Three Takeaways From Lady Lions Media Day
Head coach Coquese Washington and members of the Penn State women’s basketball team spoke to the media for the first time this season two weeks ahead of their season opener against Providence.
The Lady Lions haven’t made the NCAA Tournament in the past four seasons, but have an air of confidence as a team that returns the majority of its roster from last season.
Here’s what we learned:
Transfers Limit Inexperienced Front Court
Penn State didn’t graduate any players last spring, but lost two forwards in the offseason to transfers. The team’s top rebounders and usual low post starters, De’Janae Boykin and Jaylen Williams, left for West Virginia and UCF, respectively.
“I think as you see throughout the country, when you look at the number of transfers, I think a common theme is fit — just trying to find the right fit at different stages in your career. What may be a good fit coming out of high school as a 17 or 18-year-old kid might not be the best fit when you’re going into your senior year,” Washington said.
“We wish them all the best of luck and best wishes in their new situations.”
That leaves Penn State with just four forwards on the roster — a pair of sophomores and two freshmen.
Alisia Smith has the most experience of the quartet, playing in all 32 games last season and earning five starts in the last six matchups. She finished the slate averaging a team sixth-best 5.2 points and third-best 3.8 rebounds per game.
Sam Breen is the other front court sophomore, but averaged just 6.5 minutes in each of her 22 appearances last season. First-year players Lauren Ebo and Bexley Wallace bring much-needed size to the roster. Ebo, who is 6-foot-4, and Wallace, who is 6-foot-3, were both three-star recruits in the 2018 class.
“I think our post contingent will all have an opportunity to step up and be impactful for us,” Washington said. “I hope [the two newcomers] will be very impact, but they’re freshmen, so you never know. But they’re talented, and they’re workers, and they’re sponges. So it’s going to be a matter of them adjusting to the physical play on this level, the speed of play on this level.”
Up-Tempo Style Is Here To Stay
It hasn’t always been successful in recent years, but the Lady Lions like to play fast. With an excess number of guards who can work their way into the starting lineup, that up-tempo game plan isn’t going to change.
With the top four scorers returning this season — including the formidable All-Big Ten duo of Teniya Page and Amari Carter — Penn State’s backcourt will be its strength.
You can add in a new face to the mix as well: Karisma Ortiz. The ESPN HoopGurlz 100 recruit brings that signature Penn State speed — both physically and mentally — to a side that prides itself on its guard play.
“Karisma definitely has the IQ,” Page said. “She sees stuff that, I see it too, but I don’t expect everyone to see it and she sees it. She’s very confident in herself. She’s been a big help so far.”
There is true depth at the guard position. Because it features mostly returning players, factoring into the coach’s trust in the lineup as well as the chemistry on the floor, you may also see a more creative side to the offense.
“I’m most excited about being able to play more freely than ever before at Penn State,” said Siyeh Frazier, a junior guard who averaged a team fourth-best 7.4 points per game in 19 starts last season.
“I think as a unit, [Washington] has given us more space to do stuff within what we know how to do. And not so much with what she wants us to do or not so much with the coach’s style of play. But more so of what’s more comfortable for us.”
Jaida Travascio-Green’s Injury Blow
It does not look like Penn State’s 6-foot-2 guard will be ready for the start of the season due to injury.
Travascio-Green has at least partially participated in practice with a brace on her left leg, but Washington said that there is no timetable for her return.
“Her rehab is going really well. She’s hitting all the markers that she’s supposed to hit,” Washington said. “Whenever she’s ready to play, we’re going to play her.”
The junior made the trip with the team to Spain this offseason, but did not dress for any of its games.
During the 2017-18 slate, she finished third on the team with 11.2 points per game. She started every game of the season except the team’s lone WNIT matchup to finish off the year, which she missed due to injury.
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About the Author
A visit from Pat Freiermuth and “We Want Drew” chants highlighted another busy Saturday in Happy Valley.
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