Dara Taylor is kind of like a UPS driver this time of season.
The Penn State point guard wants to get as many packages as possible delivered on time.
Heading into Sunday’s 2 p.m. clash at Georgetown, she’s still finding the right addresses.
Here’s Taylor’s dilemma:
The only constant from last season’s lineup for the No. 10 Lady Lions is No. 2 guard Maggie Lucas.Everyone else, including Taylor, has new responsibilities. Taylor started last season, but Alex Bentley (a first team WNBA rookie selection) was the primary point guard. Taylor did see action at the point, but
with an almost entirely different cast of characters.
Four reserves from last season are seeing significantly more playing time. And then there’s six freshmen to teach and work into the offense.
Taylor is as busy as that driver, trying to deliver the ball to the right player at the right time.
Penn State coach Coquese Washington, a former point guard, knows how challenging the job can be with so many new faces, especially those of the newest Lady Lions.
“It’s tough when you’re a point guard and you’ve got all of these freshmen, especially when you’ve got two or three or four of them on the floor at the same time,” Washington said. “She’s had a lot of patience and she’s been a really good teacher.”
“Yeah, it’s challenging,” admits Taylor, who played her first two seasons at Maryland before transferring to Penn State. “We only return two starters from last year, so it’s a much different look. Not only do they have to learn the offense, they have to learn where they fit in and where their shots are coming
from. It’s the same for me. My shots are coming a little different this year.”
Taylor can empathize with the newest players. As per NCAA rules, she sat out a season after transferring, but that did not preclude her from practicing with her future teammates.
Taylor moved into the starting lineup quickly last season. She averaged seven points per game, was second on the squad with 108 assists and made the All-Big Ten defensive team.
But last year’s players had more experience and Taylor had more experience with them.
“After practicing and playing for two years, I got to know where Nikki (Greene) or Mia (Nickson) wanted the ball,” Taylor said. “I have a whole new lineup to get used to now. It’s something we really work on in practice, but time and playing together is how it works.”
Out of necessity, Taylor has spent more time explaining the offense and according to her coach it has helped her game. Taylor is averaging 10 points and 4.9 assists in the season’s first seven games.
“She takes the time to instruct and understand what we’re doing and trying to accomplish every time down the floor,” Washington said. “I think it’s helping her become a better floor general because she’s taking the time to teach and to guide the freshmen.”
Taylor says she’s sees her teammates growing by leaps and bounds, instead of taking baby steps on the way to progress.
“You can definitely see the jumps,” the 5-foot-8 senior said. “That’s the great thing about this team is that one game, we’ll do something and coach will tell us about and we’ll practice it. A week later, you can see the impact and the difference it is making.”
Lucas, the reigning Big Ten Player of the Year, likes how Taylor is juggling her duties. “I think she does a good job of handling it,” said Lucas, who also serves as the Lady Lions’ backup point guard. “ There a lot of different people and you have to make sure everyone knows what is on the line and what the play-call is.”
Taylor said the key is to remain patient.
“It’s not so much where we are right now,” she said. “It’s where we want to be at the end of the season.”
Taylor and Penn State (5-2) will look to bounce back from Wednesday’s 77-67 loss to No. 4 Notre Dame against Georgetown (5-2). The Hoyas, under first-year coach Jim Lewis, are riding a four-game winning streak.
The contest will be the Lady Lions’ first true road game of the season. Their only other trip away from the Bryce Jordan Center was to the Bahamas, where they won the Freeport Division of the Junkanoo Jam.
The Hoyas also won a tournament in a far different environment, capturing the Great Alaska Shootout.
With the graduation of prolific scorer Sugar Rodgers, who was a member of the WNBA champion Minnesota Lynx this past season, freshman Natalie Butler has emerged as a team leader. Butler, a 6-foot-5 center, leads the Hoyas with a 16.4 scoring and 12.7 rebounding averages. Senior forward Andrea
White is second to Butler in both scoring (14.1) and rebounding (8.0).
Lucas, who had a season-low seven points against the Fighting Irish, would like to bounce back with a repeat performance of her game against the Hoyas last season. Lucas nailed seven 3-pointers and torched Georgetown with a career-high 39 points in a 97-74 romp.
career. Talia East (66) and Tori Waldner (58) are 17-th and 20-th, respectively, on the school’s career list for blocked shots. Lewis has 40 years of coaching experience and his last job was an assistant coach and scout with the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks.