In the span of under a month, four Penn State players announced they were leaving Happy Valley.
In light of these recent departures, it may seem like things are taking a turn for the worse for the Lady Lions.
However, it's possible that this roster shift is just the first step of a brighter future for the program.
This isn’t the first time that coach Carolyn Kieger has started out a program with a losing record.
When Kieger took over as the head coach at Marquette in 2014, her team won only nine games that season and placed eighth in the Big East.
In the second season in charge, Kieger won 14 games with the Golden Eagles, showing a noticeable improvement that reflected where the program was going to go in the coming years. The win totals only grew larger in the following years, as Kieger led Marquette to the NCAA Tournament three years in a row, making it to the second round twice, and winning at least 24 games in each of those three seasons.
Along the way, the head coach led the Golden Eagles to their second consecutive Big East regular-season title and a 27-8 record in her final season.
When analyzing Penn State’s 7-23 record from her first season as head coach, it looks to be somewhere that Kieger has been before, even if the numbers aren’t the prettiest to look at.
What Kieger needs is time to develop the program so that in the coming seasons, the team will be prepared to reach the levels of success that she saw at Marquette.
It seems the Lady Lions are recruiting to meet that goal.
Penn State has four incoming 2020 player commits, three of which are three-star recruits and one five-star recruit, according to ESPN.
This class includes point guard Leilani Kapinus of Fitchburg, Wisconsin, who ESPN considers the No. 9 overall point guard in the 2020 draft class. This is an important get for Kieger and the program, as Penn State is in dire need of a true point guard to run its offense next season.
Overall, these recruits seem to fill the holes that the Lady Lions had in their latest season. According to ESPN, all of Penn State’s new recruits shoot well from beyond the 3-point arc, and are unselfish with the ball.
Unselfishness is what the Lady Lions require from their players, as they were ranked last in the Big Ten in assists. Additionally, all of the recruits are also described to excel in uptempo play and are able to complete scoring opportunities in transition.
With incoming recruits who can instantly gel with Kieger’s frenetic style of play and veteran players who are finally adjusted to the system, Penn State has the potential to drastically improve on offense next season.
The most notable of these veteran Lady Lions include First Team All-Big Ten honoree Kamaria McDaniel. In her junior season, McDaniel became the Lady Lions go-to scorer, as well as the second-leading scorer in the Big Ten, averaging just under 20 points per game. McDaniel was the most reliable Lady Lion on the court and that should remain the same for her senior year.
Also returning next season is the freshman trio of Makenna Marisa, Shay Hagans and Anna Camden. Over the course of the full season, all three shouldered a heavy burden and were all regular starters during their first year on the team.
Many of Penn State’s essential players remain going into the next season, aside from the graduation of senior guard Siyeh Frazier and the notable recent transfers of Alisia Smith and Lauren Ebo.
Ebo was the main forward for Penn State and was a commanding frontcourt player throughout her sophomore season. Although Penn State tends to gravitate towards a guard-heavy lineup, the team needs to find out how to replace her position and if one it is likely her absence will have a minimal effect on the overall structure of the team.
The departures of Smith and Ebo, as well as freshman guards Jayla James and Mya Bembry, are most likely a reaction to the new recruiting class, as well as the returning athletes and the allocation of playing time that will be divided up within the team. It is likely that these players sought opportunities elsewhere to have a larger role in their new teams.
However, this change in personnel is nothing to be worried about.
With a talented recruitment class on the way and returning athletes that are already familiar with Kieger’s style, this offseason could signify a major step forward for the program.