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The Lady Lions return 11 members from last season’s WNIT squad, add three talented newcomers
A veteran coach, Lanier brings 24 years of coaching experience to Happy Valley
It was a change of scenery for the Ninth Annual Coquese's Drive for the Centre County Women's Resource Center, but the results were still the same, as the event raised nearly $20,000 on a gorgeous Friday (Aug. 12) afternoon at Mountain View Country Club.
Head coach Coquese Washington meets with the media following Penn State's 71-55 loss to No. 22/23 Michigan State on Dec. 7, 2016 at the Bryce Jordan Center.
Women's Basketball: Courtside with Coquese - Episode 901
Penn State fell to Michigan, 77-48, in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament.
The Lady Lions defeated Illinois 83-57 in the tournament's first round.
Feb. 11, 2016
Peyton Whitted posted her second career double-double in a hard-fought, 74-66, loss to No. 4/5 Tennessee
2015 Lady Lion Senior Banquet
2013-14 Big Ten Coach of the Year
2012-13 Big Ten Coach of the Year
2012-13 WBCA Region 6 Coach of the Year
2012-13 WBCA National Coach of the Year Finalist
2012-13 BCA Female Coach of the Year
2011-12 Big Ten Coach of the Year
2011-12 WBCA Region 6 Coach of the Year
2011-12 WBCA National Coach of the Year Finalist
2010-11 BCA Female Coach of the Year
2009 Greater Flint Hall of Fame Inductee
2007-08 WBCA "Rising Star" Award Winner
Upon arriving on the University Park campus as the fifth head coach in Penn State women's history - and first female African-American head coach in Penn State history - Coquese Washington quickly returned the program to national prominence with her up-tempo, aggressive style of play. Entering her 10th season on the sideline in Happy Valley, her passion for creating a winning culture, predicated on innovative coaching techniques, tireless recruiting, cultivating meaningful relationships with student-athletes and an unmatched enthusiasm for teaching the game she loves, Washington is in the conversation as one of the nation's top head coaches.
Washington has seen success at every level of basketball and in every role she has filled on the sidelines. She became the first player at Flint Central High School to earn a starting position all four seasons and helped her squad to the program's first Saginaw Valley League and district championships, while earning all-state honors on two occasions.
She went on to earn four varsity letters at the University of Notre Dame, leading the team in steals four times and assists on three occasions, before moving on to professional basketball where she was a member of the 2000 WNBA Champion Houston Comets squad.
On the sidelines, she has appeared in the postseason 13 times, with 12 of those being NCAA Tournament appearances. She helped the Lady Lions to four straight berths in the NCAA Tournament - including a pair of Sweet Sixteen appearances - and was an assistant coach on Notre Dame’s 2001 NCAA National Championship team. Her three straight Big Ten Championships make her one of just four coaches in Big Ten history with three-or-more consecutive Big Ten regular season championships (Jim Foster, C. Vivian Stringer &Tara VanDerveer &), taking home outright crowns in 2012 & 2013, while sharing the 2014 title.
Growing the Game
The professionals who are most successful often share one trait; they are thinkers, and Washington is no different. As a student-athlete at Notre Dame, Washington earned her degree in just three years. After her collegiate career was complete, Washington went on to earn her Juris Doctorate from her alma mater, while simultaneously playing in the professional ranks for the American Basketball League’s (ABL) Portland Power. Her passion for learning is matched only by her love of family and basketball.
Washington has served on the WBCA Board of Directors since becoming Penn State’s head coach, currently holding the role of President with the organization that is tasked with solving issues, preserving the history and growing the game of women's basketball. She was also the Vice President/President-Elect from 2013-15.
Her service to the game also includes time with USA Basketball, the Kay Yow Cancer Fund and the NCAA Women's Basketball Issues Committee. She won a gold medal with Team USA in Kazan, Russia at the 2013 World University Games and served on the USA Basketball Women's Junior National Committee from 2009-12. Her work with the Kay Yow Cancer Fund Board of Directors ran from 2012-15 and she served five years on the NCAA Women’s Basketball Issues Committee.
Of her many accomplishments, Washington was the founding President of the WNBA Players Association in 1999 and was a primary force in negotiating the association’s first two collective bargaining agreements.
Recruiting Premier Talent
The recruiting trail has always been a place of success for Washington, with the Lady Lions signing four top-25 recruiting classes - including three top-15 classes - since her arrival In Happy Valley. Her top-25 recruiting classes have included a pair of 14th-ranked classes (2009, 2013), one that sat at No. 15 (2015) and one that came in 22nd nationally (2010).
Prior to Washington’s arrival, Penn State had only signed one McDonald’s All-American (Jennifer Harris, 2003) in program history, but the seasoned recruiter has brought six to campus in her nine years as head coach. Candice Agee (2012), Brianna Banks (2011), De’Janae Boykin (2015), Maggie Lucas (2010), Sierra Moore (2012) and Dara Taylor (2009) have all donned the McDonald’s All-American uniform before matriculating to the University Park campus.
Led by the All-American duo of Indiana native Alex Bentley and Lone Star State product Nikki Greene, Washington’s 2009 class also included all-state performers Gizelle Studevent (California) and Marissa Wolfe (Pennsylvania), along with transfer Mia Nickson, who was a top-100 recruit coming out of high school in 2008. In 2010, Washington landed a pair of Pennsylvania’s top players in shooting guard Maggie Lucas and forward Talia East, while the three-person class was boosted by New York wing and WBCA High School All-American Arielle Edwards.
In 2013, Washington and her staff inked a seven-person class that included four ESPN HoopGurlz Top-100 players, including the Georgia duo of Kaliyah Mitchell and Peyton Whitted, and Maryland guard Lindsey Spann. The 2013 class was also bolstered by the addition of Duke transfer Sierra Moore, who was a top-50 national recruit in the class of 2012.
A pair of five-star guards in Chicago native Teniya Page and Maryland product Amari Carter led the way for the class of 2015. Adding to a strong recruiting haul was the highly recruited post pair of Kentucky’s Ashanti Thomas & Boston-area product Jaylen Williams.
Washington came to Happy Valley after eight seasons as an associate head coach and assistant coach under Muffet McGraw at Notre Dame, her alma mater. One of the top recruiters in the country, Washington was instrumental in helping the Irish secure eight consecutive Top 25 recruiting classes, a feat only accomplished by two other programs in the country (Connecticut and Tennessee).
WNBA: Pioneer and Pupils
A pioneer in advancing the WNBA both on and off the court, Washington continues to supply the league with top notch talent, including six Penn Staters play in the world’s most competitive professional league.
Alex Bentley and Maggie Lucas are two of Washington’s pupils succeeding on the grand stage, with Bentley playing in the WNBA Finals as a rookie and earning WNBA All-Star status in 2015. Lucas also competed in the WNBA Finals, helping the Indiana Fever to the WNBA Championship series against the Minnesota Lynx during the 2015 season.
In 2014, Lucas was selected with the 21st overall pick (second round) by the Phoenix Mercury, then was traded to the Indiana Fever during training camp. In her third year as a professional, Lucas saw her court time increase each season, before suffering a season-ending injury in the fourth game of the 2016 campaign. Also in 2014, Ariel Edwards inked a free agent contract with the Tulsa Shock.
In 2013, for the third time in program history, the Lady Lion program saw a pair of student-athletes selected in the WNBA Draft. Alex Bentley went 13th overall to the Atlanta Dream and Nikki Greene was selected 26th overall by the Phoenix Mercury. Bentley has found a home with the Connecticut Sun after competing one season for the Atlanta Dream, and playing in the WNBA Finals that year. A WNBA All-Rookie selection in 2013, she was among the MVP candidates in 2015 before missing the final nine games of the season with an injury.
Greene played two years in the league, suiting up for the Los Angeles Sparks in 2014 before teaming up with Bentley in Connecticut during the Sun’s 2015 season.
Tyra Grant capped off her career by being selected by the Phoenix Mercury in the second round of the 2010 WNBA Draft, and Washington was also instrumental in helping Kam Gissendanner sign a free agent contract with the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks following in the 2008 campaign.
During her time at Notre Dame, Washington saw seven players earn roster spots on WNBA teams.
In 17 years as a collegiate coach, Washington has laced up her dancing shoes and headed to the postseason on 13 occasions, including 12 trips of the NCAA Tournament. While coaching the Blue and White, Washington has guided the program to four NCAA Tournament berths and one appearance in the WNIT.
From 2011-14, the Lady Lions advanced to the NCAA Tournament each season, reaching at least the second round on all four occasions. The 2012 and 2014 squads moved on to the Sweet Sixteen with a pair of postseason wins, before falling to top-five ranked opponents on their home floors.
In their fourth straight NCAA Tournament appearance, the 2014 squad hosted the first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament inside the Bryce Jordan Center for the 14th time in school history. Wins over Wichita State in the opening round and a 22-point rout of Florida in the second round sent the program to its 13th Sweet Sixteen. A date with No. 5/6 Stanford awaited in Palo Alto, as the No. 3 seed Lady Lions fell to the No. 2 seed Cardinal at Maples Pavilion to close out a 24-8 campaign, which included a Big Ten regular season title.
In 2013, Penn State again advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament with a win over Cal Poly in Baton Rouge, La. The 26-6 campaign ended with a loss to LSU on their home court. Lady Lions advanced to the 2012 Sweet Sixteen with wins over UTEP and LSU in Baton Rouge before falling to No. 3/3 Connecticut en route to a 26-7 overall record.
The Lady Lions worked their way back to the “Big Dance” for the first time since 2004-05 and advanced to the second round for the first time in seven years with a win over Dayton in the first round of the 2012 NCAA Tournament in front of a raucous Bryce Jordan Center crowd. Washington’s first appearances in the tournament as a head coach started with a 75-66 win over Dayton.
Washington’s first taste of postseason play as a head coach came against Hofstra in the 2010 WNIT. The Lady Lions hosted the contest on the University Park campus, but the Pride got the best of a young Lady Lions squad in the opening round.
During Washington’s eight years on the bench, Notre Dame reached the NCAA Tournament each season, including four Sweet Sixteen runs and the 2001 National Championship.
Trophies & All-Americans
Washington’s competitive side shines brightest on the biggest stages and that is a trait that her teams have taken on as well during her tenure on the University Park campus. Washington’s teams have advanced out of the first round of the NCAA Tournament in all four of their trips, while earning berths in the Sweet Sixteen twice.
From 2012-14, the Lady Lions claimed three straight Big Ten regular season titles, making them one of just four teams in conference history to win three-or-more regular season titles in a row. Washington’s squads took the title outright in 2012 & 2013, while sharing the crown in 2014.
Washington is a three-time Big Ten Coach of the Year (2012, 2013 & 2014), a two-time WBCA Region Six Coach of the Year (2012 & 2013) and two-time finalist for WBCA National Coach of the Year (2012 & 2013). She was also selected as the 2011 and 2014 Black Coaches Association (BCA) Female Coach of the Year.
On the national awards front, Washington’s players have earned a host of national honors from All-America laurels to honors for community service and selflessness. Maggie Lucas finished her Penn State career as one of the most decorated student-athletes to pass through the Lady Lion program. Lucas was a two-time finalist for the Wade Trophy and Wooden Award, while earning nine All-American honors, including first team honors from the United State Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) in 2013 and 2014. She was a three-time AP All-American, garnering second team (2013), third team (2014) and honorable mention (2012) accolades during her career.
Alex Bentley was a two-time All-American, earning AP honorable mention laurels in 2013, and WBCA naming her Honorable Mention All-America in 2012 and 2013. One of the toughest defenders in the nation and a scoring threat from anywhere on the court, Bentley was the 2013 Frances Pomeroy Naismith Award winner as the nation’s top player under 5-foot-8.
Bentley and Lucas were both named to Freshman All-America teams during their rookie seasons of 2010 and 2011, respectively, while Tyra Grant was Washington’s first All-American, garnering honorable mention honors in 2010 from the Associated Press.
On-court accolades are not the only ones celebrated by the Lady Lion program, with Gizelle Studevent and Maggie Lucas each earning national attention for their off-court undertakings, as well. Studevent was a member of the 2013 Allstate WBCA Good Works Team, honoring student-athletes that have made outstanding contributions in the areas of volunteerism and civic involvement. Studevent was the lifeblood of the anti-bullying program Penn State Athletes Take Action (PSATA). Earning a selection to the 2014 Senior CLASS Award All-American Team, Lucas was one of 10 women’s basketball student-athletes to be celebrated for the award that is an acronym for Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School.
During her tenure at Notre Dame, Washington coached five All-Americans in her role as the guards coach, and was directly responsible for developing three All-Americans and two Frances Naismith Pomeroy Award winners: Niele Ivey and Megan Duffy. Washington also worked with Alicia Ratay, who is the NCAA’s career three-point field goal percentage leader.
B1G Things Happening
In nine seasons on the sideline, Washington has seen 15 players earn All-Big Ten laurels on 26 occasions, along with three earning Big Ten All-Freshman Team and Big Ten All-Defensive Team honors. Among the All-Big Ten honorees, four of Washington’s pupils account for nine first team selections and Penn State has seen multiple players earn all-conference in eight of her nine seasons on the sideline.
Earning Big Ten Player of the Year on two occasions (2013 & 2014), Maggie Lucas was also the 2011 Big Ten Freshman and Sixth Player of the Year. Lucas joins Alex Bentley as three-time First Ten All-Big Ten selections under Washington, while Tyra Grant (2009 & 2010) and Ariel Edwards (2014) round out the group of first teamers.
Dara Taylor became the first Lady Lion under Washington to win the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, claiming the award in 2014, while also getting the nod to the All-Defensive Team in 2013. Alex Bentley was also a two-time Big Ten All-Defensive Team choice (2012 & 2013), while Nikki Greene earned her selection to the squad for her shot blocking prowess in 2011.
In 2016, Penn State placed three players on the All-Big Ten team, highlighted by freshman Teniya Page’s selection to the All-Big Ten Second Team. Her second team selection makes her just the third Penn State rookie to earn either first or second team honors at season’s end, joining Lucas (2nd Team, 2011) and Kelly Mazzante (1st Team, 2001). Adding to the haul of all-conference honors was Brianna Banks and Lindsey Spann, each earning honorable mention selections.
During Washington’s first Big Ten Championship run in 2012, her squad put five players on the All-Big Ten squad. Bentley and Lucas each earned first team honors that season, and Greene, Zhaque Gray and Mia Nickson all noted honorable mention accolades. Both the 2011 & 2014 teams placed four players on the All-B1G squads, with the 2016 team joining the 2008 and 2013 teams that each had three representatives.
Washington is a stout believer is getting her best players on the floor regardless of position or class, with three student-athletes earning a spot on the Big Ten All-Freshman squad. Bentley (2010) and Page (2016) were both unanimous all-rookie picks, and Lucas secured a spot on the 2011 list.
The success of her student-athletes isn’t confined to the hardwood, as the Lady Lion program has 42 Academic All-Big Ten honorees over her nine seasons. The 2015 squad set a school record with seven honorees on the list, while her 2009 and 2013 teams each saw six honorees for academic success.
Play to Your Strengths
Washington’s style of play lends itself to being up-tempo and high scoring, which has enabled the program to rise to new heights and return to the national spotlight. As a member of the Big Ten Conference, her teams are playing one of the toughest conference slates in the country, but that doesn’t stop Washington from scheduling key non-conference games against the nation’s best teams -- home and on the road.
In each of Washington’s first six years, Penn State improved its Big Ten win total and the Lady Lions posted three consecutive 25-win season, joining the 1993-94, 1994-95 and 1995-96 squads as the only teams in program history to accomplish the feat.
During Washington’s first nine seasons, Penn State has toppled ranking opponents in seven of those seasons; winning multiple games against ranked foes during each of those campaigns. Her first season in Happy Valley included wins over No. 20 Pittsburgh and No. 10 Duke. The 2011-12 squad traveled to No. 16/13 Texas A&M for a Top-20 showdown with the Aggies and walked away with 63-58 victory to snap a 58-game non-conference home court winning streak for TAMU.
The 2016 squad also had its share of success against ranked opponents, pushing No. 4 Tennessee to the brink in an early season road test, before opening the Big Ten schedule with a 79-72 victory over then-No. 14 Northwestern at the Bryce Jordan Center. Avenging an earlier loss to Michigan State, Penn State traveled to East Lansing and handed the then-No. 15 Spartans a 65-61 defeat in front of a national television audience on the Big Ten Network.
The Penn State record books have also been invaded by Washington’s teams and student-athletes.
Teniya Page was a catalyst on the court in 2015-16, as she was the only freshman in the NCAA to average at least 15 points and four assists per game. She became just the third rookie in Penn State history to reach the 400-point and 100-assist mark - and first since Suzie McConnell (1984-85).
After reaching the 10-point mark in each of her first eight career games in 2014-15 -- a feat not accomplished by Penn State’s top two career scoring leaders, Kelly Mazzante and Maggie Lucas -- Lindsey Spann moved her name into elite company on Penn State’s three-point list. Spann enters the season ranked No. 14 on the career charts with 102 shots made from distance.
Maggie Lucas finished her career second in school history and fourth in Big Ten history in scoring (2,510) and broke the Penn State and Big Ten records for career three-pointers made (365) and career free throw percentage (.907). Lucas left Penn State ranked among the top-five on 25 different single season or career charts.
Nikki Greene became the first player in school history to accumulate 1,000 points, 900 rebounds and 200 blocks, while Alex Bentley is one of only two players (Suzie McConnell) in program history with 1,500 points, 500 assists and 250 steals. Brianne O’Rourke closed out her career as an All-Big Ten performer and left Penn State as one of just six players in school history with 1,000 points and 500 assists.
On the team side of things, the 2013-14 graduating class of Maggie Lucas, Ariel Edwards, Dara Taylor and Talia East produced 101 wins, which are the second-most wins by a senior class in Lady Lion history.
The 2010-11 team was a dominating force from the perimeter as the Lady Lions tied the school record with 228 three-pointers and led the NCAA from deep with a .415 three-point field goal percentage.
Washington was a four-year starting point guard for Notre Dame under McGraw and was the team captain on Notre Dame’s first-ever NCAA Tournament team. She was a two-time All-Midwestern Collegiate Conference (MCC) selection and led the Irish to three MCC Tournament titles. Washington led the team in steals in each of her four seasons and was tops on the squad in assists three times. Washington is first on UND’s all-time steals per game list (2.7), third in career steals (307), and sixth in assists (554).
The epitome of a student-athlete, Washington graduated from Notre Dame in 1992, a full year ahead of schedule, with a bachelor’s degree in history. She went on to attain “Double Domer” status in 1997 after earning her Juris Doctorate from the Notre Dame Law School.
The Consummate Professional
Washington juggled finishing her law degree with the start of her professional basketball career, returning to the hardwood as a professional in 1997-98 with the ABL’s Portland Power before spending a two-year stint with the WNBA’s New York Liberty (1998-99).
Moving to Houston in 2000, Washington played an instrumental role in leading the Comets to the WNBA title. Her solid season in 2001 with the Comets for Hall of Fame coach Van Chancellor, saw her finish ninth in the WNBA in assists and fourth in steals as Houston earned its fifth consecutive playoff berth. Washington’s started the 2002 campaign in Houston before being traded to the Indiana Fever at the midway point of the season. Washington guided the Fever to their first-ever playoff berth, helping her become the first player in WNBA history to lead three different teams to the postseason. She retired from the WNBA in 2003 as a member of the Fever.
Utilizing her law degree, Washington was a central figure in helping create the WNBA Players Association (WNBPA), serving as the founding president of the WNBPA from 1999 until 2001. She also served as the Executive Vice President of the WNBPA from 2001 until her retirement in 2003. Washington led negotiations for the association’s first collective bargaining agreement as the association’s president, and as the executive vice president was a mainstay in the negotiations for the league’s second collective bargaining agreement, which brought about the first free agency system in women’s professional sports.
A native of Flint, Mich., Washington was inducted into the Greater Flint Area Sports Hall of Fame in December 2009.
Serving the Community
Be it on the hardwood, on the golf course, or out on a speaking engagement, Washington is among the most active Penn State coaches in the community. Her annual efforts include Coquese's Drive for the Centre County Women's Resource Center, championing the fight against breast cancer for Penn State Play4Kay game and supporting her team during their many hours of giving back to the Centre region.
One of the first relationships that Washington established in State College was with the Executive Director of the Centre County Women's Resource Center, Ann Ard. The relationship grew quickly, with the focus shifting to helping the local non-profit find a way to raise funds and provide resources in the fight against domestic violence. In its nine years, Coquese's Drive has raised more than $170,000 to benefit the CCWRC.
While the event that has spread nationally, Penn State women's basketball were trendsetters in spreading awareness for breast cancer by being the first team in the country to wear pink uniforms. Washington has embraced Pink Zone at Penn State and helped it grow into an annual "can't miss" event for survivors and supporters alike. During her tenure, Washington has seen their Play4Kay game grow in both attendance numbers and funds raised. The 698 survivors at the 2014 game are the most in program history, while the $310,000 raised that year are a benchmark for years to come.
Along with her community involvement, Washington has appointed Miriam Powell as the Director of Community Outreach for the Lady Lion program. Powell has been charged with creating powerful and impactful relationships for the women's basketball program within the Penn State and surrounding communities, through service and volunteerism. This role was created by Washington to make sure the Lady Lions are serving those who spend much of their own time supporting Lady Lion Basketball on the floor and in the classroom.
The Personal Side
Washington and her husband, Raynell Brown, have a son, Quenton (11), and a daughter, Rhaiyna (7). Raynell is an Adjunct Professor of Law at Penn State Law School and is a former partner at Hicks & Brown Sports Agency, where he represented athletes in the NFL, FIBA, NBA, and WNBA. They reside in Port Matilda, Pa.