Penn State’s Candice Agee can’t wait to put on her Penn State uniform this season.
That’s because when the 6-foot-6 junior trots out onto the floor for Sunday’s 2 p.m. exhibition game at the Bryce Jordan Center against Indiana, Pa., she’ll be minus something she wore most of last season — a bulky knee brace.
After postseason surgery and with the brace put away, Agee is happy and healthy again and can’t wait to make an impact for a Lady Lion team that lost four starters.
“I feel really good,” Agee said, pointing to her brace-free knee. “I’m back 100 percent. I’m doing a lot better than before. Right now, I’m just building strength.”
Never miss a local story.
Agee was the starting center for the first three games last fall, but was hurt in an early season tournament. Talia East moved into the lineup and Agee never recovered fully. She played just 330 minutes for the season, averaging 3.1 points and 2.6 rebounds.
“It was frustrating because I started off with the starting spot and until I got hurt in the Bahamas,” Agee said of her sophomore campaign. “My injury was causing too much and my productivity went down. That was tough, but I learned a lot from it and I’m tougher for it.”
Occasionally she did show flashes of how well she could play.
In the Lady Lions’ Sweet 16 loss to Stanford, Agee had four points, two rebounds and two blocks.
“It tricks you,” Agee said of that game. “My knee had its good days and its bad days back then. It was like for every four bad days, I had two good days. Now that’s switched around. For that ratio to flip for me, it is huge.”
Two days after that season-ending defeat, Agee was in surgery having her knee repaired by Dr. Wayne Sebastianelli.
“I had a lot of cartilage damage and had about two inches of cartilage that had been dislodged,” Agee said. “They went in took it out and scraped all of it out and I have no longer have any cartilage on the outer part of my left knee. And I had my meniscus repaired.
“I’ve been excited since I got off that surgery table in April. I was like, ‘Now the work starts.’ ”
Agee said she’s been working hard on her shot and driving from the high post.
“Candice Agee is growing into being a full force down low,” Lady Lion coach Coquese Washington said. “Candice has grown. She has a lot of confidence now. She’s probably the healthiest she’s been since she’s been here and I think that’s given her some confidence.”
With most of the team’s points and rebounds lost to graduation, Washington will need production out of the post if her squad has any hopes of contending for its fourth consecutive Big Ten crown. Aside from senior forward Tori Waldner, Agee is Washington’s most experienced post player.
“Coquese challenged us to make up for that,” Agee said. “She said, ‘Hey, everybody scores eight points, we win.’ That’s so doable with this team. We’re evenly spread out in talent. It’s going to be interesting to see what happens.
“It’s going to be one of those seasons where you’re going to see a lot of breakout players,” she added. “I think you’re going to see some good stuff from all 11 of us. People are in for a little bit of a shock.”
Now healthy, Agee hopes she can deliver some of the electricity and also some of the potential that earned her McDonald’s High School All-American honors coming out of Silverado (Calif.) High School.
“I believe I finally will be able to showcase why they recruited me in the first place,” Agee said. “That’s a really big deal for me, my fans and my coaches.”
Agee admits she’s still adjusting to life thousands of miles away from family and friends.
“Being away from home is a huge mental thing for me,” she said. “Even as a junior, I’m still working to overcome. I know that if this is something that I want to do for a long time I have to get over it.”
With her left knee healthy, she promises to be better than ever.
“I’m going to be all over the boards,” Agee said with a smile. “You don’t even know.”
A family face will be on the other sideline this afternoon.
Kelly Mazzante, the all-time leading scorer in Penn State and Big Ten history, is in her first season as an assistant coach at IUP.
Mazzante scored 2,919 points and led the Lady Lions to the Elite Eight in her senior season in 2004.
She also owns a pair of WNBA title rings from Phoenix in 2007 and 2009.
She’s returned several seasons to the Jordan Center, but this will be the first as an opponent.
“Kelly has come back a number of times,” Washington said. “When we played Cal, Pa., Jess Strom was the coach. Those moments are great for our fans. I’m sure IUP and Kelly will get a warm reception.
“It will be fun to have her back in the gym and our fans can cheer for her, but root mightily and madly for the Lady Lions.”