There's nothing like a good road trip to help a team bond, and that's the plan for some high school girls basketball teams this week, as they board their buses for Happy Valley.
With Penn State students home for the holidays, this is a good time to take in some college hoops and have some great seats while doing so.
When the nationally-ranked Lady Lions host Big Ten newcomer Nebraska at the Bryce Jordan Center Friday night, you'll be able to pick out splashes of high school colors throughout the BJC.
With many student-section seats available, these teenagers often will find themselves courtside, just across the floor from the team benches. It's the perfect place to witness the speed, power and finesse of their college idols.
The Penn State women are ranked 16th in both the AP and Coaches' Polls with a 10-2 record.
Coach Coquese Washington is worth watching in her own right, as she simultaneously displays cool confidence and enthusiastic education as she paces the sideline. But her players are being watched not only by their young fans but also by the national basketball community.
Superstar guard, Maggie Lucas seems to have picked up where she left off in her fantastic freshman season, posting a fourth straight 20-point game at Bucknell. She has actually hit for 20 points in six of the last seven games, so far avoiding any hint of a sophomore slump.
Lucas and fellow guard Alex Bentley are both on the watch list for the Naismith Award, the Heisman Trophy of women's basketball, proving that the Penn State squad is on the national radar, and gaining more respect by the game.
Zha Zha Grey can provide a great shooting lesson from behind the arc, while Nikki Green has grown into a powerful Big Ten center. Mia Nickson is a consummate leader on the court, providing a model for young players.
Having played the role of underdog the last couple of seasons, the Lady Lions are adjusting to life with a bull'seye on their backs while keeping their own eyes on a return trip to the NCAA tournament. Having lost a heartbreaker at home in last year's Big Dance, this Penn State squad is focused on earning redemption in 2012.
This week, the quest for the Big Ten title begins, and the program is hoping to fill the seats with some valuable ticket offers. For Friday's Big Ten opener, fans can purchase a Subway Full Court 4-Pack, and receive their tickets plus a voucher for four subs and four sodas for $40. Young fans can get up close and personal with the Penn State basketball program by visiting the concourse for the Kids FunZone.
It will be a fun atmosphere that will likely include local high school students filling in for the Penn State pep band and a good chance you'll see high school hoop players making a cameo appearance on the scoreboard.
Kellie Goodman Shaffer can be reached at Kellie@BedfordCountyChamber.org. Her column appears on Tuesdays.