Former Philadelphia 76ers star Allen Iverson made iconic comments toward “practice” in a negative way because after all, “it’s not a game.”
Yet, junior guard Maggie Lucas has a different mindset to what practice is.
While Iverson may beg to differ, practice carries importance and junior guard Maggie Lucas may best exemplify that.
After, in her eyes, a disappointing freshman season as she told the Daily Collegian last year, she vowed to make 100,000 shots in one summer before the start of last season. Not just shoot 100,000 shots, but to make 100,000.
It should come to no surprise to anyone familiar with the Narberth, Pa. native that she did or how she continuously puts in long hours to improve her game.
“If you give her one thing to do, she will be in the gym until she gets it done correctly, every single time,” assistant coach Fred Chmiel said.
While Lucas did not share what her specific personal goals were this past summer or whether she made another 100,000 shots. The USBWA National Player of the Week for Dec. 9 said that this past summer she worked on quicker corrections to her shot when things were not falling.
So far, the 5-foot-9 guard has thrived on her work ethic this season.
Through nine games, Lucas has shot 48.2 percent from the field and 55 percent from beyond the arc. She is currently leading the Big Ten in points per game, 22.7, while her three point percentage ranks eighth in the country.
Together, she has seen a five percent increase to her field goal percentage and an astounding 14 percent increase in her three point percentage.
“She’s learned to pass up the shots that the other team wants her to take and to only take shots that she wants to take,” head coach Coquese Washington said of Lucas’ percentages increase.
Humble, Lucas is quick to deflect attention crediting her improvements to Washington and Chmiel.
The junior on the Wade Trophy Watch List, an award given to the nation’s top player, said that Washington breaks down her play game by game to show her where her best shots are taken, which has helped improve her shot selection.
But to get the shots she wants, she has to get open without the ball. Lucas said that Chmiel helps her significantly with that.
That aspect of her game has garnered the attention of coaches around the sport.
“She's always been a good shooter,” Georgetown head coach Keith Brown said after the Lions victory on Sunday, “but the staff here at Penn State has shown her how to get open without the ball. That's one of the most difficult things to teach these young ladies.”
Connecticut’s Geno Auriemma added to that compliment before Connecticut’s game against the Lions on Dec. 6.
Through a Connecticut spokesman, Auriemma said that her development, like getting open shots, has made her more difficult to guard.
While the Huskies won, 67-52, Lucas still scored 15 points going 5-for-12 from the field and 3-for-6 beyond the arc.
Even though Lucas’ coaching staff might aid the adjustments, Chmiel said that it takes a special kind of hungriness for a player to add to her repertoire.
The assistant coach in his third season added that she is building on her game, he is just providing the information.
Whatever he gives her, Lucas takes it and completes it, Chmiel said.
“Her work ethic is phenomenal,” the Excelsior College alumnus said. “[She is] one of the best players I have ever worked with, both college and professional, [in terms of] work ethic wise.”
Her work paid off this past Sunday against Georgetown when she lit up to score 39 points on the Hoyas for a new career high and a new Bryce Jordan Center record.
“I am so happy that she gets nights like this because it means all her hard work is paying off,” senior guard Alex Bentley said after the win. “So it is great. Our team is very, very fortunate and blessed to have her, for sure.”
Yet, as Chmiel reassured, nobody is perfect and there is always something to work on for Lucas.
He suggested a plethora of things, such as shots off the dribble and shot selection that Lucas can improve on.
The Germantown Academy high school alumnus would agree.
“There’s always room for improvement, even in the game on Sunday, I thought I missed a few that usually I might hit,” Lucas said laughing.
Lucas added that she now is taking shots while fatigued and staying after practice to shoot despite her body being drained. It gives a simulation of a game, she said.
If Lucas can continue shooting like she has so far in the season, she may lead her team to a Final Four appearance come April in New Orleans, La.
With a final four appearance and lights out shooting performances, she may go down as arguably the greatest Lady Lion, topping legendary Kelly Manzante.
While there is no reason to say it will happen, there is no reason not to.
“The sky’s the limit for her,” Chmiel said.