By Anna Pitingolo, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - While a lot of attention has been on Penn State's freshman class this offseason, one of the biggest overlooked stories belongs to a member of the senior class. Candice Agee, one of just two seniors on the team, is prepping for her final season in a Lady Lion uniform.
Hailing from Victorville, California, Agee started her journey as a Lady Lion back in 2012 when she played in 26 games as a true freshman. Now, three years later, as the start of her last season inches near, she has a lot to look forward to.
"You'd think [my emotions] would be a little high, but right now I actually feel really good about it," Agee said. "I'm really confident in my team and we've been working really hard since the end of the season last year. I'm just a little anxious, excited and ready to get going."
Agee led the team in blocks last year with 53 (1.8 per game), and was second in rebounds with 176 (6.1 per game). But during the offseason, Agee worked hard to get better, focusing on her fundamentals to overall improve her game. And standing at 6-foot-6, she's worked on strengthening her lower body to help her compete.
"[I've been working] mostly on fundamentals and getting my base stronger," Agee said. "I've been working on a lot of leg strength because there's a couple of post players that are bigger than me in size, so being able to have that weight difference and still be able to have an affect on the game is really important so having a strong base and a strong core has been really important."
While Agee has been focusing on getting her base stronger, the biggest thing Washington has seen improvement on is her free throw. Agee finished last season with a .498 field goal percentage on 257 attempts, but head coach Coquese Washington thinks she can do even better this year.
"The thing that she's improved a little bit that I've seen so far this year is her free throws. If she can get to the free throw line a lot for us this year, I feel more confident about her ability to go there and knock them down," Washington said. "I'm really hoping that she can get to the free throw line more this year because I think those could be easy points for her," said Washington.
When talking about Agee, Washington compares her to former Lady Lion Talia East in terms of the type of senior year she had. East, who had a big improvement from her junior to senior year, graduated in 2014.
"I'm hoping that she can have the kind of senior year similar to what Talia East had when she was a senior a couple of years ago, where it just kind of all clicks together for her," Washington said. "Last year, Candice was one of the most consistent players on the team, so if we can get that same kind of consistency from her offensively I think she can have a fantastic senior year."
As for the comparison to East, Agee was a little taken back by it and wasn't shy to admit that the pressure is on now to live up to her coach's expectations. As for expectations of her own, she tries to keep them to a minimum.
"I try not to give myself too many expectations," Agee said. "I just feel like going hard and doing my very best and working towards the goals that all of us have set forth for ourselves, for our team. [We're] just doing what we need to do to have a better season than last year. It's just overall getting better and for our team to have cohesiveness on the court.
The only senior on the roster to have played her whole career at Penn State, Agee knows a thing or two about how the show is run. As Washington said simply, "Candice knows," and with young post players looking up to and learning from her, she's stepped into the role of helping them adjust to college basketball.
"Candice has done a good job with the freshmen posts in terms of helping them understand what we're doing and how we're doing and reminding them of defensive rotations or things that we're doing on offense," Washington said. "She's been a good example for the freshmen posts so far."
With her experience with the team, Agee feels like she can lead. "I can give a lot of insight to things that are going on and getting the freshmen acclimated to our program and how we run Lady Lion basketball," Agee said.
"We like to think of it as on the court we're all leaders and we start by leading ourselves, that's how you lead everybody else, so just being a great teammate on the court and off the court just giving insight and answering any questions they need, because they know that I'm the one that's been here the longest," Agee said.
The younger post players are fully aware of the lessons they can learn from Agee, and have made sure to pay full attention to her in practice. Freshman Jaylen Williams has looked up to her from the start, and recognizes her as someone who can make her better.
"[Candice has been] really, really great. Basically what I do is mimic what her and Peyton [Whitted] do and usually it's the right thing so that's kind of how they help me on the court," Williams said. "But outside of the gym, anything I need I just know I can text them. They let me know that from the start, when I first got here, that anything I need I can call them or text them or anything and they'll be there for me."
Agee has donned the blue and white for three impressive seasons, and if all goes according to plan, this will be the best one yet.