Moscow Trip Good For Packer

Jim Foster's Ohio State women's basketball Buckeyes have dotted USA Basketball rosters in recent years, and guard Marscilla Packer kept that tradition alive on a recent trip to Russia for the U19 World Championships that yielded a second gold medal for the senior-to-be.

The women's basketball Buckeyes have posted a winning percentage of 87.9 since Marscilla Packer joined up for the 2004-05 season, but that is not the most impressive rate of wins run up by a team Packer's been involved with.

For that, try triple digits. The soon-to-be-senior guard from Pickerington recently finished a second consecutive gold-medal winning trip out of the country with USA Basketball.

This season the U21 team posted a 5-0 mark while taking first place at the FIBA U21 World Championships held in Moscow, Russia. Packer also boasts a gold from her trip to Mexico with many of the same players last year – then playing at the U20 level – and as a whole the age group finished 26-0 in four years of age-based play at the international level.

"It's fun. We're all friends because we've grown up playing together and against each other in different All-America games and stuff like that," Packer said upon her return to the States. "We have a good time together. It's weird but we can put all these great players together and have the same common goal and we achieved it so it made it really nice."

Playing alongside multitalented stars such as Courtney Paris of Oklahoma, Abby Waner of Duke, Crystal Langhorne of Maryland, Essence Carson of Rutgers, and Jolene Anderson of Wisconsin, Packer found it easy to figure out what her role would be.

"It was definitely shooting," the most accurate three-point shooter in Ohio State history said. "But then I wanted to concentrate on rebounding and defense the most. We had great shooters on the team, so I decided I wanted to bring something different, something more to the table to make the team better."

Fortunately for Packer, that role goes along with what her coach, Jim Foster, is looking for from her in her final season in scarlet and gray.

"Marscilla's got to come back a better defender, and a better, more creative ball-handler," Foster said before she went overseas.

"I've never had a problem with shooting, so I wasn't really worried about trying to focus on that. I just had a great opportunity to be with these players and practice and get better," Packer said. "I wanted to make a point, like every time we shot, I want to go in for the rebound."

For the trip, which also included three exhibition games in France, Packer led the Americans with 12 steals and ranked third overall with 12 assists. She averaged 5.0 points in 14.1 minutes a game. Packer ranked third on the USA squad with eight three-pointers.

"I was told I led the team in steals, to which everyone was like, ‘Oh my gosh, that's just crazy.' Now I have to bring it back here. That's what I'm going to try to do this year."

The next edition of the Buckeyes is likely to look much different than the last couple after four-year starters Jessica Davenport and Brandie Hoskins graduated.

As a senior, Packer figures to assume many of the leadership duties handled by Davenport, the three-time conference player of the year and a first-round WNBA draft pick as a center, and Hoskins, a multitalented guard/forward who was leading the Big Ten in assists when a torn Achilles tendon ended her season prematurely last year.

Packer began taking the reigns not long after returning from Moscow.

"But I hadn't even been around the new freshmen who were on campus yet, so this week I've been working out again with the team. I miss them and being around them," she said. "If your younger teammates see you doing something, they're going to know it's important and that sets a tone for when we start practice so they know how intense it should be in practice."

The freshman she spoke of comprise a four-person class of center Jantel Lavender, guards Brittany Johnson and Alison Jackson and forward Sarah Schulze. As a whole, ranked the class seventh in the nation.

Scout ranked Lavender the top center and No. 3 player overall in the country, and this summer the reigning Ohio Ms. Basketball is representing the Buckeyes as a member of the USA Basketball U19 team as it competes in the world championship for its age group in the Canary Islands.

Lavender and Jackson both played in the most recent McDonald's All-America game.

The influx of talent and the departure of Davenport, whose greatest strength was her low-post offensive game, should lead to a group of Buckeyes who attack defenses in new ways this winter: The 2007-08 women's basketball Buckeyes will be looking to get out and run whenever possible.

"I think it will be good for us not to think as much, just play. Last year you'd think, ‘Ok, I've got to get the ball inside first.' But I think [this year] we can just play," Packer said. "You missed a shot? That's okay. Let's get back on defense. We'll come back again and get right back at you. So I think it will be good for us."

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