After disappointing NCAA playoffs last season, Penn State's Lucas is training hard

Maggie Lucas (right, with teammate Talia East) led the Big Ten in treys but lost her touch in the second round of the NCAAs.
Maggie Lucas (right, with teammate Talia East) led the Big Ten in treys but lost her touch in the second round of the NCAAs. (JOHN BEALE / Associated Press)
Posted: October 26, 2011

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. - Maggie Lucas' spectacular freshman season at Penn State didn't have the picture-perfect ending the 5-foot-10 guard from Narberth wanted.

In March, when the Lady Lions' season ended with a second-round NCAA tournament exit at the hands of DePaul - in a game they led by as many as 14 - Lucas' line in the box score read 1 for 11 from the field.

Needless to say, the team's leading scorer who set a Big Ten single-season record with 112 three-pointers (3.2 per game) did not take the loss well. She has been using it as incentive to work harder in the offseason as she prepares for this season, which opens for the Lions on Nov. 11 against Washington State. Penn State, which is ranked No. 12 in the Sporting News preseason poll, began preseason practices on Oct. 10.

"It's something I probably still haven't gotten over," said Lucas, last year's Big Ten freshman and sixth player of the year. She is just the second McDonald's high school all-American to play at Penn State.

"I'll probably never get over it. But I just try to use it as motivation for me every day when I step on the court. Just try to think about that. Because you don't want to feel that defeat again."

The day after the loss, Lucas sought solace in her favorite place - the gym. As she began her offseason workouts, she decided to set a lofty goal. Lucas, described by her coach and teammates as a gym rat, aimed to make 100,000 shots in the offseason.

"Honestly, if it was anybody else it would be mind-blowing," guard Alex Bentley said. "But Maggie Lucas, I mean that girl's determined."

Between morning and evening summer workouts at Narberth courts with her father, Al, and afternoon shootarounds at Germantown Academy, her alma mater, she put a nice dent in her goal. Once back at Penn State for the latter part of the summer, she put up shots after class.

Lucas made 600 and 800 shots daily and would log her progress at the end of each day in a spreadsheet on her computer. It wasn't hard for her to keep track. She performs all her drills in multiples of 10 and shoots 10 free throws between each drill.

In mid-September, Lucas made her 100,000th shot of the offseason.

"If she didn't say it out loud, she would've done it anyway," fifth-year Penn State coach Coquese Washington said.

Though Lucas led Penn State with 15.8 points per game last season, she only started once. Normally entering games at the first media timeout, she helped spark one of the nation's highest-scoring offenses. She shot 42.6 percent from beyond the arc and missed just 12 of her 92 free-throw attempts.

Washington said she won't settle on a starting lineup for this season until the Lions' exhibition game against Bloomsburg on Nov. 5. But whether Lucas starts or is first off the bench, Washington said the guard's role won't change much. Lucas will play on the wing and also spend some time at point guard, where she's working to improve her skills and confidence.

Lucas has also gotten stronger and she hopes that will help her deal better with physical play.

She said she doesn't think a deeper three-point line - it was moved back to the men's collegiate line - will affect her much.

"I just want to improve every day," she said. "I try not to think about stuff that happened last year because it's really not relevant anymore. Even the preseason ranking, it's not relevant to what's happening. We haven't played any games yet. So we're just trying to get better every day.

"We know that we probably could have gone further last year. We all expected to I think . . . I think we use that as we're good enough to take it to another level."


Contact staff writer Jake Kaplan at jake.kaplan1@gmail.com.

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