When you look at the Penn State roster, Tori Waldner’s name is easy to pick out.
When you look for seniors, she’s it.
When you look for returning starters, she’s flying solo there, too.
And how about leading scorers, rebounders and blocked shots? Yeah, she’s on top of those, too.
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And there’s another thing you can’t find on the stat sheet — leadership.
The 6-foot-5 forward/center inherits that mantle with the graduation of four seniors.
“My leadership role has grown,” said Waldner at the team’s annual Media Day on Monday. “I have more on my shoulders because I lost the four others. Other than that, it’s really me communicating. If they know what I’m doing then they can figure out what they need to do.”
Her teammates say the Georgia native is doing a good job on and off the court.
“Tori is awesome,” center Candice Agee said. “Tori is one of those very encouraging leaders. She’s that leader that makes sure we stay poised when we hit adversity. ... She’s more like a big sister, but a big sister by like six years. She just wants the best for you.”
Waldner is also looking out for herself. She wants to increase the 4.8 points and 5.6 rebounds she had per game.
“We lost most of our stats,” said Waldner of the graduated players. “We have to score across the board, including me. And not just scoring, rebounds and how you stop people.”
Penn State coach Coquese Washington expects Waldner to thrive.
“She’s pretty confident in what she can do,” Washington said. “She’s expanded her game a little bit, scoring in some different ways in the paint and outside of the paint.”
After a season of Big Ten basketball, Peyton Whitted knew she needed to make some changes over the summer, not only in her game.
So she packed on 15 pounds of muscle to ready herself for her sophomore season.
“The banging last year was kind of eye-opening,” the 6-foot-3 Whitted said of the physical Big Ten play. “I was like, ‘Okay, these girls are really strong and they’re big.’ I had to really think about that. I was like, ‘Okay am I going to sit here and let it happen again this year or get in the weight room and get stronger so this won’t happen.’ We added Maryland and Rutgers who are two really strong and athletic teams.”
Whitted, who had her moments last season, is looking to improve her 2.9 scoring average.
“I worked on the three-point shot, on the move and off the dribble — not much standing still and shooting which was what I did last year — and shooting when I was tired,” Whitted said. “A lot of times last year I shot when I was tired and I did not make a lot.”
“Peyton Whitted has looked really good offensively,” Washington said.
Whitted points to her summer work for success.
“Last year, I was an impact player off the bench,” she said. “This year I have to show up every game and be an impact on both sides of the floor. I took the summer to focus on getting stronger on all areas that I had weaknesses in. This summer was very important to me to have a great year this year.”
Another new face
Washington said she has been impressed by Dominique Brooks, who is a transfer from Trinity Valley Community College in Texas.
The 6-foot-4 junior gives the Lady Lions needed help in the post.
“She’s been a very pleasant surprise in practice because she’s picked up things really well,” Washington said. “She runs the floor well and she’s a pretty good defender and rebounder. And, she’s a great screener. She sets the best screens.”
New kids on block
Washington says she welcomes Maryland and Rutgers to the Big Ten this season, even though the two teams will make it more difficult to win the regular-season title.
Maryland, which won the NCAA title in 2006, advanced to the Final Four last season. Brenda Frese’s squad went 28-7 in its last season in the ACC.
Rutgers, an NCAA runner-up in 2007, won the WNIT crown. Hall of Famer C. Vivian Stringer’s team is coming off a 28-9 season.
“I’m excited about Maryland and Rutgers joining the conference,” Washington said. “It makes the conference more competitive. Competition makes teams better. ... It’s going to make for exciting basketball and an exciting conference race. It’s two more teams that play different styles, but have been highly successful.”
Washington believes Lady Lion fans will benefit geographically, too.
“I think its great for our fans because now we have a couple of East Coast rivalries that I’m sure we will develop,” she said. “Our fans can travel to a few more games. We play Maryland and Rutgers both home and away. I think that’s a great addition for Penn State, in particular for our fans.”