Three women’s basketball superstars from Fenwick – Erin Lawless, Devereaux Peters and Tricia Liston — soon will have their numbers hanging from the rafters in the Catholic school’s gym.
Compiled by Mark Vruno
Tricia Liston (from left), Devereaux Peters and Erin Lawless back in their Fenwick days.
In the illustrious, nearly 90-year history of Fenwick High School, only two retired jerseys have been displayed atop the Fieldhouse Gymnasium: those of Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Lattner ’50 (football) and former NBA player Corey Maggette ’98 (boys’ basketball). But that number is about to more than double in a pregame ceremony (2:30 p.m.) on January 13th, when the jersey numbers of three alumnae will be added: Erin Lawless #34, Tricia Liston #32 and Devereaux Peters #14.
“Lattner and Maggette: That’s some elite athletic company,” observes Dave Power, Head Girls’ Varsity Basketball Coach who mentored all three of the honorees when they played for his Friars. “Each of these women is so well deserving of this recognition from our school,” adds Coach Power, now in his 41st year of coaching (first at Proviso West, then at Immaculate Heart of Mary in Westchester).
Power is one of only three 900 (935 now and counting) game-winning basketball coaches in Illinois history, and teams on which the trio of Lawless, Peters and Liston played contributed to nearly 43% of that win total. Keep in mind that Fenwick was an all-boys institution for its first 63 years; it went coed in 1992 – the year Power came to Fenwick. Here, in chronological order, is who these players are, what they did at Fenwick, and what they’ve done since moving on from Oak Park:
#34 Shoots, She Scores!
Lawless played her powerball for the Boilermakers.
Erin Lawless ’03 is no relation to legendary Fenwick Coach Tony Lawless, but the 6’2” Berwyn native set her own reputation as a center on the hardwood. Post-Fenwick, Lawless played in the Big Ten at women’s basketball powerhouse Purdue University. She also played professionally, briefly for the WNBA’s Indiana Fever and then in Europe, where she enjoyed an eight-year career.
As a Friar Lawless won a state championship* (AA) as a sophomore and twice earned first-team All-State honors (as a junior and senior). Other highlights:
- scored more than 2,000 career points in high school
- averaged 21.6 points per game as a senior
- as a junior, averaged 21.5 points, 10.5 rebounds, 4 blocked shots and 3.7 assists (the Friars went 30-4)
- scored a school-record 51 points vs. St. Ignatius
- overall record: 125-12
Lawless was the Chicago Sun-Times Player of the Year in ’03 and a McDonald’s and Nike/WBCA All-American. She was first runner-up for the Chicago Tribune’s Ms. Basketball in Illinois. (Naperville Central junior Candace Parker won her second Ms. Basketball title that year, and would win her third as a senior in 2004. In the ’03 state title game, the Friars lost to Parker’s Redhawks by four points in overtime.) Lawless was named second-team Parade All-American and third-team USA Today All-American.
Such accolades are even more impressive for the tall, former seventh grader — Lawless was 5’11” at age 12 — who started playing hoops on doctor’s orders at Lincoln Middle School (Berwyn). Two years earlier, “I was diagnosed with a rare blood disease called ITP,” she was quoted in a Purdue University publication as a college freshman in 2003. ITP is short for idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, an autoimmune disease that causes a low platelet count in the blood. (Sonya Lawless, Erin’s mother, also suffers from the condition.) “My hematologist told me that if I picked up a basketball, it actually builds up my immune system and would help keep me active and keep me healthy,” Lawless said.
Once she caught the basketball bug, Erin’s late Uncle Bud helped her to hone her skills. Fast forward three years, to when Lawless cracked the starting varsity line-up as a Fenwick freshman in 1999-2000. The rest, as they say, is history. The ITP has gone into remission, and basketball probably played a large role in helping to build up her immune system and get the platelet count to a safe level.
Today, Lawless is in her second year of coaching at La Plata High School in Maryland, where she lives with her husband and two-year-old daughter. She also teaches Chemistry and AP Environmental Science. “The team I coach has not had a successful track record, and I am working on changing that for the program,” she reports. The 32-year-old adds, “While I have ‘retired’ from basketball, I continue to get offers to play — and if the opportunity presents itself, I may just go back!”
#14 Perseveres through Adversity
Peters brought her fightin’ spirit to Notre Dame.
Devereaux “Dev” Peters ’07 is a dichotomy: humble and modest on the one hand. Yet, Peter always has been a go-getter, not to mention an intense, intimidating defender on the basketball courts of Chicago and her hometown of Oak Park, where she attended Roosevelt Middle School. The 6’2” forward bounced back from a couple of severe knee (ACL) injuries at the University of Notre Dame to be named Big East Defensive Player of the Year as a senior in 2012 — a season in which a healthy Peters started in 39 games and led the Irish to a berth in the national title game. She also played on the undefeated, gold-medal-winning team representing the USA at the 2011 World University Games held in China.
During her collegiate career at ND, Peters shot 55% from the field and averaged more than 10 points, seven rebounds and nearly two blocked shots per game thanks in part to her long arms. (Dev has a 77-inch wingspan!). She was the first-round draft choice, and third pick overall, of the Minnesota Lynx in the ’12 WNBA draft. She would go on to win a pair of championships in Minneapolis (2013 and ’15). In February of 2016, Peters was traded to the Indiana Fever for whom, in her first season, she appeared in 30 games, averaged 5.2 ppg and led the team in blocks with 18.
During her esteemed career at Fenwick, Peters received basketball honors from Gatorade, State Farm, Parade magazine, the Chicago Tribune and Sun-Times newspapers. Here are four reasons why Dev was recruited by more than 300 colleges to play basketball coming out of high school:
- Won Illinois State AA Championship in 2007 (Fenwick’s second; 36-2 record)
- Chicago Sun-Times Player of the Year (’07)
- Four-year win-loss record as a Friar: 135-11
- McDonald’s All-American
Last summer the 28-year-old returned to the Fenwick gym with her Geaux-Getter Basketball Camp. Peters remembers the impact of attending a WNBA camp in Chicago when she was 10 years old. In a Pioneer Press article written last summer, Rich Mayor reported that she “still has a ball signed by former WNBA player Betty Lennox, one of her idols who attended the camp.”
Peters has “summered” overseas, playing hoops for the WBC Dynamo Novosibirsk of the Russian women’s league and Uniqa Sopron in Hungary, where she led the team to a Hungarian National Championship and was named MVP. She underwent hip labrum surgery last offseason, became a free agent and is playing again internationally, trying to make a WNBA comeback.
#32: A Creative Scorer
Liston (shooting) was a scoring machine for the Blue Devils.
Tricia Liston ’10, a 6’0” forward, earned a scholarship to Duke University, where she was a two-time captain and finished eighth on the Blue Devils’ all-time women’s scoring list with 1,664 points; one of 31 players at Duke to reach 1,000 points as a junior. Liston’s 253 career three-pointers are a program record, shooting 45.9% from the beyond the arc. During her four years in Durham, NC, Duke women’s team went 120-20 and advanced to the NCAA Tournament’s Elite Eight three times.
As a college senior, she averaged 17 points and five rebounds per game, and shot 85% from the free-throw line. In school, she managed a rigorous course schedule and was able to be a two-year member of the Atlantic Coast Conference’s All-Academic Team. Liston also won a gold medal in 2013 in Russia with Team USA in the World University Games, where she led the team with most three-point field goals made.
In 2014 Liston was reunited with former Friars teammate Dev Peters on the Minnesota Lynx, which selected Liston in the first round as the 12th overall pick of the WNBA draft. Her coach at Minnesota, Cheryl Reeve, described Liston a “sniper” and “three-baller. She shoots at a high clip. If you leave her open, she makes you pay,” Reeve said.
A native of River Forest, as a junior-high student Liston led St. Luke’s Middle School to three consecutive Girls Classic (Catholic) League titles. Her dad, Brian Liston ’78, was a 6’5” forward at Fenwick and at Loyola University (1978-82). Ms. Liston grew up in a family with three athletic older sisters, Friars all: Brigid (now Walsh) ’04, Maura ’06 and Clare ’08.
Liston’s career record with the Friars is 126-18. Her senior year at Fenwick her team (32-4) came in third place in the 4A state playoffs; Liston ripped off 40 points in her final game as a Friar against Whitney Young. Fenwick’s longtime Coach Power once likened her to Boston Celtics’ legend Larry Bird: “She is exactly like Larry Bird,” Power said. “She has the ability to shoot the three or attack the basket and beat people off the dribble. Larry was great on the big stage, and against top competition, Tricia was able to deliver.”
- Was a freshman on Fenwick’s ’07 State Championship team
- Averaged 28.8 ppg as a senior
- Scored 30 points in a dozen games as a senior, including a career high 43 vs. St. Joseph (Missouri)
- Champaign News-Gazette 32nd All-State Player of the Year (’10)
- Ms. Basketball 2010 (Chicago Tribune)
- Chicago Sun-Times Player of the Year (’10)
- Her 2,713 points ranked 14th on the all-time IHSA scoring charts
The hard-working Liston, who turns 26 next month, also played two professional seasons overseas in Italy, Spain and South Korea. Unfortunately, her pro basketball career was cut short in mid-2016 due to lingering back problems. She is working in Chicago for Drum Associates, a New York City-based firm that helps athletes to find jobs after their careers in sports are over.
*Fenwick won its 2001 and 2007 state titles when Illinois only had two classes. “Large school was AA and very small schools, enrollment-wise, were class A,” Power explains. The Friars’ ’07 championship was the last year of two classes. “In 2008 they went to a four-class system: A, AA, AAA and AAAA.”