Penn State Basketball

Penn State women’s basketball: Lady Lions pick up another recruit

You have to give it to Penn State women’s basketball recruit Ashanti Thomas.

When she commits to a school, she does it with flair.

Thomas, a highly-sought after recruit from Lexington, Ky., announced her decision with a rap video that she penned.

And when it was done, Coquese Washington was the coach that was dancing.

Thomas committed to the Lady Lions just a couple of weeks before the early signing period began Wednesday and signed her letter-of-intent on Thursday.

Thomas, a 6-foot-5 center, was the last member of the 2015 Class to commit, joining guards Teniya Page (Marion Heights, Ill.) and Amari Carter (Washington, D.C.) and center Jaylen Williams (Braintree, Mass.). The class is rated anywhere between eight and 11 by multiple national recruiting services.

Thomas chose Penn State over Southern California, West Virginia and Purdue. She also had a scholarship offer from her hometown team Kentucky.

“They are crazy about basketball here,” Thomas said. “They literally bleed blue.”

But that passion didn’t stop her from heading northeast

“There was no pressure to stay at home,” she said. “I just decided I had to get out of here.”

She made only one visit to Penn State, but was won over by Washington and her staff, including Kia Damon who handled most of her recruiting.

“I liked the coaching staff and the team the best,” Thomas said. “And, the school just blew me away. The academic program is amazing. They were a better fit than the rest of the schools. ... It was amazing. I’ve never been that in awe before with a campus.”

Thomas cut a striking figure during her campus visit with a blonde hairdo.

“I’m not really into all of that stuff, but my mom said I would be great with it,” she said with a chuckle. “So, I said, ‘OK, whatever.’ She’s usually never wrong about it.”

Penn State is looking for big things from Thomas. She has been compared to former Lady Lion center Nikki Greene, now in the WNBA, with her size and athleticism.

“Ashanti is a post player with tremendous athleticism,” Washington said. “She will be a dominating presence in the paint for us. ... She will certainly be able to handle the rigors of Big Ten post play.”

Thomas says she knows that playing in the Big Ten will be a challenge, but she can’t wait to get to work.

She averaged about 10 points and 10 rebounds per game last season at Lafayette High School, which went 29-4.

“My main strength is defense, blocking shots and rebounding,” Thomas said. “I have some good post moves. When I’m really in my zone I can’t be stopped.”

She’s seen the Lady Lions play often on the Big Ten Network and the uptempo style is one of the reasons she was attracted to Penn State.

“I like the way that they run the floor,” she said. “They don’t really play like robots. They don’t just go to spots on the floor. They move the ball well and everybody is not stuck to one position. They all get to participate in all positions on the court.”

She also likes what Washington’s plan for her four years on campus.

“That’s really what drew me to her,” Thomas said. “It wasn’t always about basketball. It was about developing as a person and watching me grow into a woman. I love that about her.”

Thomas plans to major in Pre-Medicine, with the hopes of someday becoming a pediatrician.

“I love children for one, but I just really like the thought of being able to care for and help be a part of a child or multiple children’s lives. It really interested me to see how kids develop and they gone on to grow up.”

Thomas comes from a large family with two older brothers, three younger brothers and a younger sister.

She’ll also be part of that large four-player class at Penn State. She says she knows Page and knows of Williams.

She also knows of the high expectations and embraces them.

“I love that and the fact that we’re ranked so high makes me feel very confident in my teammates,” she said. “We have a really good chance to play together. I think we’re going to be great.”

PSU vs. Albany

Thomas’ future teammates are back in action Sunday against Albany in the second round of the Preseason WNIT.

Lindsey Spann led four players in double figures with 17 points as the Lady Lions struggled, but topped Towson 71-64 in the opening round.

Their opponent had it much easier. Albany crushed St. Francis Brooklyn 90-47.

The Great Danes were 28-5 last season and made the NCAA Tournament, falling to West Virginia in the opening round.

Imani Tate had 22 points off the bench, while Margarita Rosario added 16.

This is the first meeting between the two teams.