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Oct. 30, 2012
By Mike Esse, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After having to sit out the 2011-12 season because of transfer rules, Dara Taylor finally gets to do what she does best - run. The 5-foot-8 redshirt junior will add incredible speed to an already fast Lady Lions team that is looking to defend their Big Ten regular season crown.
Taylor transferred from Maryland after the 2010-11 season where she broke the freshman season assists record in her first season. The McDonald's high school All American has been waiting to take what she learned during a year off the court and put it into real game situations.
"It gave me a chance to get acclimated and learn what Coquese (Washington) wants from her point guards and her players and the system," said Taylor. "It has also gotten me more comfortable with my teammates. It takes a while to get to know people and know their games and having that year off I can make those mistakes in practice and they wont happen in the game."
Taylor's speed, combined with preseason Big Ten Player of the Year point guard Alex Bentley and the sharp-shooting Maggie Lucas will make the Lady Lion fast paced offense even faster. The Penn State coaching staff has experimented with different combinations of the three guards, including trying Bentley at the two guard, featuring Taylor at point guard.
"That's something that we're experimenting with and we experimented with it a little bit overseas," said assistant coach Kia Damon. "Exactly how much you'll see that I'm not sure. We recognized with the two of them on the floor that we're definitely very speedy."
Bentley brought up the ball primarily in 2011, and the addition of Taylor will allow Bentley and Lucas to develop their shooting abilities from the wing, as well as driving to the hoop.
Damon told reporters at the team's media day that Taylor's passing abilities will create more opportunities for the guards as well as the post players. Junior forward Talia East agreed.
"Its about to get crazy," said East. "(Taylor) is really fast and more of a pass first point guard so she will have the highlight reel plays. She's a great point guard so I think her and Alex are rubbing off a little bit on each other."
Having players with the talent like Bentley and Lucas makes Taylor's job easier, allowing her to solely focus on getting them the ball where they need it and then Lucas can excel from three-point range and Bentley on drives to the basket.
As for Taylor and Lucas, they grew up playing AAU basketball together during their middle school and high school days, so the 2012 season will be a reunion for the two talented guards. The addition of Taylor simply opens another dimension not only for Lucas, but for the rest of the team as well.
"Her and Alex are so quick and so controlling of the game, it just opens up another dimension in our game," said Lucas. "She pushes the ball so fast. I'm a little more used to it, I think, just her speed is second to none."
As for the relationship between Taylor and Lucas, nothing has changed since the AAU days and now that they will be able to play in the games together, instead of just practicing, they will continue to play like they did together in the past.
"We are excited to be back on the court together for real," said Taylor. "We practiced together last year and it was kind of like a little glimpse, but this year being back on the court in games will be just like the AAU days."
As the pre-season winds down, Taylor is seeing progression as far as learning the habits of her teammates and being able to understand the system, while her relationships with her teammates off the court continue to grow.
"There's always work to be done," said Taylor. "I'm still learning my teammates and plays, but I am definitely comfortable with this team - we are just like family, like sisters, so I feel very comfortable with the team and the style of play."
The Lady Lions will face California (Pa.) in an exhibition on Nov. 3 at 2 p.m. at the Bryce Jordan Center before their regular season opener at home against Howard on Nov. 11.