— The Hoosier Network (@TheHoosierNet) February 8, 2018
When seniors Tyra Buss and Amanda Cahill depart after this season, freshmen Jaelynn Penn and Bendu Yeaney will be waiting to come to the forefront of the IU women’s basketball program.
They’ve started every game, each average close to 33 minutes per game and combine to average 17 points per game.
They’ve helped the team tremendously in their debut season. However, it’s only realistic to set goals for themselves as their careers progress at IU. They are still only freshmen, after all.
Penn answered first, a bit unsure of herself. “Just get to the NCAA Tournamen…”
That’s when Yeaney came in.
“We want a Big Ten Championship!” Yeaney boasted. “That’s what we want right there.” “That’s a big goal,” Penn said, agreeing with Yeaney.
In typical fashion, it was Penn being more reserved while Yeaney wasn’t afraid to boast her thoughts. That’s just their personalities.
The duo agreed with themselves on both of those goals. Getting to the NCAA Tournament any season could be deemed a success. But Yeaney and Penn are aiming higher. They want something that hasn’t been done at Indiana since 1983.
They seem confident in themselves too. “It’s very attainable,” Penn said. “We have to be optimistic about everything when we come on the court,” Yeaney said. “If you believe, you can beat any team in the Big Ten.”
Those thoughts may be waning this season. Yet, believe it or not, there will be more games to play after this season for the Hoosiers without Buss and Cahill.
Both Yeaney and Penn have been constants in the starting five for the Hoosiers all year long. The duo didn’t necessarily know what to expect coming into the season. They have still been big contributors.
“The season has for sure been a journey,” Penn said. “The key word for my freshman year has been growth. Coming from high school to college, it’s big growing on the court and knowing what I’m supposed to do.”
Yeaney added that growth has been big for her, as well. IU coach Teri Moren mentioned it, along with Yeaney, that the speed of the game at the college level is much greater than in high school. For some, there could be an adjustment period. But for Yeaney and Penn, they have been quick learners and have adapted well.
“Growth is the biggest thing,” Yeaney said. “The speed is different coming out of high school and the physicality is different. Now I have growth and I feel like I can play with some of the girls now.”
Yeaney hails from the West Coast in Portland, Oregon while Penn is from just down the road in Louisville, Kentucky. Both of them say it is a bit different being in a smaller, college town. Both are used to the city. The game is still the same, however.
They have done good work on the offensive end of the floor so far in Bloomington, but Moren said it’s on the other side of the floor where the two freshmen have improved the most.
“In their defense has been the biggest area of improvement for them,” Moren said. “Now that Bendu and Jaelynn have been here and they’ve played so many minutes, them being now accustomed to how hard you have to play, that every possession matters offensively and defensively.”
Looking down the road, Penn and Yeaney will no doubt play bigger roles as soon as next season. But before that, they get to learn under the tutelage of two of the best IU women’s basketball players of all time.
Buss and Cahill are still on campus and have carried the team throughout the season. The influence of the seniors is not lost on the freshmen. They both know the players that Buss and Cahill have been in their careers and they want to replicate that to a certain extent in the future.
Yeaney said they might not have the same impact on the program that the seniors this year had, but it isn’t going to stop them from trying.
“They’ve been where we want to be, they’ve been to the NCAA Tournament,” Yeaney said. “We want to get there so we have to listen to them everyday and work hard for them because we want to get them there for their senior year too.”