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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.

VIDEO: Lady Lion Pre-Season - Jaylen Williams

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - GoPSUsports.com talks about the 2015-'16 women's hoops season with freshman forward Jaylen Williams. The Lady Lions open the season on Friday at 6 p.m. against Holy Cross.





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VIDEO: Lady Lion Pre-Season - Brianna Banks

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - GoPSUsports.com talks about the 2015-'16 women's hoops season with senior guard Brianna Banks. The Lady Lions open the season on Friday at 6 p.m. against Holy Cross.




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VIDEO: Lady Lion Pre-Season - Candice Agee

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - GoPSUsports.com talks about the 2015-'16 women's hoops season with senior center Candice Agee. The Lady Lions open the season on Friday at 6 p.m. against Holy Cross.





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By Anna Pitingolo, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - There are some high expectations for the Lady Lion class of 2019, and with good reason. Head coach Coquese Washington and her staff brought in a Top 10 ranked recruiting class, with two players, Amari Carter and Teniya Page, ranked in the top 20 overall nationally. Carter and Page, along with Ashanti Thomas and Jaylen Williams, will provide a lot of young talent to a Lady Lion team that struggled last year.

Since arriving on campus in August, the four freshmen have been busy getting acclimated not only to college life, but also to life as a Division One student-athlete at a school as large as Penn State.

"It's just a lot to take in. Like any new environment, you have to get used to everything," said Carter, the number 16 recruit in the nation, hailing from Washington D.C. "It's a big campus, getting to know all your teammates, and all your professors, getting acclimated with classes and college life." 

Williams, from Easton, Massachusetts and the number 17 ranked post player nationally, agreed, but also noted that her teammates and other members of the basketball program have made a big difference in the transition to campus. 

"It's been hard but my teammates have really helped me with that, so I'm never alone. I have my great teammates, [and] there's just really a whole lot of people that are there with me," Williams said.

The highly touted freshmen class will be an important part of Penn State's season, as they work to improve upon last year's "rebuilding" season. The group brings a new wave of energy to the team that has not gone unnoticed by the veteran players. Junior Kaliyah Mitchell has been impressed with how dedicated they are to getting better outside of practice.

"They come to practice every day ready to work, they always have positive energy, positive attitudes, always looking to get better. They always stay after practice and see if someone wants to shoot with them, so I think that they came in with a lot of effort and I think they'll do [well] this year," Mitchell said.

Washington shared a similar sentiment, and has been impressed with how well the freshmen have taken to new things and how much information they've absorbed in their short time with the team. She also added that there isn't much they as coaches can do before preseason practice starts to prepare the freshmen for the changes they'll see from high school to college.

"We just throw them in the deep end and tell them sink or swim. It's an adjustment; there's not a lot you can do in high school to prepare for college. It's just going to be different," Washington said. "So the thing we try to get them to do most and first is be open to new things, be open to doing things differently and be open to messing up and to making mistakes and learning and growing from it. 

"The freshmen were sponges [when they first started] and they still are; they've been sponges since they walked on campus. I think when you have that kind of approach and attitude it makes it easier to develop the kind of chemistry that we're seeing so far."

The biggest adjustment that the freshmen have had to make has been the pace of the game, which is much faster in college than in high school. This includes an increase in conditioning in order to maintain the speed of the game going on around them.

For Williams, she'll be relying on her speed more than she did in high school, and with the increased pace she "can't take breaks, there's no plays off, there's nothing like that, I have to work hard every minute that I'm in the game."

The physicality of the game is another aspect that is much different in college. With bigger girls on a college court than a high school one, the game can get much more physical than what the new players are used to. Chicago-native Page said that along with getting used to playing a more physical game, consistency will be key to a successful season.

"We're playing a lot faster than I played in high school so in the game, I'm going to play fast [and] the team's going to play fast," Page said. "Adjusting to the physicality of the game [has been a big change], and just trying to consistently play at the same pace the whole time." 

Page was rated among the nation's premier point guards by all five of the recruiting services, so her presence will give the Lady Lions another leader on the court next to returning point guard Lindsey Spann. After the exhibition game against California (Pa.), Spann commented on how working with two point guards was beneficial to the team.

"We both see a lot of the same things and we're just executing what coach wants us to do and basically playing our roles, feeding off each other. With two point guards out there, I think it's fun," Spann said.

As the first official game of the season quickly approaches, all four girls are excited to get their first taste of playing in the Bryce Jordan Center with their new team. 

"The fans, and playing in the big arena, that's the biggest thing I'm looking forward to," Carter said. "But also just playing on a different team with new faces."

"I'm looking forward to playing with my team. We've all worked so hard together and I feel like we've come pretty far," said Thomas, who, as the number 96 overall prospect, has high expectations from Washington on both ends of the floor at post.

"Ashanti's really tough, she's a tough kid, she's got that physical edge to her where she doesn't mind mixing it up in there," Washington said. "I think she's going to be impactful on both ends of the floor. She's able to score, she rebounds, she defends, and she blocks shots."

The class of 2019 will officially make their collegiate debut on Nov. 13 against Holy Cross at the Bryce Jordan Center. Tip is set for 6 p.m.

VIDEO: Lady Lion Pre-Season - Lindsey Spann

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - GoPSUsports.com talks about the 2015-'16 women's hoops season with sophomore guard Lindsey Spann. The Lady Lions open the season on Nov. 13 against Holy Cross (6 p.m.).





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By Anna Pitingolo, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Lady Lions gave a glimpse of what's to come for the 2015-2016 season as they faced the California (Pa.) Vulcans in an exhibition game on Sunday. Coquese Washington's young squad shined in an 84-58 win over the reigning Division II national champions.

The game gave a lot of first looks of some new players to the team, including University of Connecticut transfer Brianna Banks. The redshirt senior had a game high 20 points, and continually showed her athleticism throughout the game. After spending over a year only being able to practice, Banks was relieved to finally get a chance to go out and play in a game, and didn't let her nerves get the best of her.

"It was really refreshing," Banks said. "I was really excited coming in, a little bit nervous, but I was just really happy to be back on the floor outside of practice."

The other new faces on the court for the Lady Lions all belonged to freshmen, who were getting their first taste of college basketball outside of the practice gym. Teniya Page, Amari Carter, Jaylen Williams and Ashanti Thomas all saw playing time, with Page getting the start at guard. Unlike last year, the Lady Lions have two point guards they can look to while on the court; Page was joined by redshirt sophomore Lindsey Spann at the position for much of the game. 

"It's basically like a two point guard lineup type thing," Spann said. "So we both see a lot of the same things but she's bringing the ball down and I'm getting out in transition. We're still looking for our teammates, still trying to set each other up and we're just executing what [Coach] wants us to and playing our roles, feeding off each other. With two point guards out there, I think it's fun."

Washington too was happy with how the two point guard system worked out, and continued to be impressed with Page's poise and comfort level throughout the game, in which Page dished out a game-high 10 assists to go along with her seven points.

"She has tremendous poise for a freshman and player on this level," Washington said. "The other thing is her basketball IQ is really high, and she is able to absorb coaching on the fly. So I'm really pleased with having her and Lindsey on the floor together. They have a comfort level of playing with each other, and as a coach it's a luxury having two point guards on the floor. You've got two voices, two people who can communicate information, and it allows Lindsey to play off the ball and for her to score."

The newcomers weren't the only ones putting on a show against the Vulcans. Kaliyah Mitchell and Peyton Whitted, both juniors, had double-doubles; Mitchell had 15 points with 14 rebounds and Whitted notched 16 points with 10 rebounds.

The team has two weeks to iron out the wrinkles before they open the season against Holy Cross. Despite the victory in the exhibition game, Washington still sees a lot of room for improvement.

"I'm pleased [with the win], but we've got a lot of work to do between now and when we play Holy Cross," Washington said. "There was quite a few moments where I was gritting my teeth and chewing my gum pretty fast so we've got a lot of work to do, but with so many new people, and trying to integrate everybody and get everybody on the same page, I'm happy with where we are but we have to get back in the gym and continue to work and develop our identity."

The Lady Lions start the season on Friday, Nov. 7 at 6 p.m. against Holy Cross at the Bryce Jordan Center.

By Anna Pitingolo, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Five days before they're set to start their season with an exhibition game, the Lady Lion basketball team spoke to the media at media day on Wednesday. After finishing last year with a record of 6-24, Coquese Washington's squad has been diligently working towards improving for this year.

With the addition of a top ten ranked freshmen class, Penn State is looking to be a contender in the Big Ten again this year. The team starts the season against Holy Cross on Nov. 13 at the Bryce Jordan Center 

Here are some sights and sounds from women's basketball media day.

Spann Primed for Sophomore Season 

Coming off a year in which she led the team in scoring average, just the fifth freshman in program history to do so, Lindsey Spann is prepared to make even more of a contribution her sophomore season. Averaging 13.2 points per game for the Lady Lions last year, Spann was an integral part of the team's offensive scheme.

"One of the things that Lindsey did fantastic for us [last year] was she was an offensive threat," Washington said. "I think as a freshman she had a really tough job to come in and be the point guard on a team that had very, very little experience, so one of the areas that I think she'll grow in this year is...having a better balance for running the team, and keeping the team together, as well as maintaining her offensive viability."

Spann has worked hard in the offseason to stay on top of her game, and is looking forward to another breakout season. After a rebuilding year last year, she and the rest of the team are looking forward to hopefully being a contender in the Big Ten again this year.

"Based off of last year we've learned a lot. We've taken all the good and bad things and learned from them. All the freshmen are ready to play and [the veterans] are ready to play," Spann said. "We are working on the things we know we need to improve on from last year and I think we are making a lot of improvements. A lot of people are going to get minutes this year, so I think we have a lot to look forward to."

Banks Read for Lady Lion Debut

Fifth-year senior Brianna Banks is eligible to play for the Lady Lions this year after sitting out last season due to NCAA transfer rules. Since transferring from the University of Connecticut, where she averaged 14.2 minutes a game, Banks has been preparing to finally suit up for Penn State. Once the season starts, Washington expects to see her influence the game right away.

"I absolutely see her being a big impact. She's an explosive, dynamic player and she impacts both ends of the floor, so I definitely see her right away being somebody who's going to play a big role for us and be an impact player for us," Washington said.

Already having played three seasons of college basketball, Banks brings age and experience to a young team. But the guard still compares herself to a freshman as she adjusts to playing for a new program. 

"Right now, I'm just trying to learn the system. I'm learning how to play defense and learning set plays so I'm really just like a freshman at the beginning of the year," Banks said. "It's really frustrating at times because I feel like I'm not adjusting as fast as I need to and want to. I want to be able to help this team and impact them as much as I can [early in the season] so it's frustrating, but I'm learning." 

In her lone year with the Lady Lions, the guard will look to add more options for a team that struggled offensively last season. Given her athleticism, she'll be an important piece of the team's strategy offensively and defensively. 

Freshmen Ready to Succeed

Washington hit the recruiting trail hard when looking for the class of 2019, and it paid off; this year's group of freshmen is ranked in the top 10 nationally by numerous outlets, and for good reason. Amari Carter and Teniya Page are ranked in the top 20 overall of recruits nationally by Prospect Nation, and Ashanti Thomas and Jaylen Williams are both rated as top 100 recruits in the country. Since arriving on campus in August, Washington is excited with what she has seen out of them, and is confident they will each thrive this season.

"I think they're definitely going to have a major role in our team this year," Washington said. "I think they've really picked up on things fairly quickly, they're very, very coachable, and they do a great job of trying to do things that are outside their comfort zone. Sometimes you don't always get that with freshmen, they want to stay in their comfort zone, but these four kids, whatever we tell them to do, they really try to do it. They're not afraid to mess up while they're trying to learn new skills and new techniques and build new habits." 

The whole team has taken notice to what the freshmen have brought to the table so far. While getting adjusted to life as a college athlete, they've still succeeded in growing as players on the court. Senior Candice Agee has seen them improve tremendously since the start of the year.

"When they first got here, their eyes [were huge] and they've gotten a little bit smaller," Agee said. "The guards have come a long way, the posts have come a long way, getting acclimated to the pace we play at and our plays and everything."

Non-Conference

The Lady Lions play an impressive non-conference lineup, highlighted by a trip to down south to play the University of Tennessee. Washington hopes that playing these teams early will help the team improve down the road. 

"I just want to see us compete, I definitely want to see us be able to execute the things that we're capable of executing," Washington said. "It's a great measuring stick for us early in the season to see where we need to be in March." 

The trip to Tennessee will be the tenth time the two teams have met, and the first time since 2003. Tennessee currently has the upper hand in the series, having won eight of the nine meetings.

The "Blend"

With the addition of five new players, Washington is now tasked with seamlessly blending them with the veterans in order to form a more cohesive unit. Washington credits the character of her team to playing a huge role in this, and has even sought out advice from her colleagues around the country as to how she can best bring the two groups together.

"Our returning players welcome the freshmen with open arms because they recognize the [gifts] that the newcomers bring just mesh very well with the talents they already have, so it starts right there when you've got kids who are open to the team being improved, that's the first step," Washington said. "The second piece is strong communication. When everybody's on the same page and everybody understands how they contribute, what they're role is, then blending that, all those people, and blending all those new faces really isn't a big issue at all." 

When the team came back at the start of the semester, Washington wasn't able to pick out a certain player that stood out in particular in having improved. Instead, she says they all stood out in different ways.

"I think they all came back better and it's really going to be about the blend [more so] than any individual ability," Washington said. "It's going to be about how we play together as a team, how we work together as a unit, those are going to be the indicators of how successful we'll be."

Sierra Moore Out for Season

Coquese Washington announced that redshirt junior Sierra Moore will miss the entire season due to an ACL tear she suffered while scrimmaging over the weekend. The injury ends a promising second season for the Duke transfer before it had even begun.

"That'll be a bit of a blow for us but it will give some other kids an opportunity to step up," Washington said. "Some of our freshmen will get an opportunity to step up and be a little bit more involved early on in the season."

Moore, who was named honorable-mention All-Big Ten by the media in 2014-2015, averaged 12.1 points a game last season for the Lady Lions. She did not play the 2013-2014 season due to NCAA transfer rules. As she faces her new role as leader on the sideline instead of the court, Moore's new focus is to be an "energy-giver" to her teammates.

"I just [plan on] being our big energy giver and making sure everybody is always positive," Moore said. "That's what really helps us with winning games and having good practices and excelling and being positive so just making sure there's no negativity around."

VIDEO: Lady Lion Media Day - Coquese Washington

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Lady Lion basketball team welcomed the media to the Bryce Jordan Center on Wednesday afternoon to preview the 2015-16 season. Head coach Coquese Washington spent some time with GoPSUsports.com to talk about the team leading up to Sunday's exhibition game. Take a look at a season preview with Coach Washington.




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By Anna Pitingolo, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa - Head coach Coquese Washington has added more talent to an already impressive freshman class with the addition of freshmen Leah Knizner and Sarah McMurtry as walk-ons.

Originally members of the Penn State club basketball team, Knizner and McMurtry jumped at the opportunity to tryout for the varsity squad. Once they signed up for walk-on tryouts, they were in for an intense couple weeks.

"The tryout process was obviously stressful, but really exciting," McMurtry said. "They got us right into practice, like the second day, right away, so it really gave us a good taste of what the season is going to be like."

Being one of six girls competing for limited spots on the team can come with a lot of different emotions, but Knizner kept those emotions at bay in order to bring her best to the court. 

"I just tried not to get overwhelmed by all the different aspects going into it and just try to focus on playing the best I could," Knizner said.

A guard out of Greensburg, Pennsylvania, Knizner has been playing basketball since she was in second grade. When she got to Penn State and decided that she wanted to try and walk-on to the basketball team, she started to work hard towards achieving that goal. 

"I went home and practiced with my high school coach for a couple of weekends," Knizner said. "I got some shots up and just worked on some fundamentals."

With her "I've got nothing to lose" mindset, McMurtry used her time on the Penn State club team as a way to get prepared alongside Knizner.

"Leah and I both play club basketball so like three or four days a week we've been practicing with them and I always try to get in the gym, basically that kind of thing," said the Pittsburgh native.

Once the grueling process of trying out for the team came to a close, both girls were ecstatic to receive offers to play on the team.

"Coach pulled me over to the side [on] Monday and she asked me if I wanted to be a part of the team," Knizner said. "It's really exciting. I didn't actually think I would make it here but it's really awesome." 

McMurtry shares a similar sentiment, calling the invitation to join the team after playing basketball since the third grade "mind-blowing." 

"I still can't believe that I get an experience like this," McMurtry said. "I didn't come to Penn State thinking I was going to play basketball and now it's like, whoa."

Equally as excited are their parents, who have been a part of this process as much as the girls have been, and are thrilled to see their hard work pay off. 

"I called [my parents] and we've been talking about it and obviously it's such a big commitment so you have to talk things out and they're super excited for me," McMurtry said. "They're going to be proud of me no matter what."

Washington told Knizner of her decision right before practice was about to begin, so Knizner had to make a quick phone call home before she was needed on the court.

"I had to hurry up and call my mom, and she started freaking out and she's so excited for me," Knizner said. "And my dad called me right after practice, so they let every one of my relatives know, and my basketball coach at home, too."

Playing for Penn State won't be the first time that these two players have seen each other on the court. But it will be the first time they've been on the same team. McMurtry and Knizner played against each other in high school, and had prior knowledge of each other thanks to teammates. Now, they're ready to put the past behind them and work towards a bright future with the Lady Lions.

"We played against each other like three or four times throughout high school and I always knew who she was and maybe she knew who I was," McMurtry said. "We actually shared teammates through AAU basketball and stuff, so I recognized her right away at the start of club tryouts and now that we've become friends it's been really nice."

Knizner and McMurtry join Amari Carter, Teniya Page, Jaylen Williams and Ashanti Thomas as members of the class of 2019.

 

@GOPSUSPORTS

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