UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Lady Lions got an early jump on their training with a ten-day trip across France and Italy and the squad got some preseason media attention on Monday, Oct. 15 during their annual media day at the Bruce Jordan Center.
Big Ten Coach of the Year Coquese Washington missed the festivities with a family emergency, but assistant coach Kia Damon filled in and fielded questions from the stout media contingent that filled the press work room just off of the main arena of the Bryce Jordan Center. After grilling Damon, the members of the media were welcome to roam free on the main arena floor and speak with any of the Lady Lions prior to their afternoon workouts.
European Family Vacation
Luckily for the Lady Lions when they left for their 10-day excursion in Europe, no one called Clark Griswold for advice. Traveling through some of the most historic cities in the world is not something that everyone gets to experience, especially with some of their closest colleagues. The Blue and White contingent wasn't just there for sightseeing, however, posting a 3-0 record on the court, as well. The Lady Lions defeated Le Havre, the Italian All-Stars and Latina Basket during their training trip. Some of the veterans gave a little insight to their thoughts on the team building aspect and some of their favorite memories.
"I think it helped us get to know each other more," said Mia Nickson. "We were around each other a lot more and got to see what everyone is like outside of just basketball. We got to see what people were really like off the court and what they are interested in. Not school wise or just being around campus...
of the neatest things was the opportunity to experience another culture. We
travel throughout the United States and it is different, but going overseas it
is so different. The food was great and we just had a great time."
"It was ten days of being together every day," said Maggie Lucas. "We became closer than we've ever been and it gave us an opportunity to experience things as a team that we might never get to do again. It also gave us a chance to get started early on basketball and that was a big thing for us, on top of getting the trip of a lifetime. Just getting to see all of those places that you have seen on TV and read about is a really cool experience. The Coliseum, the Eiffel Tower, it was just an unbelievable experience."
Every Team's Different
It is extremely rare that any athletic program returns an entire roster, which makes each season a challenge for the coaching staff and returning players. The 2012-13 edition of the Lady Lions basketball team know that they have nearly 90-percent of their offense coming back. They return all but 94 rebounds from a season ago when that squad reached the NCAA Tournament for the 23rd time in program history and made a run to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen. Experience isn't everything, but it does help and this season's roster will look to build on their prior success.
"Arriving into this year we obviously know that we have an experienced team coming back, but each team is different. Our expectations really haven't changed. We expect to get better each day. We want to make sure this team reaches its full potential and that's really our focus; each day to progress and improve in the areas that we feel that were more than capable of succeeding in."
From Winning Gold to Wearing Blue
While the returning Penn State players were taking their talents to Europe, freshman center Candice Agee was taking part in the FIBA American Championships in Puerto Rico. The 6-foot-6 Agee averaged 5.4 points, 3.0 rebounds, 1.4 steals and 1.2 blocks en route to helping Team USA's to the gold medal. Agee shot a team-best .619 from the field (13-for-21) and enjoyed her best game of the tournament with 11 points and four rebounds in an impressive 99-26 victory over Puerto Rico. The Victorville, Calif., native will be the third McDonalds All-American to suit up for the Blue and White since Coquese Washington took the reins in Happy Valley.
"It was a really good experience," said Candice Agee. "I was exposed to a different type of basketball playing on an international level (with the USA U18 National Team). The game is a lot different overseas. They are a lot more physical and I wasn't really used to that. It was a little bit of a wakeup call. I met a lot of people, made some good friends and it was a really good experience. Playing with so many good players takes a lot of pressure off, actually. You're not the go to person every single time down the floor and you don't have to make a move or score every time."
Tough In the Non-Conference
No one plays the entire top-25 during their non-conference schedule, but head coach Coquese Washington has put together a schedule that might feel like it. Connecticut, Georgetown, Miami (Fla.), South Dakota State and Texas A&M are the non-conference opponents on the slate - along with five Big Ten opponents - that made the NCAA Tournament last season. The Lady Lions will host Georgetown (Dec. 9) and South Dakota State (Dec. 16), while traveling to face the Aggies (Nov. 14), Hurricanes (Nov. 29) and Huskies (Dec. 6).
"That is our hope. We wanted to challenge the team and really put them in some NCAA-type atmosphere games early on. Obviously going into Storrs, Conn. will provide a challenge in that regard, as well as going to College Station for a game with Texas A&M. They get a phenomenal crowd. It will be a great opportunity to get Nikki (Greene) playing in front of her family and friends, but also really to challenge our team in an NCAA tournament atmosphere."
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