While there wasn’t officially an election, Talia East isn’t backing away from the title bestowed upon her by Lady Lion basketball coach Coquese Washington.
“Mayor of Penn State.”
Not everyone is qualified for the post.
“To be the Mayor, it’s hard,” East starts in all seriousness. “You’ve got to know a lot of people, be well respected, love your community. I think I embody all of those things.”
Then she bursts out into that infectious laughter, that belies she wasn’t very serious at all.
“I just know a lot of people,” she explains. “When I’m on campus, a lot of people wave to me.”
“The Mayor” and her people are out of town this Black Friday afternoon as the No. 13 Lady Lions (3-1) open play against Oregon State (4-0) in the Junkanoo Jam tournament in the Bahamas at 3:15 p.m. Based on Friday’s result, the Lady Lions will face either Florida or Illinois State on Saturday.
You can bet East and her teammates have enjoyed a little fun in the sun prior to the Friday’s tip-off.
“She’s a lot of fun,” fellow senior Maggie Lucas said of East. “Anyone who knows Talia knows she is just a character.”
Apparently, a lot of people know East, which is why Washington coined her “The Mayor” in the first place.
“If you walked across the campus for 15 minutes with Talia East, she knows everybody,” Washington said. “Literally, she knows everybody and they know her. They wave at her, ‘Hey, T what’s happening. We’ll see you Friday.’ And she’s like, ‘Yeah, I got you, man.’”
“It’s hard to hide when you’re 6-foot-2 and black and loud,” East explains. “People are going to see me. I’m very charismatic. I’m always hyper. I’m a broadcast journalism major, so I want to be talking and communicating with everybody in the community all of the time.”
East says there is one problem with her many constituents.
“I know too many people,” she says. “I’ll be going to class and people will be stopping me and saying, ‘Hey, hey.’ I’m like, ‘Yo, I’m almost late for class.’ It’s almost like I know too many people.”
East is approachable and very comfortable in front of and behind a camera. In 2012, she shot and edited video for Ladylions.com as part of an internship with WPSU. She’s also shot Lucas’ trick shot video.
East also is interning again with WPSU this fall and hopes to land herself a job in front of the camera once she leaves Penn State.
“I want to host a show,” the Philadelphia native said. “I want to be like a little baby Oprah, Ellen Degeneres, Chelsea Handler. That’s the goal.”
If she continues to play like she has so far this season, she’ll get plenty of time on camera.
East usually has been the first player off the bench for Washington and she’s making an impact with physical play and rebounding. She’s averaging six points and six rebounds per game and has blocked a shot per game.
She was especially effective in Penn State’s lone loss, a 71-52 decision against No. 1 Connecticut. East scored eight points and grabbed 10 rebounds against the defending NCAA champions.
“She’s big. She likes to bang. It was physical,” Washington said of East’s play against the Huskies. “Those are of the kind of games where she can be herself.”
“T is just tough,” added Lucas. “She comes in and does what she is asked to do. She plays her role really well. She rebounds. She a force in the paint defensively. She blocks shots. She finishes her looks.”
Like a television critic, East has a tougher evaluation of her play.
“I feel like it’s getting better, but I definitely can improve,” she said. “I need to work for the ball more when I don’t have it. I can get a lot more rebounds. There’s a lot of work to be done and I’m never satisfied. I’m happy to keep getting better.”
East and her teammates will play for the first time away from the Bryce Jordan Center on Friday and draw a hot team.
Oregon State is averaging 92 points per game and has outscored its opponents by an average of 34 points per game. Four different players have led the Beavers in scoring in their four games and the squad is shooting 50 percent from the field.
Sydney Wiese leads the Beavers with a 12.5 scoring average. Seven Oregon State players are average more than eight points per game. The Beavers set a school mark with 17 3-pointers in their last game, a 92-54 win over Loyola Marymount.
“They are a very well-balanced team,” Washington said. “They’re a good 3-point shooting team. They press a lot. I anticipate it could be a high-scoring game with those guys.”
Even with the scoring troubles against UConn, Washington’s club is averaging almost 85 points per game. Lucas leads the squad with a 22.8 average.
Washington also expects a tough matchup on the front line. The Lady Lions are usually taller than their opponents, but Oregon State starts no player smaller than 5-foot-10 and is led up front by 6-foot-6 center Ruth Hamblin.
“They’ve got some pretty good size,” Washington said. “I think that’s going to be a good challenge for us.”
Washington said that while her players are excited to be in the Bahamas over what would have been a frigid Thanksgiving break at home that this is no vacation trip.
“We’re here to take care of business,” Washington said. “We’re here to focus on basketball. We have some down time on the beach, but the purpose to get better and grow as a basketball team and indivdual players. That will be our focus.”