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Kim Royster ready to lead IUWBB

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Royster Read To Step Up As Veteran Leader For Indiana Women's Basketball



BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Kym Royster gets it. It's her team, in a big sense, this Indiana basketball squad that is so rich in potential.
Royster is the program's only four-year senior. As such, she faces a major leadership responsibility. Yes, others will share it -- such as fellow returning starters Jaelynn Penn and Bendu Yeaney, plus heralded transfers Ali Patberg and Brenna Wise -- but the 6-foot-2 Royster is the veteran show-the-way director.
That's crucial in these no-Tyra-and-Amanda times.
This is Royster's fourth year in coach Teri Moren's system. She understands better than anyone what is expected and what needs to be done.
Royster seems fully prepared to handle the challenge. She has thrived in big games, providing substance in what can be a stylish game. If she sustains that level, in fact ratchets it up, the Hoosiers could turn last year's WNIT championship, the first in school history, into this season's long NCAA tourney run.
"(Leadership) comes natural in that I'm a competitive person," Royster says. "In high school, I was a leader from my sophomore year on."
For the last three years Royster saw how Tyra Buss and Amanda Cahill handled the role. They became two of the greatest players in program history and led IU to last season's breakthrough title.
They were the examples Royster intends to follow.
"I take all the leadership qualities that the older group before me taught and instilled in me," she says. "Finally being in their position, I can pass that down to keep it going."
Moren wouldn't want it any other way.
"Without question Kym's voice is heard every day in practice, especially when the energy is low."
Low energy, after all, is no way to win games.
"We are constantly on our kids about communicating at a high level. It's something we're trying to hammer home."
When you're young, and the Hoosiers are with three freshmen, five sophomores and two transfers on the 12-player roster, a hammer is sometimes necessary
"Kym is the veteran leader out there who demands what we're asking them to do," Moren says. "That's good. There's nothing better than peer pressure sometimes. When your teammates are on you and they know you are needed, it goes a long way."
Last year Royster rated among the Big Ten's most improved players. She started all 37 games (she'd only started six times in her first two seasons) and increased her season averages from her sophomore to junior season 6.0 points and 3.4 rebounds (10.2 points, 6.0 rebounds) while shooting 56.1 percent from the field. She scored in double figures 21 times with three double-doubles.
Along the way Royster had some big-time games, including a 22-point, eight-rebound effort against No. 12 Ohio State. She had 10 points and 10 rebounds in the WNIT victory over TCU.
This wasn't a fluke. As a freshman Royster's instant impact included her 10-point, 10-rebound game against powerhouse Notre Dame in the 2016 NCAA Tournament.
Royster expects to do even more for her final college season.
"I've put in more work in the offseason," she says. "I think my numbers will go up and the extra work will be the reason for it. I've worked to expand my game to the 15-foot area. Being able to get away from the block. My face-up game. Things like that."
Moren already sees the payoff.
"I don't want to put a number on her, but she could improve her scoring by finding six to eight points just off the free throw line.
"A lot of her points come off the low block or put-backs from offensive boards. I told her, you have to manufacture points in other ways. One of those ways is by getting to the free throw line. Another is being super aggressive. She's capable."
The challenge is doing that as IU transitions from the two-player scoring dominance with Buss and Cahill to a more diverse attack.
"As we move forward," Moren says, "we have to make sure we have better balance. That not all of our scoring comes from the outside. That we realize, with Kym, we have a player who will play with her back to the basket, who has done her work and who is pretty efficient in the low-block area."
Efficiency has been a Royster strength for years. In her last two seasons at Newark High School in Ohio, Royster basically averaged a double-double. That included 20-point-plus scoring averages in both seasons.
That success was the result of a fiercely competitive nature that has carried over to college, although sometimes too much so. She admits to being "hard on myself" and tries to turn that into a positive when adversity hits.
"I try to keep my head up and focus on the next play," she says. "You can't do anything about the past. There's no sense in hanging my head about it. Focus on what I can do positively for the team – offense, defense."
After basketball is over (yes, she'd like a shot at the pros), Royster would like to become a child psychologist via her youth development major.
"I want to work with kids. I love working with kids. Psychology is also a big interest of mind. Those two go well together."
For now, though, there's the optimism for this season. WNIT success could launch years of NCAA tourney victories.
"Yes, we can be better (than last year)," Royster says. "We have a lot of young pieces, but we have a lot of talent. We have talent coming back, and from the freshmen joining us.
"They will help us. They are willing to learn and pick up the qualities we've instilled in the program. That alone can set us apart."
In other words, even with the loss of Buss and Cahill, the best is still ahead.
"Overall we're a hard-working team. We're very optimistic. Winning the WNIT gave us the feeling of what it takes to get success. Now it's the next chapter. We want to go beyond the WNIT. We're aiming for the NCAA Tournament. We have high expectations. We're willing to put in the work."
She pauses.
"We put in the work every day."

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