Penn State’s win over Ohio State wasn’t just the team’s first victory over a team ranked inside the top 15 in five years.
It was also senior night for the Lady Lions and Nia Staples was the lone senior honored prior to Wednesday’s 69-67 win for the blue and white.
While the graduate student didn’t appear in the game against the Buckeyes, her teammates made sure to play for her.
“We did whatever it took to win tonight, especially for Nia,” Niya Beverley said. “She’s been awesome for our team. She’s so positive and brings energy every day. She gives it her all.”
Staples transferred to Penn State after playing three years at West Virginia and graduating with a bachelor’s degree in sport and exercise psychology. At University Park, she is pursuing a master’s degree in Clinical Rehab and Mental Health Counseling.
During the pregame ceremony, a letter written by Staples titled “Dear Basketball” was read over the speakers.
The letter detailed Staples’ basketball journey, how thankful she is for the game and all it has taught her.
But the Cincinnati, Ohio, native’s collegiate basketball journey is dissimilar from many’s as she’s battled through two ACL tears in the same knee.
Yet Staples shows up day in and day out ready to do whatever it takes to help her team win, whether it’s playing hard in practice, cheering her team on from the sidelines or draining a three when she gets in the game.
Staples made both of her attempted shots this season. The graduate transfer’s efforts certainly don’t go unnoticed by coach Carolyn Kieger.
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“She’s been a testament to fight and she’s handled her injuries with grace and humility,” Kieger said. “She’s done a phenomenal job showing up every day to do whatever it is we needed her to do. She came in with a smile on her face and just asks ‘what do you need me to do?’”
Staples’ teammates think very highly of her as they look to her as a leader both on and off the court.
“Nia always comes in with a positive attitude, whether it’s practices or games,” Makenna Marisa said. “She lifts everyone up constantly. Having her there just brings everyone’s mood up. Getting this one for her tonight was special.”
Kieger raved about Staples’ positive attitude every time she steps on to the court in practices and games, saying the graduate transfer never fails to give it her all despite her past injuries.
“You need players like that to show fight, stick around and want to be a part of the team even though their career didn’t go the way they wanted it to go because of injuries,” Kieger said. “She’s a phenomenal person.”
The game signified major progress in Kieger’s tenure at Penn State. But more importantly to Kieger, she’s proud of her team for getting a win for Staples.
“I’m so happy we were able to get that win for her,” Kieger said. “Our team was ready to get that win for her and they were excited for her.”
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