was also hard for her family. They missed having their daughter around. Jermaine, who replaced Herzberg as head coach, can’t make it to every game. When they did make it down to Athens, Peyton could count on some of her grandma’s famous pound cake to cheer her up.
Peyton’s struggles throughout her first semester made her put her trust in other people. The coaching staff was there for her. It was a tough adjustment, but like many times in her life, she was able to adapt.
And her parents couldn’t have been prouder.
“Jermaine and I have been cognizant that we’ve had our own athletic careers and own experiences and so this was Peyton’s journey,” Sara said. “As a parent watching your child, I think you feel pride and satisfaction knowing that she’s able to do what she set her mind to."
Throughout Peyton’s life, she’s been able to see her parent’s footsteps along the path that they’ve already traveled. Those prints took her to basketball and they took her to Athens. Now, those prints are fading, and each step she takes will lead her in the direction of something unforeseen.
It’s scary when you don’t know the outcome. Terrifying when you don’t see the signs. Who knows what will lie down Peyton’s path in the future.
She does know one thing, though.
Her parents will be there every step of the way.