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How Carolyn Kieger plans to employ ‘positionless’ playstyle for Penn State women’s basketball

Women's basketball vs. La Salle, Camden (11)

Anna Camden (11) defends La Salle player Jordon Lewis (22) during the women’s basketball game against La Salle at the Bryce Jordan Center on Nov. 17, 2019. The Explorers defeated the Lady Lions, 69-67.

Penn State coach Carolyn Kieger has tried to usher in many new things in her short tenure in Happy Valley.

She's emphasized a new culture that places a premium on player dialogue and social justice, she's brought in many new faces both via recruiting and transfer, and now she's trying to rebrand the style of basketball the Lady Lions play.

At the heart of this new style is a more WNBA- and NBA-centric approach toward smaller play where guards are the main point of emphasis.

With just three forwards listed on the roster, the Lady Lions can get out on defense and run the floor, attacking teams in the offensive end.

As Kieger put it, Penn State will look to play “positionless basketball" and will do so by increasing the number of shooters on the court and ensuring the Lady Lions will be able to find balance and spread the floor.

“That's kind of always been my style as a head coach anyways,” Kieger said. “It's worked well for a lot of programs, and it will continue to work well for us as we move into the future. However, when we have a low block post player, we actually want to use them and make sure we're playing inside out and attack the paint as much as we can.”

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While they return just one forward from last season’s squad in sophomore Anna Camden, the Lady Lions added two experienced transfers to the forward group in the offseason.

Britnay Gore and Johnasia Cash join Penn State from Cleveland State Community College and Southern Methodist University, respectively.

Kieger gave praises to both her sophomore returner and Gore.

“Anna has had a tremendous offseason,” Kieger said. “She's been focusing on improving her overall offensive skill set and bringing the juice on the defensive end. [Gore] was a double-double threat in junior college, so I know that will definitely help us in terms of being that paint protector and grabbing rebounds for us.”

In her freshman year, Camden showcased her ability to score both within the paint as well as outside the arc, knocking down 39 three-pointers, good enough for second best on the team.

Camden acknowledged her experience among the three forwards, but she’s ready to learn from both Gore and Cash.

“I stepped up as a leader in the sense that I have experienced specifically Penn State basketball, our standard and how we play,” Camden said. “I think that I personally have a lot to learn in all parts of my game. I'm learning from Britany and Cash as we go.

“I think that's something that's so special about our team — we're all learning from each other.”

Starting in all but one game last season, Cash led the Mustangs during her junior season in points, rebounds and blocks while coming in second in steals, showcasing her versatility as a scorer and defender.

The senior brings experience to a group of Lady Lions that is not only inexperienced in the post, but also inexperienced overall, and she expects that that experience will play an important role in the team’s success this season.

“[Kieger is] all about wanting to have a fast offense, and that's another thing I bring to this team is speed,” Cash said. “I'm running with the guards. I'm sprinting the floor.

“With me being listed as a forward, I can play multiple positions, so we've been working on ball handling attacking from the lane lines and the shooting. I'm aggressive in the post, being a post presence and rebounding, so I feel like I fit very well in the lineup.”

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In her sophomore season at CSCC, Gore tallied 18 double-doubles, averaging 14.5 points and 10.7 rebounds per game, adding another capable scorer to the trio of forwards on Kieger’s roster.

As Kieger mentioned, playing positionless basketball is the game plan heading into the upcoming season.

Cash believes she and her teammates fit well into Kieger’s vision for a free-flowing, fast-paced style of play.

“I feel like I fit very well on the team, and everything that Coach Kieger has planned for the team, offense and defense,” Cash said. “I feel like everyone on this team fits really well into every job.”

Penn State’s forwards welcome the opportunity to show their versatility, not only in the backcourt, but also in transition.

“We're going to be very hard to guard because we're very fast, all of us,” Camden said. “We're going to run and play fast.

“It's going to be an exciting group to watch. We all have such different strengths and that's making us all better.”

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