By Anna Pitingolo, GoPSUsports.com
Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Since arriving on Penn State's campus four years ago, senior Peyton Whitted has been on a team that has seen it's share of ups and downs. From Big Ten champions her freshman year to a rebuilding process, Whitted has seen it all.
Now with just two games left in her regular season career with the Lady Lions, the Suwanee, Georgia native is trying to keep her emotions in check heading into this final stretch.
"My emotions are kind of all over the place but I'm just excited about these next two games because we're on a four-game win streak and we've been playing really good basketball," Whitted said. "So my focus right now is just finishing strong and the team finishing strong. Focusing on those things helps to take away from those other emotions so I try just to focus on what this team is doing and how good we're playing."
The Lady Lions will finish this season with a winning record after two straight years finishing below .500. Prior to that, the Lady Lions won three straight conference titles, the final one being in Whitted's freshman year.
"I definitely learned a lot being on a great team and then being on a team that struggled and then also bringing us back to the success that we had my freshman year," Whitted said. "I've learned a lot about adversity and success, and it's just a great life lesson because not everything is going to go perfect in your life so it's just about how you respond. I'm very appreciative for everything that's happened and I don't regret any of it because I've learned a lot from it."
And learn from it she has. In her four years, Whitted has put in a lot of hard work and dedicated herself to the program, and this season she was rewarded for that when coach Coquese Washington called her name as one of three team captains.
"Peyton is a kid that lives in the gym," Washington said. "She's usually the first one in the gym before practice and she's always staying after, working on her free throws, working on her shot, working on different things and that work ethic certainly stands out with her teammates."
Teammate and fellow senior Sierra Moore echoed that sentiment, adding that Whitted is able to communicate with her teammates and help the team off the bench.
"This year she is a team captain and she worked really hard to get to that point. You could tell that she's really matured and she knows how to talk to people," Moore said. "And just her aggressiveness off the bench, she's done a tremendous job."
Added sophomore guard Teniya Page: "She gives us experience off the bench. She's been in different types of positions throughout her career here, so on the court she gives us composure. She doesn't panic and she knows what to expect because she brings that experience off the bench."
On top of seeing changes within the team, Whitted has seen a lot of change in her game as well. But Washington said that the biggest change she's noticed is in how Whitted carries herself on and off the court.
"She's playing with probably the most confidence that I've seen this latter half of conference play," Washington said. "When she's out on the court, she's playing with a lot of confidence, so that growth in her confidence in herself and the confidence in her teammates has been really big."
With graduation nearing, Whitted still has some bucket list items to complete before she heads home from Happy Valley. Her big items are climbing Mount Nittany once the season is over and trying to get to a sporting event for all 31 Penn State programs. And, with the team being on a bye week this weekend, Whitted is excited to finally experience THON for the first time.
"We're performing at the pep rally and this is our first year doing it since I've been here, so I'm definitely excited for that," Whitted said. "And I'm just looking forward to participating in Athlete Hour and going and spending a lot of time there this weekend."
Once the season is over, Whitted won't be ready to hang up her basketball shoes just yet. She hopes to continue playing professionally, no matter where in the world that may be. When her basketball career does conclude, she'll be ready to put her broadcast journalism degree to good use.
" still want to play, so I'm looking to play overseas or honestly anywhere where I can play, so that's my first thing," Whitted said. "After that, I definitely want to pursue something with my major, so producing sports stories or doing sports commentary or something in that field."
Whitted and the rest of the Lady Lions will have some time at home before they travel to East Lansing next week to take on Michigan State on Wednesday. Tip is set for 7 p.m.