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.
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.