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Audenried star Shayla Smith announces commitment to Penn State

04/30/2024, 1:00pm EDT
By Joseph Santoliquito

By Joseph Santoliquito (@JSantoliquito)

Walking around Penn State’s Happy Valley campus last October just felt right. That was the reassuring feeling Audenried Charter’s star guard Shayla Smith had carried for months. So, on Monday morning, the 5-foot-10 junior guard decided that is where she would like to continue playing basketball, when she called to inform Nittany Lions’ coach Carolyn Kieger that she would be accepting Penn State’s scholarship offer.

Smith, who was one of the area’s top scorers last year, averaging 25.4 points a game, along with 10.6 rebounds and 5.5 assists, chose Penn State over St. John’s, Delaware State, Monmouth, Temple, Arizona, and Delaware.

But, according to Smith, it came down to two programs: Penn State and St. John’s.

Audenried junior Shayla Smith announced her commitment to Penn State on Monday. (Photo: Josh Verlin/CoBL)

“It felt right to me being at Penn State,” said Smith, the Public League championship MVP who scored a game-high 37 points in the Rockets’ 55-49 victory over Imhotep. “It was between St. John’s and Penn State. Those were my final two.

"I feel my style of play is relaxed and fits in Penn State’s system, which has some structure, but they also allow you to be free. So, when it is time to go, it is time to go. They push the ball in transition, which I really like. This is definitely a big relief for me. I know I can just play my senior year knowing where I am going to college.”

Led by Smith this past season, Audenried (25-6) won its second-straight Philadelphia Public League girls’ championship, won its first PIAA District 12 Class 4A title and reached the PIAA Class 4A state semifinals, where the Rockets lost to state runner-up District 2 champion Scranton Prep.

“The goal next year is to win the state championship, threepeat (as Philadelphia Public League champions) and repeat (as District 12 champs),” said Smith, who plans on majoring in business or psychology and also runs track for Audenried. “There are big goals my senior year. The only thing I have not done is win a state championship. We won our first Public League championship (in school history) my sophomore year. The goal is to win the whole thing my senior year.”

Smith will also be chasing legends, too.

She will probably reach the 2,000-point mark her senior year. She enters her senior season with 1,889 career points, which puts her well within striking distance of the Philadelphia Public League’s all-time leading scorer, 1996 University City grad Shawnetta Stewart’s 2,501 mark, while also surpassing the late Linda Page, the 1981 Dobbins’ legend who scored 2,383 (before the three-point shot). Downingtown (1992) legend and former Penn State star Tina Nicholson is the all-time Delaware Valley scoring leader with 2,709 points, followed by Coatesville 2006 grad Amber White with 2,529.

“This is a great relief to Shayla, and I always tell kids that you have to go to a school that loves you,” Rockets’ coach Kevin Slaughter said. “You have to go where a school cares about you. It is like when Shayla was coming out of grade school. She had a chance to go to many schools, but Shayla did research on me and the Audenried program on how we were getting kids into Division I programs. She knew we developed kids. 

“She came here wanting to get better, and I would say that has worked out. We won back-to-back Public League titles and we just won our first District 12 championship. We have a lot of our team coming back, except for one starter and one very important role player.”

This past season, Kieger’s fifth as Nittany Lions’ head coach, Penn State finished over .500 for the first time since 2016-17 (21-11 overall, 9-7 Big Ten), going 22-13 overall and reaching the WBIT semifinals, where it lost to Villanova. The Nittany Lions earned a national ranking, getting the No. 25 spot in the AP Poll. It was the first time they were ranked since for the first time since the 2013-14 season, which as the last time the Penn State women were in the NCAA Tournament. The last time Penn State finished better than .500 in the Big Ten was the 2016-17 season. Under the late legendary Rene Portland, Penn State reached the final four only once in program history, during the 1999-2000 season.

This past season Kieger did not have a player originally from the Philadelphia area on the roster, though had two Drexel transfers, Moriah Murray and Kylie Lavelle.   

“Penn State’s coach spoke about how Shayla can score,” Slaughter said. “She needs her to score and will allow her to play her game. Some college coaches run their system and that’s it. Sometimes, coaches will hold a kid back. Shayla has an opportunity to contribute as a freshman. 

“Shayla wanted to get out of the city. She loved Temple and St. Joe’s coaches. She wanted some distance from home, where she could drive home. Shayla has some records that are very attainable, and she is set now going to a great school and a great program.”

Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter based in the Philadelphia area who began writing for CoBL in 2021 and is the president of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be followed on Twitter here.

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