Senior takes quiet approach
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) - Penn State senior Rashana Barnes will blurt out something -- anything -- on the court during practice, just as a subtle, steady reminder to the younger players that she's there, and she's watching.
"I don't talk very much unless I have to," said the center from Philadelphia and veteran of Penn State's 1999 Final Four team. "It's been tough because I just sit back and lead more by example. I notice when I'm not talking a lot so I just throw in a 'Let's go State' or 'Let's go blue' just to keep my mouth moving."
Barnes is making a conscious effort to be a more active leader on the court because the Lady Lions are short on experience.
"Rashana's really going to have to step up and be a great leader for us," said Penn State coach Rene Portland. "Her attitude to lead this team has been tremendous."
Being more vocal has been the key for Barnes, who is one of only three seniors on a team with no juniors. That means many of Penn State's four sophomores and six freshmen will see significant playing time.
"It's a whole different level," freshman Ashli Schwab said just three practices into the season. "The younger players have a lot to learn, and we're going to look to Shana to see how she does it. When she talks, we listen."
With the departure of Maren Walseth, who had a short stint with the WNBA Sacramento Monarchs, Barnes will also be asked to step up her offensive production. And with teams focussing their defense on guard Kelly Mazzante, Barnes should have ample opportunity to score inside.
"Other teams are going to look for Kelly to do all the scoring," Barnes said. "We know that, and as a team we're going to have to adjust and respond to that, and a lot of the scoring will fall on me."
Barnes spent most of the summer diversifying her game by improving her ball-handling skills and dribble penetration. She was also Penn State's lone representative on the Big Ten Foreign Tour team, which played in France and Switzerland in August.
She won't hesitate to face up and shoot this season, a new philosophy she said worked well in Europe. Defensively, Barnes will look to avoid the foul trouble that plagued her last season, when she was forced to the bench early seven times. After a rigorous conditioning program, she feels she is better equipped to use her quickness to defend opposing post players.
Barnes, who averaged 11.3 points and 7.3 rebounds per game last year, admitted that last season's dismal showing in both the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments served as motivation for her this summer.
Coming off a stunning last second loss to Michigan to end the regular season, Barnes was determined to reverse her team's fortunes when they met the Wolverines to open the conference tournament. Despite her 18 points and 11 rebounds, the Lady Lions lost 66-60. Texas Christian then upset Penn State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
"It was embarrassing," Barnes said. "Throughout the summer, that's what I wanted to work on. I didn't want to have that feeling again."