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Pregame Reading: Penn State Then and Now

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State basketball is out to a 6-1 start on the year, coming off a dominant 86-48 win against Oral Roberts last weekend.

In a change in scheduling though, Big Ten play comes quicker than usual with the Nittany Lions traveling to NC State Wednesday night for a Big Ten-ACC Challenge matchup before heading to Iowa to open conference action Saturday in Iowa City.

Things hardly get easier for the Nittany Lions, with Wisconsin traveling to Happy Valley for a 7 p.m. outing Monday in the Bryce Jordan Center before resuming nonconference play for the remainder of December with four of five games at home.

Regardless of the schedule though, Penn State head coach Patrick Chambers is pleased with what he's seen so far, calling this year's Nittany Lions a confident bunch.

Through seven games last year, the Nittany Lions were 4-3 headed into last year's Big Ten-ACC Challenge meeting against Georgia Tech. A year later though, Penn State won its first five straight, including a dominant 85-54 win against Pittsburgh in the Legends Classic at the Barclays Center in New York before falling short in battle against then-No.16/19 Texas A&M.

"I think the way we competed against Pitt was great," Chambers said. "It shows all our hard work over the last seven years. To go out against A&M, I thought we all believed we were going to win the game."

Looking back from a statistical standpoint, Penn State was shooting 42 percent from the field, averaging 73 points per game and 34.4 rebounds per game.

This year?

Scoring at least 80 in all but two games this year, the Nittany Lions are averaging 82 points per game, shooting 48 percent from the field, averaging nearly 38 rebounds per game.

Individually, juice-man Josh Reaves was averaging less than four points per game with three steals. Through seven games this year, he's the third leading scorer on the team, averaging 11.8 points per game with a team-high 18 steals per game.

Penn State spent the earlier part of this week working on Penn State, or as Chambers noted, getting better at doing simple great. Spending some time to self scout over the weekend, his takeaways revealed the simplest of things as the Nittany Lions gear up for a pivotal stretch of the schedule before diving into the heart of Big Ten play.

"A block out on a free throw line situation, a rotation," Chambers said. "Sprinting back in convert defense, transition defense. Just communication. It always goes back to the simplest of things."

Among a more big picture look at what he's learned from his 6-1 Nittany Lions this year though, comes down to speed.

Alongside Reaves, true freshman Jamari Wheeler has brought serious quickness off the bench this year for the Nittany Lions. Coming off a career-high outing against Oral Roberts with 14 points, seven rebounds, five steals and four assists, he's a vital piece of making those around him better too.

"He loves to get after it and it doesn't matter who it is either," Chambers said. "I think that's why Tony's playing at such a high level because Jamari pushes Tony every day in practice. I think you're starting to see Tony reap the rewards of that because of it." 

Although he's a key piece for the Nittany Lions, Chambers is pleased with what the entire bench has contributed this year, including something a little more intangible, raising the level of competition in the gym.

"Jamari brings a competitiveness to practice that's unmatched," Chamber said. "He wants to win every drill, every possession and I think that filters through that scout team where, we're battling."

Looking at the Matchup
Penn State and NC State meet in the Big Ten-ACC Challenge for the first time since 2000, although the most recent meeting between the two teams came in mid-November 2012. At 5-2 on the year, NC State has lost its last two games, but highlighted the Bad Boy Mowers Battle 4 Atlantis with a 90-84 win against then-No. 2 Arizona last week.

With Penn State ranked fifth nationally in steals per game (11.0) led by Reaves and Wheeler, NC State also enters the matchup close behind, ranked 26th averaging 9.3 per game. Reaves' 3.0 steals per game is first in the Big Ten and eighth nationally while Markell Johnson is leading the Pack with 2.29 steals per outing.

Graduate transfer guard Allerik Freeman is leading the team with 15.9 points per game, while senior forward Abdul-Malik Abu is leading the way on the boards grabbing 6.7 rebounds per game.

Penn State Confident in Columbia Win

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GAME 4: Columbia

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The word respond has been perhaps a little too frequent for Penn State head coach Patrick Chambers this early in the season. Much to the contrast of last year though, the response from the Nittany Lions has been reason to be excited.

Friday evening, Penn State topped Columbia 79-65 inside the Bryce Jordan Center, having to do so without the help of two major contributors in Tony Carr and Josh Reaves. In its fourth game in the last eight days, conditions were prime for things to go awry. 

"With all the obstacles and challenges that we have faced in the last 48 hours, with injuries and illness and the way those kids came out and competed after the Montana game with a quick turn-around was just fun to watch," Penn State head coach Patrick Chambers said. "It was fun to be a part of."

To Chambers, Penn State has been rising to the call long before Friday's tipoff. Take the Montana game, where Carr departed mid-game with an injury. Montana came as close as three late in the second half, but the Nittany Lions regrouped to finish with a 70-57 win Wednesday night. 

Friday's circumstances grew even trickier as a freak-like injury sidelined both Carr and Reaves.

 

"Today we were like, `Tony is not going to play,' but did they respond," Chambers said. "Even when Josh went down I didn't see anybody poor-mouthing about it, heads down, no deflation at all. We came out and we competed, and they competed really hard that first eight to 10 minutes. Those to me are critical because that is what is going to shape us the rest of the season. That they have faith and confidence in the bench now and they are earning trust with me. So I have faith and confidence to put them in in critical times."

Freshman Jamari Wheeler sparked the Nittany Lion offense early off the bench, muscling his way inside before dishing to Nazeer Bostick for a one-handed slam, brining Penn State within one, 5-3.

Shep Garner opened up the scoring with his first triple of the night to give the Nittany Lions their first lead of the game, 7-5. Penn State quickly took off on a 15-0 run, holding Columbia scoreless for nearly seven minutes, building the advantage to as many as 14, 22-8, with 8:10 remaining in the first half.

As foul trouble plagued the Nittany Lions, Columbia came battling back, cutting the lead with a pair of triples, 27-17, to arrive within 10. A pair of free throws from Satchel Pierce brought the Nittany Lions back up by 12, 29-17, but Columbia was hardly finished, responding with an 18-9 run, including a 10-0 run in the final 2:22 to enter halftime trailing by only three, 38-35.

"We had a couple guys in foul trouble early in the first half, so we knew that we would get them back in the second half and we would turn it up a little in the second half, just because we knew we would play better defense and concentrate more on defense in the second half. We came out and played more confidently, applied more pressure, and let the chips fall where they may," Garner said.

Garner came out of the break in the second half with a pair of jumpers before a Lamar Stevens 3-ball widened the margin to nine, 49-40. With nearly 13 minutes remaining, it was Watkins who brought it home for the Nittany Lions, as Penn State ran away with the score on a 14-0 run.

"I thought our team did a really good job picking him up at halftime," Chambers said. "Our staff did as well. We were pumping him up and saying `let's go, you are rested, you are fresh, let's go dominate this second half,' and it's a maturity level. He has to keep getting better at it because it is going to happen again. He is going to pick up two and he is going to learn how to play with them."

Watkins scored 11 points and grabbed nine boards, blocking four shots in just the second half alone to pace the Nittany Lions to the win. Watkins also reached a milestone block with career block No. 100 coming midway through the second half. 

Leading the team effort though was Garner, who combined for a season-high 26 points, nailing five triples, alongside taking command of the court. 

"We have a lot of confidence in all of our players, so when someone goes down, we just talk about next man up," Stevens said. "Shep [Garner] being a leader, I knew he would have a big game, so I'm happy for him."

Reaves Energizing Nittany Lions

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GAME 2: vs. Fairleigh Dickinson

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Nodding along in the postgame media room press conference, Penn State's Tony Carr leaned forward and spoke into the microphone.

"Offseason grind leads to in-season shine," he said with a smile, drawing a laugh from Nittany Lion Josh Reaves, seated just beside him. 

Carr's comment was about Reaves, who finished second on the team with 17 points while leading the squad with nine rebounds and four steals in an 81-57 win against Fairleigh Dickinson.

Reaves' point total came second to Carr, who logged 20 points for his second straight game with at least 20 points, including a perfect 9-for-9 mark from the charity stripe. Carr also dished out seven assists, adding a career-high three steals.

"I thought Josh Reaves' energy was unbelievable, he was all over the place," Chambers said postgame.

The duo were just two of five double figure scorers and two of nine Nittany Lions who combined for a Bryce Jordan Center-record 18 steals.

Trailing early the first half, it was Reaves who sparked the Nittany Lions with his first 3-pointer of the day bringing Penn State within four, 14-10, with 13:15 left in the first half. 

Mike Watkins slammed in a dunk before Penn State triples from Davis Zemgulis and Reaves guided the Nittany Lions to their first lead of the game, 18-17. 

Fairleigh Dickinson used a 3-0 spurt to get back on top, but Reaves came through once again with a layup to even the score, igniting yet another run.

Penn State surged ahead with a 16-9 run, pulling ahead by three, 26-23, entering the media timeout with 8:03 left in the opening frame. Reaves accounted for 12 of the 16 points during the stretch as the Nittany Lions never looked back.

Behind another 19-6 scoring run, Penn State rolled into the locker room with its highest first-half point total since scoring 45 against Illinois on January 28, 2017, leading 45-29 as Carr heaved a shot from his back at the buzzer.

Reaves scored 12 of his 17 points in the first half, collecting six rebounds - just having fun as he put it postgame.

"When it comes to emotion, I'm just having fun honestly," Reaves said. "I find defense fun and I'm just having a great time. Our trainer says when I'm smiling, I'm having a good time out there, so I try to do that as much as possible."

For Chambers, Reaves' ability to fill the stat sheet in the scoring column comes as a byproduct of his defensive commitment.

"When you're thinking about it the other way, when you're thinking you have get 20 points today and 'I need to score,' guess what typically happens? Nothing good," Chambers said. "You don't defend, you don't rebound, and you don't get your points. So he flips the script, but he's our second-leading scorer right now because he defends, he rebounds, and he's having a great time doing it."

Evident in the observation from Carr, Reaves has put in significant work in the offseason, especially when it comes to his performance behind the arc.

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"My teammates have been doing a really good job of giving me the confidence to shoot the ball and just take advantage of my speed and my quickness," Reaves said. "Just using those abilities that I have God-given, so try to get a couple offensive rebounds, quick tip backs, steals, deflections, and run outs. I've been working a lot over the summer on my three. They just keep finding me when I'm open, and I'm just going to keep shooting the ball."

Reaves and the rest of the Nittany Lions return to action next Wednesday, Nov. 15, hosting Montana in the first game of the Legends Classic set for 7 p.m. in the Bryce Jordan Center. 

Carr Powers Penn State Past Campbell

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GAME 1: vs. Campbell

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - For Penn State head coach Patrick Chambers, the Nittany Lions are 1-0 following an 86-75 win against Campbell in the 2017-18 season opener.

"We had some unusual lineups out there, but for the most part, we're 1-0," Chambers said. "We're 1-0 and I'm going to take a lot of positives from it."

Among the positives, Chambers was most pleased with the defensive effort, noting the Nittany Lions were able to execute defensively for 30 minutes, needing just 10 more minutes in the future.

Although Campbell's Chris Clemons finished with 39 points, his shooting ability wasn't anything the Nittany Lions weren't prepared for.

"I knew it was going to be a hard game and I knew the way they played at the end of last year," Chambers said. "I knew all about Clemons. He reminds me a lot of Allen Iverson, just a guy that can score and get to the free throw line. I knew he would be able to try and keep his team in it."

While Penn State committed just three turnovers in the first half, it struggled to build its lead to more than five points for most of the opening frame.

With 5:24 remaining in the first half, Lamar Stevens drained his first 3-pointer of the game to spark some momentum. Less than two minutes later, Shep Garner connected on his first triple to give Penn State its then-largest lead of the opening half, 28-22. 

Campbell cut the advantage to four before Jamari Wheeler drove through traffic for layup to bring the Nittany Lions back up by six, 30-24, with fewer than four minutes in the first half.  

Building on the advantage, Julian Moore dropped in a pair of free throws to send Penn State ahead by as many as eight before a Tony Carr jumper sent the Nittany Lions into the locker room leading 36-28.

Penn State shot out to the second half and built on the advantage to as many as 17 points.

Campbell quickly responded with a 14-4 run, but Carr broke it up with a 3-pointer, before completing the and-1 to bring Penn State ahead, 67-5, with less than 5:30 remaining in the game.

"He made big buckets, and he made some great passes too that put us in position to be successful, which is great," Chambers said. "He showed some leadership. You could see he was disappointed they had made a run on us, and he wasn't going to let us lose this game. He was going to come out and compete, and he did that. He took it on his shoulders."

Campbell arrived no closer than five as Carr finished just shy of a triple double with a career-high 33 points in addition to nine rebounds and seven assists.

"I just try to make the best plays for my team, whether that's shooting or passing or diving on the floor, doing anything," Carr said. "I just try to do what my team needs of me, and at that point in time, it was just to score the basketball. I just wanted to have a scoring mindset down the stretch and lead us to the win." 

Penn State saw a few new faces on the court with true freshmen Jamari Wheeler and John Harrar both contributing.

"That's a freshman playing his 15 minutes," Chamber said reflecting on Wheeler's performance.  "He had some excellent finishes. I mean he went up that guy's chest, he walled up, and he still finished. That's what he's capable of doing. He took a really good opening three. Jamari definitely brings that spark off the bench, that toughness that we need. He's going to really bring pace to our team.

Penn State has a quick turnaround, returning to action Sunday against Fairleigh Dickinson at 5 p.m. in the Bryce Jordan Center.

Nittany Lions Set for 2017-18

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State men's basketball is less than two days out from its official regular season opener. Nittany Lion head coach Patrick Chambers met with members of the media Wednesday afternoon for the first time since media day to preview Saturday's 4 p.m. opener against Campbell.

For Chambers, the Nittany Lions are better connected as a team than they've ever been, with a pair of exhibitions providing an early look at how the increased chemistry has translated to the court.

In his seventh year at the helm of the program, Chambers noted the Nittany Lions are right where they should be, but the emphasis Friday will all come down to playing hard and competing.

Echoing what he said postgame following an exhibition win against Bloomsburg, the dress rehearsal is over, and the focus has shifted toward stringing together promising spurts to shape a cohesive 40 minutes of Penn State basketball, all beginning with the 122nd season of Nittany Lion hoops, which starts Friday at the Bryce Jordan Center.

Scheduling Notes
Chambers noted that the original plan was to open the 2017-18 campaign on the road, but one thing after another brought the Nittany Lions back to the Bryce Jordan Center for their opener, opting for a 4 p.m. tip time due to Lady Lion game at 7 p.m. in addition to Penn State's annual homecoming parade.

"I think it's going to be awesome, I'm hoping people get up here early," Chambers said. "Hoping there's going to be excitement on this campus - I know there will be, especially with homecoming and the game." 

The Nittany Lions kick start the season with four games across an eight-day stretch, but all four games are at home with Penn State also hosting Montana and Columbia in the University Park Regional of the Legends Classic, which wraps up at the Barclays Center in New York the following Monday and Tuesday. 

Following the opener, Penn State will also host Farleigh Dickinson at 5 p.m. Sunday.

By Design
The fast and furious start to the season is by design for Chambers, who said consistency is the top priority when it comes to challenges facing the Nittany Lions this year.

"We're the same team that beat Michigan State and we're the same team that beat Maryland and the same team that beat Minnesota, the same team that beat Georgia Tech," Chambers said. "We had some really great wins, but can we be consistent the next night? That's what I'm looking for."

Outside of the tight turnaround scheduling, there's also something called mental conditioning playing into the consistency, two words the Nittany Lions have been hearing and maybe even feeling, a lot from Chambers.

"They think practice is over and we'll do one more drill," Chambers said. "In practice, doing a shooting drill and it's got to be crisp and clean. I keep talking about mental conditioning, mental conditioning. The charity event came at a great time, to do that for hurricane relief was awesome and Lafayette did a wonderful job of welcoming us down there but it turned out to be mental conditioning for us too because we're able to play back-to-back."

A Great Day to be a Nittany Lion
Earlier today, Penn State announced new roster additions in Rasir Bolton and Myles Dread, who have both signed a National Letter of Intent during the early signing period.

Chambers couldn't be more thrilled with the early signees, noting both check all the boxes when it comes to a pair that checks all the boxes from winning experience to competitive drive.

"Myles can play one through four, he's that tough," Chambers said. "When we first started recruiting him, he was playing small forward - lost some weight, got in shape, changed his body. He was always a very good shooter, that was always the case." 

He also noted Bolton's shooting skills and high IQ as strengths

"He [Bolton] played for a really, really good AAU program in Team Loaded and he's playing down in Massanutten right now and they're playing at a really high level," Chambers said. "It's a different stage and he's got to go against the best. The one thing I've asked him to do is really work on being more vocal and leading, and he's done that. He's been the loudest guy in the gym, positive or negative."

A Quick Glance at Campbell
Campbell will also open its 2017-18 campaign Friday afternoon, coming off a 19-18 season that included an appearance in the Big South final and an appearance in the CIT quarterfinal round.

Led by fifth-year head coach Kevin McGeehan, the Camels return the core pieces from last year's team, including All-Big South guard Chris Clemons, who finished the year ranked second nationally with 25.1 points per game with a school-record 904 points last season. Clemons also recorded six 30-point games, scoring at least 29 on three other occasions last year.

"From what I'm hearing, he's averaging 40 in his exhibition and scrimmages," Chambers said. "I've watched some tape already on them and he's dynamic, he's like an Allen Iverson except probably a better outside shooter. He can really score the basketball."

Nittany Lions Looking Toward 2017-18

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RELATED LINKS: Media Day Recap I Photo Gallery

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Media members packed the Bryce Jordan Center green room Thursday afternoon as Penn State men's basketball hosted its annual media day. Officially kicking off the 2017-18 season, Nittany Lion head coach Patrick Chambers opened the event, before moving into the practice facility for one-on-one interviews with the team.

"I'm really looking forward to this season. I want to see the development of these players," Chambers said. "I feel like we've really bonded and come together as a group. The connection and the love in the locker room is very strong and powerful and I'm noticing that through preseason and now through practice."

For senior Shep Garner, the close bond that the Nittany Lions have created this year is something unique and different from any other team.

"With that being said, it makes you just ready for the season, we want to play," Garner said. "We can't wait to play against somebody else because it's more fun that way."

Penn State opens its 2017-18 campaign hosting Campbell Friday, Nov. 10 before wrapping up opening weekend at home with a matchup against Fairleigh Dickinson Sunday, Nov. 12 at the Bryce Jordan Center.

Garner's Last Lap
Garner also noted that this year marks the last lap, as he prepares to head into his final season with the Nittany Lions. When it comes to the legacy he wants to leave behind though, Garner's looking to go out on top.

"Just a guy who went out there and gave it his all, and a winner," Garner said. "I want to go out a winner. I want to leave Penn State in a better place than when I came into it."

Bostick Poised for a Breakout Year
Both Chambers and Garner noted that sophomore guard Nazeer Bostick has been impressive from the offseason into preseason, with great potential ahead of him in 2017-18. 

"He's one of the guys that might have a breakout year for us," Chambers said. "He got hurt, he was just starting to earn his minutes, playing critical minutes, especially in that Maryland game, he gave us some really good minutes late and I think he's going to be right there with Josh (Reaves) as those guys who are going to do it all for us and going to be stat sheet stuffers."

Sophomores Step Up
Chambers shared details on Penn State's leadership council, which includes Penn State sophomores Lamar Stevens and Tony Carr. For Chambers, with a year of crucial experience, he and the staff will look for sophomores to step forward into increased leadership roles this year.

"We're going to ask them to lead as sophomores and that's a great challenge, but we've worked on that all summer long," Chambers said. "We've had small group meetings, one-on-one meetings, discussing how to lead and sometime as coaches we're like, 'will you start leading?' But what does that really mean? We have to break it down on what leadership means and maybe share a story on how would you handle this, how would you handle that. It's definitely a process. It's not going to happen overnight, but they're so open-minded and willing that it's only going to bode well for them and our team."

Skills Academy Experience
Carr was selected as one of fewer than 21 players from across the country to attend the Nike Skills Academy this summer. Among a variety of diverse experiences, there were many takeaways he's look to carry over in the season, especially as it relates to leadership. 

"I took a whole lot from that experience," Carr said. "Just learning from all those NBA guys and coaches out there, and just playing against the best players in college right now. It was great on a day-to-day basis just competing and learning little tips here and there from those guys." 

Stevens' Offseason Approach
Returning as Penn State's second-highest scorer this year behind Carr, Stevens spent a significant amount of time this offseason working on his 3-point shot and shaping his body to prepare for the challenges that come with the Big Ten Conference schedule. 

"Mainly, I was just trying to get in shape," Stevens said. "I saw how much that can play into the game and there were times where if I was in better shape, I felt like I could have performed better last year so I wanted to make sure that wasn't going to happen this year. I really focused in on that over the summer, really worked on it and I feel like I was really successful." 

Climbing with Trent Buttrick

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Penn State's newest freshmen are on campus and already on the climb ahead of the 2017-18 season. In a three-part series, get to know all three newcomers in a closer look at why they chose Penn State and what to expect this year.

Trent Buttrick

VitalsAt 6 feet 8 inches tall and 220 pounds, it's safe to say the Pennsylvania native certainly isn't lacking in size. Calling Bloomsburg home, the power forward grew up less than 90 miles from Happy Valley, before finishing his last two years in high school at the Community School of Naples in Florida.

With size, it's obvious Buttrick brings length, but having also averaged 18.2 points and 10.8 rebounds per game with 17 double-doubles in his senior season, there's also shooting potential, especially around the perimeter. Buttrick also closed out his high school career ranked among the top five in school history with 873 career points.

In His Own Words - For Buttrick, who is the youngest of seven children with five brothers and one sister, Penn State is where he has always wanted to be. Building strong relationships with the coaching staff throughout his recruitment process, Buttrick committed to the Nittany Lions before even coming up the coast to visit, joining his older brother Christain, who graduated from Penn State three years ago.

"I'd been pretty familiar with campus, I'd seen it before and I had never seen any of the basketball facilities but I just knew this was where I wanted to go so I didn't have to visit," Buttick said. "This is the dream, I'm living the dream."

On Penn State Basketball - When Buttrick thinks about Penn State basketball, intensity comes to mind as he noted from the time he arrived, it's been all about maximum intensity each day. It's not entirely surprising that workouts are already completely different from anything he has experienced though. 

"They are just intense every single day," Buttrick said. "You think they are going to keep getting easier but they keep pushing you to that breaking point and you just keep getting mentally challenging every single day."

Climbing with John Harrar

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Penn State's newest freshmen are on campus and already on the climb ahead of the 2017-18 season. In a three-part series, get to know all three newcomers in a closer look at why they chose Penn State and what to expect this year.

John Harrar

Vitals - Coming in at six-foot-nine and 240 pounds, the Central League MVP and Philly News Second Team All-Pennsylvania selection has all the physicality become a disruptive force in the lane for the Nittany Lions. While he calls himself not always the prettiest of players, the Wallingford, Pennsylvania native with a football mentality noted he likes to get thing done. 

From Football to Hoops -  Once a tight end prospect and co-captain on the football team at Strath Haven, Harrar was originally committed to Army to play football, offered a year at the USMA Preparatory School to play football and basketball.

Drawing on trips to the historic Palestra to see future teammates like Tony Carr and Lamar Stevens, he changed his mind after taking a trip to Penn State.

"When I went on my football visits, it didn't feel like the visit I took to Penn State at all," Harrar said. 

On a ride to Happy Valley with his coach in the car, Harrar's coach mentioned that he'd be working out with someone who might be roughly 23 years old and 270 pounds, causing a bit of nerves, but not the kind that he'd plan to shy away from.

"The workout went well, I competed and everything and then I went into coach Chambers' office and he liked me," Harrar said. "Our conversation that we had felt right." 

Part of what made that conversation feel so right is what Harrar calls a sort of "Delaware County connection," having grown up just five minutes away from Chambers' hometown of Newtown Square, Pennsylvania. 

"I think he could see that we have similar upbringings, similar attitudes, the Delaware County attitude as people say," Harrar said with a smile. "It's really tough and we don't back down from competition. It's similar to Philly, it's grit, it's grimy." 

Harrar waited only long enough to check in with his mom before committing to the Nittany Lions. Not too long after, an offer from UConn arrived, but his response was quick, he wanted to be at Penn State.

The Terminator - Harrar also already has a nickname, now called "The Terminator" thanks to assistant coach Dwayne Anderson.

"He calls me the terminator because I don't really talk on the court, but I always have a game face on," Harrar said. "Everyone else is talking smack and I'm just doing my thing and not really saying anything."

On Penn State Basketball - When Harrar thinks about Penn State basketball it's all about attitude. 

"We have the word attitude all over the locker room, in the practice facility. Coach Chambers wants us to play with a good attitude, he always says negative energy, wasted energy, we don't want wasted energy."

Climbing with Jamari Wheeler

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Penn State's newest freshmen are on campus and on the climb ahead of the 2017-18 season. In a three-part series, get to know all three newcomers in a closer look at why they chose Penn State and what to expect this year.

Jamari Wheeler

Vitals - Once committed to Duquesne, a coaching change meant that Wheeler would reopen his recruiting. From the family environment to the style of play, Wheeler was drawn to Penn State, later committing.

Now in Happy Valley, the point guard out of Gainesville, Florida is ready to get to work. Tabbed a three-star recruit and the No. 22 player in Florida, Wheeler has speed, quickness, energy and a competitive edge, which presents him as another complementing option alongside Big Ten All-Freshman Team selection Tony Carr. Wheeler is already taking advantage of the opportunity to get in the gym with Carr.

"I'm very competitive, me and Tone (Tony Carr) go at it every day," Wheeler said. "That's one person who is pushing me every day in practice, we're always going at it back and forth in workouts, drills, things like that."

In His Own Words -  When coach Chambers first came to visit Wheeler, he said there would be no guarantees when it comes to playing time, but rather Wheeler would have to earn it and work for it daily in practice. While we've heard Chambers on this before, it's something that stuck with Wheeler on more than one level.

"That was something different," Wheeler said. "Most coaches say that you could come in and play right away, we don't have a point guard. Coach Chamber told me I'm going to make you better on and off the court, I'm going to make you a better man."

Alumni Relations - In an early May media availability, Chambers likened Wheeler's skill set to that of Nittany Lion alum and current Washington Wizard Tim Frazier, keying in on speed, athleticism and toughness, something he noted the Penn State coaching staff has already mentioned.

On Penn State Basketball - When Wheeler thinks about Penn State basketball is all about toughness, discipline and hard work - even some swag too. For Wheeler, putting in the work is where he thrives, noting that one of his goals this summer includes significant time in the weight room as he looks to put on additional weight.

Frazier's Perseverance Rooted at Penn State

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State men's basketball officially kicked off its annual Coaches vs. Cancer - Penn State Golf Tournament Thursday evening, opening the weekend with a Sponsor/Captain Reception at the Hawbaker Pavilion.

Head coach Patrick Chambers and former standout Nittany Lion and current New Orleans Pelican Tim Frazier both took time to meet with members of the media ahead of the festivities.

Pairing up with the Penn State Coaches vs. Cancer chapter for its 21st consecutive season, the annual event is a tradition that Chambers holds especially close, proudly adding on to an already impactful legacy in each passing year.

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"I'm especially proud of this year and what the committee has done and the sponsors and the volunteers, because last year was such a big year, the 20-year mark - you kind of think we're going to dip off and I don't really see that," Chambers said. "As a matter of fact, I think we're going to surpass $3 million." 

Having raised more than $2.7 million to date, the CVC-Penn State chapter stands as one of the most successful fundraising chapters, but more than dollars and cents, Chambers tied this year's event, which happens to also kick off on the day of his 10th wedding anniversary, to gratitude. 

"We have pillars of excellence and it's my fifth pillar, gratitude, and it's just something where I want to find joy in this," Chambers said. "We've had some tough stretches but I think you have to go through those tough stretches to get where you want to go."

Perhaps no better representation of gratitude and perseverance in the presence of challenges is Frazier, a two-time All-Big Ten selection who earned two degrees from Penn State and went undrafted in the 2014 NBA Draft before finally re-signing with the Pelicans in late July 2016 after originally being signed for the remainder of the 2015-16 at the end of March 2016.

"His journey getting to the NBA was not easy," Chambers said. "A lot of no's, a lot of 10-day contracts, a lot of we're not going to re-sign you, to trade, then back to the D-league, then going with New Orleans to finish the season and getting a deal."

Much like Penn State's newest mantra to #ClimbWithUs, Frazier has already been on the climb for quite some time. Through the ups and downs and the grind of uncertainty, Frazier has maintained a level head, ultimately focused on achieving his lifelong dream, having already battled through injuries and adversity during his time in the Blue and White.

"Just like coach said, there are going to be obstacles in the way but you have to continue to push through it and I was able to do that and look at me now, I know people would not have thought that when I was 145 pounds when I came to Penn State I'd be playing for the Pelicans," Frazier said.

In 65 games with New Orleans in 2016-17, Frazier averaged 7.1 points, 2.7 rebounds and 5.2 assists per game, but he's not finished. With work to be done in all areas and plans to get bigger and stronger, Frazier will continue on the climb, working toward securing another contract to further his NBA dream.

For now though, Frazier is embracing a bit of what Chambers is currently trying to teach his young group, that's loaded with some already proven potential headed into the 2017-18 season.

"I think in college I was so set on, I want to make it to the NBA, I want to make it to the NBA and now I'm going to enjoy it, enjoy every piece, never take a day for granted and I try to do that every day," Frazier said. "In every workout, every day just reading, beating people, what can you say, I'm in the best game there is in the world there is right now. I'm just taking in everything in and one day at a time."

In his first time back on campus, Frazier is looking forward to meeting and spending time with Penn State's newest Nittany Lions, sharing a little piece of his side of the story. 

Approximately 300 golfers and 60 groups are set to tee off beginning at 7 a.m. Friday morning in the Penn State Golf Tournament concluding with an awards dinner in Beaver Stadium's Mount Nittany Club.

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