Inexperienced Lady Lions Looking for New Leaders
From Alex Bentley, to Nikki Greene, to Maggie Lucas, the Lady Lions have often had individual scorers that head coach Coquese Washington could rely on to shoulder the load in recent seasons. The 2014-2015 Lady Lions are missing four starters from last season who accounted for more than 75 percent of the scoring. That unit was led by Lucas, who averaged a team-high 21.0 points per game and was named Big Ten Player of the Year.
So as a new season approaches for the women’s basketball team, one big question looms: Who is going to score? At Monday’s media day, Washington discussed who she expects to step up on an inexperienced team.
Forward Tori Waldner, the lone returning starter, provided a defensive presence last season, averaging 5.6 rebounds and 1.2 blocks. But she wasn’t often called on to score, putting up just 4.8 points per game. As the only senior on the team’s roster, Waldner will have to contribute in a new way as a key leader.
“It’s all about me being a leader for the team,” Waldner said. “I’m the only starter coming back, I need four more with me. … I want to make sure that they’re ready. We lost so many points and rebounds [to graduation] that everybody has to bring it this year.”
According to Washington, the Lady Lions will look to some young players to help make up some of the missing offensive production. Washington cited , along with “newcomers” in Sierra Moore and Lindsay Spann.
Moore, a redshirt sophomore, transferred from Duke after her freshman season in 2012-2013 and sat out all last year due to transfer rules. Spann was a highly-touted recruit coming out of Good Counsel (Maryland) where she averaged 15.9 points and 5.3 assists in her senior year. She tore her ACL in the summer after graduation and missed her entire freshman collegiate season.
“I’m hoping they have a big impact, they’re both very talented players,” Washington said. “Lindsey has a pretty high basketball IQ and she’s fun to watch. Especially when the ball is in her hands. She’s a very gifted passer and makes things easier for her teammates. When the two of them are on the floor together, they play very well off of each other and create opportunities for their teammates. I’m expecting that we will count on them to make plays for us and be dynamic players.”
Washington said the young players on her roster who got the chance to contribute last season will have a clean slate in 2014-2015. This includes sophomore Peyton Whitted, who Washington mentioned as a standout offensively in preseason practice, and fellow sophomore Kaliyah Mitchell. Both players received significant minutes off of the bench in 2013-2014.
“I think the returning players have a collective amnesia about everything they did last year,” Washington joked. “I’ve told all of them, ‘All of you guys have different roles this year,’ because our departed seniors carried such a responsibility for the success of the team and it was good. It was good that they were able to go through that experience last year. But everybody on this team has a new role because everybody is going to have to pick up the slack in terms of their contributions.”
With the Nov. 14 regular season opener against Towson just around two weeks away, Penn State’s young players are ready for the opportunity to step into the spotlight as they try to follow up three straight seasons as Big Ten champions.
“I think it will take the first couple of games to get the feel of playing a lot of minutes and playing with each other,” Whitted said. “As a freshman it was about getting warmed up. Now I need to make a big contribution. It’s a lot of big shoes to fill.”