Blue White Illustrated

December 2021

Penn State Sports Magazine

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Page 40 of 67

D E C E M B E R 2 0 2 1 41 W W W . B L U E W H I T E O N L I N E . C O M WOMEN'S BASKETBALL P enn State took some steps for- ward as a program in coach Carolyn Kieger's second sea- son. The Lady Lions might have taken a few more if guard Kelly Jekot had been available for the whole year. Jekot, a senior who was playing her first season with the Lady Lions after transferring from Villanova, got off to a hot start, averaging a team-best 15.9 points and 6.8 rebounds in her first nine games. But during a practice session prior to the Lady Lions' game against North- western on Jan. 17, Jekot tore the ACL in her left knee. The injury ended her season, and it could easily have been the end of her career, too. She had previously suffered an ex- tensive injury to her right knee while at Villanova. Having already earned bach- elor's and master's degrees, and with aspirations of going into coaching, she could have just decided that it was time to get on with the next phase of her life. But in April, Jekot announced she was planning to return for one more season with the Lady Lions. Kieger described her decision as inspirational. "She focuses on her teammates," the Lady Lions' third-year coach said. "She came back for them, and she came back for the name on the front of the jersey. I think that's rare to have a leader who inspires not only by what they say, but also by their actions. "Kelly has a phenomenal IQ ," Kieger added. "She does a great job helping the underclassmen. I think it's going to give us a level of experience. She's played in the NCAA Tournament. She knows what it takes to get there. She can be a great leader for us." Jekot said the camaraderie with team- mates such as junior guard Makenna Marisa, junior forward Anna Camden and sophomore guard Maddie Burke, among others, was what brought her back. "It was just the people at Penn State," she said at Big Ten media day in Octo- ber. "Coach Kieger has done so much for me. And Makenna, Anna, Maddie, a lot of notable players — I'm so excited to get back on the court with them as well." Although she's been a key component of Penn State's plans for two years now, Jekot hasn't actually seen much action in a Lady Lion uniform. Her entire PSU playing career consists of those nine games last winter. Before that, the 6-foot guard was a standout at Villanova. A two-time Gatorade Pennsylvania Player of the Year selection while at Cumberland Val- ley High, she had chosen the Wildcats over Penn State and enjoyed immedi- ate success at the college level, winning Philadelphia Big Five Rookie of the Year honors and helping lift her team to a WNIT berth as a freshman. By her sophomore season, she was a starter, averaging 11.2 points per game, earning second-team All-Big Five hon- ors and helping lead Villanova to the NCAA Tournament. Jekot's junior season was even bet- ter; she set career-highs by averag- ing 13.8 points and 4.6 rebounds per A FIGHT TO THE FINISH Kelly Jekot came back for one more season in hope of leading a Lady Lion resurgence M AT T H E R B | M A T T @ B L U E W H I T E O N L I N E . C O M Jekot was Penn State's top scorer through nine games last year before suffering a season-ending ACL injury in practice. PHOTO BY MARK SELDERS/PENN STATE ATHLETICS

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