The college basketball season may be over, but the honors keep rolling in for the Penn State Lady Lions.
The latest is an invitation to guards Alex Bentley and Maggie Lucas to take part in the 2011 USA Basketball World University Game Trials. Only 35 players nationwide will have the opportunity to impress the Team USA coaches and committee, May 22-25 in Colorado Springs. The players selected to represent the US will travel to the World University Games later this summer in Schenzhen, China.
Lucas and Bentley have both proven to be world class athletes, having helped the Lady Lions lead the nation in 3-point percentage for most of the 2010-11 NCAA regular season. Lucas broke the Penn State and Big Ten single-season record for 3-pointers, and earned the conference freshman of the year and sixth player awards. Bentley is just one assist away from the 300 mark heading into her junior season, after earning first-team All-Big Ten honors as a sophomore.
It is a tremendous opportunity to participate in the nationwide trials with some of the best players in the nation. The added potential of joining the USA team for summer training and the international event is invaluable, not only to the Penn State guards, but also to the Lady Lion team as a whole. Imagine the experience that Bentley and Lucas could bring back to Happy Valley.
Penn State's backcourt works with one of the great guard coaches in the nation every day: Coquese Washington was part of Notre Dame's national championship teams as an undergrad and a member of the coaching staff. The World University Games experience will give the Lady Lions a chance to work with another great guard: former Penn State Olympic gold medalist Susie McConnell-Serio. The Duquesne bench boss is one of the US team's assistant coaches, along with Terri Williams-Flournoy of Georgetown. Iowa State's Bill Fennelly has been tabbed the 2011 head coach.
The Lady Lions already gained some extra experience this season, advancing to the championship game of the Big Ten Tournament, and earning their first NCAA tournament berth since 2005. While there's no doubt the Penn State players will work out over the summer, participate in the team's camps and work to build on their postseason experience, the World University Games opportunity is on another level and will make the young guards get even better, even faster, whether they make the US team roster or not.
In addition to running the floor with some of the best NCAA players in the country, the international event is another chance to play highly-competitive, high-stakes basketball; the tournament experience puts pride on the line, for their country in addition to their college. It's another chance to gain championship experience and another step toward Penn State's ultimate team goal: to challenge for a national title.
Kellie Goodman Shaffer can be reached at Kellie@BedfordCountyChamber.org. Her column appears on Tuesdays.