PARK, Pa. - It's the final week of the regular season and Penn State's last
home outing has arrived at a point in time where there's hardly room for error.
Even with the program's best record under head coach Patrick Chambers already
locked up, the Nittany Lions still have plenty on the line.
for a mid-week Big Ten matchup against Michigan (22-7, 11-5) begin Tuesday as
the Nittany Lions used Monday to refocus following their first loss in four
to Wednesday's first whistle though, Penn State will take time to pay tribute
to its seniors. In a class comprised of two, it's Penn State's 2018 seniors who
paved the way for what can easily be described as a tangible buzz swirling
through Happy Valley at the mere mention of men's hoops.
understand their unique impact, look no further than where it all started.
State opened the 2014-15 season with a 61-48 win against Morgan State. The box
score listed 7,402 as the official attendance. The loudest voice in the Bryce
Jordan Center that night was not Chambers, it was Kim Garner. Seated in section
107, Garner watched her son Shep make his collegiate debut with a 14-point
performance against the Bears, second only to Nittany Lion leading scorer D.J.
was the first freshman to start a season opener since Trey Lewis in 2011.
forward to January 27, 2018, when Penn State topped Rutgers 60-43 in front of
the largest BJC hoops crowd since 2011. The voice from section 107 was arguably
still the loudest.
not a hostile kind of voice though, instead the exact opposite, one of
encouragement and often including a confident "We Are."
can't replace Ms. Garner," junior Josh Reaves said. "She's a voice you're always
going to hear regardless of where you are. The energy she brings from the crowd
alone, it just travels. I know she's got my back, even from the crowd."
asking any Nittany Lion freshman why they chose to come to Penn State, the
answer is always the same. Family.
ask Reaves, who noted he could feel the love from the Penn State coaching staff
all the way from Fairfax, Virginia during his recruitment process.
I was playing with Team Takeover in AAU, I always heard about Shep Garner, Shep
Garner, he's committed to Penn State. He can do this, he can do that." Reaves
said. "I'd never seen him, I'd never watched him play and I'd never met him,
but as soon as I came here for a game I watched him play and I was like, he
lived up to the hype."
finished his freshman season ranked second on the team and scoring and assists.
As a sophomore, he came one triple shy of a Penn State record, shooting
8-for-12 from 3-point range with a career-high 30 points in a win against
Boston College, which Chambers immediately notes as his best career outing.
his junior year, he eclipsed 1,000-point mark in perhaps the most perfect of
settings, knocking off Michigan State in front of a packed hometown crowd at
the historic Palestra.
the strength of a standout senior campaign, he has continued to climb the all-time
career scoring record, recently cracking the top 10.
been through a lot and he had many other options other than Penn State but he
chose Penn State," Chambers said. "He too could have left in this world that we
live in. He did not. He believed in what we were doing. He wanted to see this
thing through. What a great example he is for the rest of our team and the guys
who are coming in. That's a guy who I am always going to refer to, to say hey,
this is what this guy did."
mid-November 2015, Penn State announced the signing of its highest-ranked
recruiting class in program history featuring Roman Catholic standouts Lamar
Stevens, Tony Carr and Nazeer Bostick. All three from the same high school as
three-time All-Catholic, all-state selection Shep Garner.
Chambers is asked about recruiting success in Philadelphia though, there's the Garner's.
DJ [Newbill] opened the door, Shep threw that thing wide open," Chambers said.
certainly doesn't stop at Shep though, giving credit back to the one person
responsible for shaping exactly the attitude you'd want in a Nittany Lion. Kim
helped recruit these kids," Chambers said. "That's what it is, the families,
the players, all coming from the same area, from the same school. You can't
deny that. What a special family."
every pregame training table, Chambers picks a member of the program to lead
the team in prayer. His most frequent selection, is Julian Moore.
like Garner, Moore, or "reverend Moore" as he's sometimes called by his
teammates, has also seen it all. Maybe even a bit more for the fifth-year
senior too, considering his freshman year was cut short by injury in 2013-14.
players respond to him and his message and his words," Chambers said. "It's
just unbelievable. Regardless of how many minutes he has played, how many
points he has played, he's going to leave a legacy with this program. One of a
guy who is loyal, committed and who played his role to the best of his
Reaves, there's Garner's leadership, but there's nobody on the team more
inspiring than Moore.
selecting all the best passages and quotes for the team prayer, it's Moore who knows
just how to approach certain teammates when certain situations arise.
love him to death and I'll always have Julian's back no matter what," Reaves
said. "As far as a leader, he knows what he's doing. He's trying to help out
the other bigs and get with them to improve and you're seeing that each and
one to focus on the headlines, Moore is making the most of seeing his final
season out, averaging nearly 13 minutes per game across the last nine outings.
In 14 minutes at No. 6 Purdue, Moore scored a Big Ten season-high six points.
summer graduation prior to the 2017-18 season, the opportunity to pursue
another program was certainly something he could have considered
had a chance to leave too," Chambers said. He's a throwback. He stayed. He
gutted this thing out."