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Garner Embracing Leadership Role

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - On the heels of his 40th consecutive start in the Blue and White, Penn State's Shep Garner has not only proven that he's back for another season to power the Nittany Lion offense this year. 

One of three top returning scorers from a year ago, Garner is already out to a blazing start, leading the team with 16.0 points per game. Highlighted by a pair of 20-point performances, Garner most recently logged 20 points against Cincinnati, following a 15-point outing in a close setback against top-ranked Duke.

For Garner though, a new year presents another added challenge outside of lighting up scoring column, as a talented freshman class presents an opportunity for Garner to step into a true leadership role.

Through six games, there has been no shortage of key Shep Garner moments. Looking back a few weeks, it was Garner who pulled the Nittany Lions within three with a trio of free throws against Albany with 17 seconds remaining. 

Against Grand Canyon, it was Garner again, picking off the Lopes for a steal before finishing with a bucket to spark the final push down the stretch for the win. A big moment and a key play by the junior captain, as Nittany Lion head coach Patrick Chambers described postgame.

As Chambers noted earlier this week though, Garner's growth as a leader has not simply been fashioned through his on-court success. Rather, it has come through a mature and professional approach to the little things. Leading by example. 

From cold tubs and visits to the training room, to an emphasis on eating right and putting in extra time in the weight room, Garner's actions are leading the way in his development as a leader. 

"He's one of the hardest workers on the team," Chambers said. "His actions are really showing it." 

In a tough weekend on the road at the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament, Chambers described moment after moment where Garner's leadership translated into a vocal presence on the court, rallying the team in a rough start to the opening half against then-No. 24 Cincinnati. 

"He got after them and I felt like they responded," Chambers said. "He got after them in the locker room at halftime and I felt like they responded coming out in the second half, playing much better basketball." 

Arriving home to look toward Colgate in Penn State's sixth game in the last two weeks, Chambers stressed that the road to success this season is a process that will take time. Although a work in progress, Garner's emerging presence as both a potent point-scorer and an all-around leader is exactly what the Nittany Lions need, especially with so much youth on the roster.

"We need that type of leadership," Chambers said. "I think that's one thing - other than offensive rebounds, that's another thing we need right now from him, Terrence [Samuel] and Payton [Banks] to guide these younger guys, showing them that you cannot take possessions off." 

The Nittany Lions are set to welcome the Raiders to for a Thanksgiving eve clash at 7 p.m. in the Bryce Jordan Center. Colgate enters the matchup at 1-2 on the year, coming off of a 74-68 loss to NJIT last weekend. Penn State and Colgate are set to square off in the 75th all-time meeting between the two team, but just the second since 1980. Playing their fourth of a string of five consecutive road games, the Raiders have returned nearly 70 percent of their offensive production from last year, currently led by junior Sean O'Brien who's averaging a team-high 12.7 points per game.

Penn State Stays Focused Heading to HOF Tip-Off Tournament

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After closing out the opening stretch of the season with a 2-1 mark, Penn State basketball is back in action, heading to Uncasville, Connecticut for the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament at Mohegan Sun. 

The Nittany Lions are set to square off against top-ranked Duke in the first semifinal, marking the first time Penn State will take on a No. 1 ranked team since 2011.

Penn State head coach Patrick Chambers met with members of the media Thursday to preview the weekend, while also taking a quick look back at the five-day stretch.

Offensively, the Nittany Lions are surging, with a total of five Nittany Lions averaging double figures. Led by 17.7 points per game from freshman Lamar Stevens, Penn State has matched its targeted 80 points in all three outings, averaging nearly 83 points per game to date.

Stevens has also been impressive from the free throw line at 23-for-25 on the year following a 12-for-13 showing against Duquesne and a perfect 5-for-5 mark against Grand Canyon.

Chambers also noted he has been pleased with ball distribution as the Nittany Lions head into the weekend having tallied at least 20 assists in back-to-back outings against Duquesne and Grand Canyon for the first time since the 2006-07 season. 

Through three games, Tony Carr, Shep Garner and Terrence Samuel all have double figure assists. Carr's leading the way with 14 assists, averaging 4.6 per game, coming off of a career-high six assists against the Lopes.

As Chambers was quick to point out though, the positive offensive numbers a certainly terrific for an offensive minded person, but not necessarily the best representation of all around balance. 

"Rebounding is a major concern of mine right now, we have to do a much better job in that area right now," Chambers said.

Penn State has not outrebounded its opponent in any game this season with Julian Moore's nine boards against Grand Canyon as the Nittany Lions' single game high this year. 

Postgame against Grand Canyon, Chambers stressed that his solution would be a larger emphasis on gang rebounding, but that's also part of the learning process, especially with a relatively young team.

"I've done more rebounding drills than I've done in the past five," Chambers said "We just have to get the younger guys to understand because they are incredible athletes, they don't think they need to do it. Now after three games, they see." 

Looking back on those three games, the Nittany Lions are ready to move forward to the next tough challenge, which could potentially bring matchups against at least two Top 25 ranked opponents on consecutive days this weekend. 

The focus through the midpoint of the week though isn't placing all the focus on one team or one weekend, but rather what's ahead in the big picture with the Big Ten season drawing closer each week. Getting there all starts with working on habits and the simple things.

"Our focus is on Penn State and getting Penn State better," Chambers said. "We worked on us today, we have great teams obviously at this tournament, so it's going to be great to see our guys to see what we need to do and where we need to go." 

Looking at Duke
At 2-1 on the year, the top-ranked Blue Devils enter Saturday's matchup coming off of a 77-75 loss to Kansas in the State Farm Champions Classic.

Averaging  88.3 points per game, Duke is shooting just below 50 percent from the field. Grayson Allen and Luke Kennard at averaging at least 17 points per game with Allen leading the way with 17.7 per outing.

"They're shooting the heck out of the ball from three right now," Chambers said. "From two, they have a very good percentage. They're getting to the free throw line. They're shooting - they're making more than their opponents are even attempting. They are doing some great things and they're doing exactly what Coach K wants his team to do."

Another area Chambers pointed out, the Blue Devils' potent perimeter defense. On the year, Duke has limited its opponents to a .148 clip from behind the arc, holding its opponents to 2.7 3-points per game.

What's Next?
The second Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament game Saturday features No. 21/22 Rhode Island and No. 24/25 Cincinnati. The winners of each semifinal will advance to Sunday's championship at 12:30 p.m., with the losers meeting in the consolation game at 3 p.m.

BLOG: Nittany Lions Embrace Early Challenge

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By Arielle Sargent, GoPSUSports.com

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - When Penn State men's basketball's Patrick Chambers met with members of the media ahead of the 2016-17 season opener, the sixth-year head coach acknowledged an early challenge awaiting the Nittany Lions.

Three games in a span of five days. 

For the first time in program history, Penn State saw three freshman starters in its opening night lineup, as Tony Carr, Lamar Stevens and Mike Watkins all suited up for their first official outing in the Blue and White.

Trailing Albany 41-25 at the half, Penn State saw its comeback effort fall short as junior Shep Garner made three free throws to pull the Nittany Lions within three with 17 seconds remaining before time expired. Garner led the team with 25 points, while four others joined him in double figures, including the trio of newcomers. 

Back at it for game two, the Nittany Lions got out to another slow start, but rebounded with an impressive second half to take down Duquesne 82-74. Penn State shot 48 percent from the field on the night and 6-for-9 from 3-point range in the second half on the way to its first win of the season. Stevens and Carr highlighted the Nittany Lion offense with a pair of 20-point performances, as 72 percent of the team's total scoring came from the freshman class.

Tuesday night at the Bryce Jordan Center, the Nittany Lions came out firing, scoring 48 points in the first half, the most since putting up 49 against Penn in 2008. 

Grand Canyon wasn't going away quietly though, trimming a double digit Penn State lead to as as few as five with less than a minute remaining. It was Garner though, who ultimately sparked the final push, swatting an inbounds pass to collect the steal before following with a bucket to lift the Nittany Lions to a gritty 85-76 win. Garner scored 14 points as one of four to finish with double figures, while Stevens led the team for the second consecutive game with 19 points.

"I found out a lot about my team," Chambers said postgame against Grand Canyon. "They dug deep, they got back to the middle of the ring, punched back, and we took the lead."

Opening the season with three games in five days, Chambers is pleased with the decision, now looking back. The Nittany Lions now prepare to shift their focus toward a pair of back-to-back matchups on the road in Uncasville, Connecticut, beginning with top-ranked Duke Saturday.

"I wanted to play these three games to prepare us for this weekend," Chambers said. "I know that we're going to have a lot of freshmen on the floor and I thought it was important for us to get the uniform on, be in the arena, get the families here and get the jitters out. Then really get a good look, gauge, where are we exactly." 

Chambers' full press conference following the win against Grand Canyon below. 

With yet another test looming, here's a look at a few more takeaways from the fast and furious start to the season.

MOORE Please
Postgame following the Duquesne win, Chambers noted that his staff would continue to work with redshirt junior Julian Moore, in the hopes that he might be able to contribute with more minutes on the court. Chambers simply told Moore to remain confident, and that certainly paid off as he finished first on the team with nine rebounds against Grand Canyon, adding two blocks and six points in 20 minutes of action.
 

"I was really happy for Julian," Chambers said. "To get nine rebounds was big, he gave us a big spark off the bench. We sorely needed it. You could see it. Our tanks were on empty a little bit for a couple of stretches."

An Immediate Impact
On simply numbers alone it's easy to see the immediate impact of the Nittany Lion newcomers, led by leading scorer Lamar Stevens, who's currently averaging 17.7 points per game. Between Stevens, Tony Carr and Mike Watkins, the trio has accounted for 131 of Penn State's 248 points to date, or 53 percent of the total offense.
 

Carr and Stevens were also the first freshmen to tally 20-point performances in a single game since Freddie Barnes (24) and Monroe Brown (32) did so in 1989.

Then add in Nazeer Bostick, who played in the Lock Haven exhibition before coming off the bench against Grand Canyon to log seven points, two rebounds, one assist and a steal.

"I have great confidence in him now to put him in a game," Chambers said, noting that Bostick showed physicality and toughness against Grand Canyon. "He did not fear the moment at all, which is just tremendous because he really hasn't played the first couple of games. He was prepared."

Watkins has also shown tremendous talent, as a physical presence and an exceptional shot blocker. He notched five blocks per game in back-to-back outings against Albany and Duquesne before totaling three against the Lopes. 

"It's great, he's our mother hen, veteran Shep Garner said following the win against Grand Canyon. "He protects the paint, rebounds, blocks a lot of shots and he gets it done. It's great having him out there in the back of the defense." 

Scoring 80
On media day, Chambers said that the goal for the team heading into the season was to score 80 every game. The Nittany Lions have checked that box so far, averaging 83 points per game on the year. While Chambers is pleased with the offense, there's still a few wrinkles to iron out.
 

"The guys are sharing the ball and we had almost five guys in double digits, which is really refreshing," Chambers said following the Grand Canyon win. "It is going to be tough to guard us because before it was one or two guys and now it's five or six. That does well for our future but we need to get these guys on the same page about guarding. It is nice to see us put up those points but we can't continue to outscore each team."

Men's Hoops Gameday Live - vs. Grand Canyon (11/15/16)

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State men's basketball is back in action hosting Grand Canyon Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the Bryce Jordan Center. The Nittany Lions and GCU will meet as part of the on-campus portion of the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament. 

Follow along with our live blog for in-game updates and exclusive content.




Live Blog Men's Hoops Gameday 2016-17 vs. Grand Canyon (11/15/16)
 

Men's Hoops Gameday Live - vs. Duquesne (11/13/16)

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Welcome back to our live coverage of the 2016-17 Penn State men's basketball season. The Nittany Lions are back in action this evening, hosting Duquesne at 6 p.m. in the Bryce Jordan Center. Playing their second of three games in a span of five days, the Nittany Lions will look to bounce back from a season opening loss to Albany Friday evening. 

Follow along with us for exclusive content and live updates!





Live Blog Men's Hoops Gameday 2016-17 vs. Duquesne (11/13/16)
 

Nittany Lions Set for 2016-17

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Following a dominant 91-65 exhibition win against Lock Haven, Penn State men's basketball is primed to open the 2016-17 season at home, welcoming Albany to the court Friday for a 7 p.m. tipoff. 

Nittany Lion Patrick Chambers met with members of the media this afternoon to preview the opener.

Including the opener against Albany, it's going to be a quick turnaround for Penn State, hosting three games at home in span of five days, followed by back-to-back games on the road the following weekend.

In a perfect world, that's not an ideal combination for Chambers, but the Nittany Lions will look to grow and build momentum throughout challenges of a nonconference slate that also features five games on the road or at a neutral site. 

"It's just so hard because of exams, and you're allowed 13 games in the nonconference and we want to make sure that we get 13 games because we believe that we need it," Chambers said. "We're going to need the preparation for the Big Ten."

Looking back at Lock Haven, Penn State saw nearly 60 percent of its scoring from freshmen or first year Nittany Lions, highlighted by rookie starters Lamar Stevens and Tony Carr. Stevens logged 14 points and 12 rebounds, while Carr posted 15 points.

Chambers was also pleased with the strength of a thriving bench that's packed with potential, specifically noting the chemistry between UConn transfer Terrence Samuel and redshirt freshman Mike Watkins, who both made their first career appearances on the court.

"We wanted to keep those guys, as often as we could, on the floor together," Chambers said. "Again, it gives us that fight, that hunger, that toughness that we wanted off the bench."

Penn State was without junior forward Payton Banks in the exhibition outing due to an injury. Banks, who finished second on the team in scoring last year, averaging 9.4 points per game, could potentially be back in the lineup soon.

"To have him back is going to create more space for our point guards and our guards to get downhill and make plays for others," Chambers said. "We're looking forward to having a healthy Payton and hopefully he can compete on Friday."

A Closer Look at the Season Opener
The official opener for the 2016-17 season has nearly arrived as the Nittany Lions now shift their focus to hosting Albany at 7 p.m. in the Bryce Jordan Center. 

Led by head coach Will Brown, the Great Danes will travel to Penn State for the first time in program history. 

"I coached against Will in my two years at BU, he drills the heck out of his teams and they're big and they're quick," Chambers said. 

With just a day of rest, the Nittany Lions return to action Sunday, Nov. 13 hosting Duquesne at 6 p.m. in the BJC. Penn State leads the series 27-20 against the Dukes but came up short in last year's meeting at the CONSOL Energy Center. One day off and then the Nittany Lions are back at it, hosting Grand Canyon for the first time in program history. In his third year, GCU is led by former NBA Phoenix Suns assistant coach Dan Majerle, who also spent eight seasons on the roster for the Suns.

Postgame against Lock Haven, Chambers noted that there may have been a few early jitters that the newcomers needed to get out of their system before heading into season. 

"I was able to learn the pace of the game, working on communication and becoming a great teammate and becoming comfortable in that arena," Stevens said.

With jitters out of the way, the Nittany Lions are ready to take on the fast and furious five-day stretch. 

Hear more from Samuel and Stevens below. 


MORE LINKS:

Men's Hoops Gameday Live - vs. Lock Haven (11/4/16)

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -  Penn State men's basketball is set to host its first public exhibition since 2013, welcoming Lock Haven to the Bryce Jordan Center Friday, Nov. 4 for a 6 p.m. tipoff. 

Follow along with our live blog for in-game updates and exclusive content. 
Live Blog Men's Hoops Gameday 2016-17 vs. Lock Haven (11/4/16)
 

B1G Men's Hoops Media Day in Washington D.C.

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WASHINGTON - Just a day after hosting their own event, Penn State men's basketball hit the road, traveling to Washington D.C. to participate in the Big Ten Men's Basketball Media Day. Nittany Lion head coach Patrick Chambers joined juniors Shep Garner and Payton Banks for the busy day.

Chambers opened the morning making his rounds through the media circuit, spending time with ESPN and the Big Ten Network. 

Check out the recap of Chambers' morning media circuit below.

Chambers capped off his morning media rounds with a brief press conference, taking questions from members of the national and local media.

"Penn State basketball is in a different place today," Chambers said in his opening statement. "We are going to get up and down, which we haven't done in the last five years. We're going to play and up-tempo style."

Check out Chambers' full press conference below. Transcript of the press conference available here.

Banks and Garner joined in on the media circuit in the afternoon, while also taking some time for a Big Ten photo shoot before closing out the day with a live appearance on the Big Ten Network. 

Both Banks and Garner echoed Chambers throughout the day, noting that the 2016-17 Nittany Lions are an all new team featuring experienced returners as well as a host of newcomers with plenty of potential.

Follow along with Banks and Garner below to see what they were up to this afternoon. 


Chambers followed the Nittany Lion duo with a live appearance on the Big Ten Network before hitting the road to return home to Happy Valley.

Penn State is set to open the 2016-17 campaign at home with an exhibition against Lock Haven Friday, Nov. 4 in the Bryce Jordan Center.

2016-17 Men's Hoops Media Day Recap

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State men's basketball head coach Patrick Chambers met with a packed media room Wednesday afternoon to preview the 2016-17 season on media day.

With nearly every seat in the Bryce Jordan Center media room occupied, Chambers took questions from members of the media before the 2016-17 Nittany Lions were made available for individual interviews in the practice gym.

Penn State preseason practice is well underway in preparation for an exhibition matchup against Lock Haven Friday, Nov. 4 at home in the Bryce Jordan Center. The Nittany Lions officially open the regular season Friday, Nov. 11, welcoming Albany to Happy Valley for a 7 p.m. matchup in the opening game of the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Classic. 

A Fearless Approach

In his opening statement, Chambers made note of the team's mentality this year, which is simply to be fearless in their approach. With a tough non-conference schedule that's stacked with tough opponents and features five road or neutral games, Chambers stressed that the focus right now is for the Nittany Lions to be the best they can be and get better every day, while also keying in on attention to detail.

"If we can do the little things great, that could be the different in a couple more victories for us heading into this great non-conference that we've put together." 

More from Coach Chambers and his outlook on the season below.


Newcomers Transitioning
Poised to welcome the program's highest ranked recruiting class in program history, Penn State's signing class featuring Tony Carr, Nazeer Bostick and Lamar Stevens all join walk-on Grant Hazle and Virginia Tech transfer Satchel Pierce, who will sit out a year. The Nittany Lions will also see first-year contributions from Mike Watkins, who was not eligible to play last year and UCONN transfer Terrence Samuel, who also sat out last year.

"I think this summer session and the fall preseason that we had kind of gave the new guys an indication of what to prepare for how hard practice would be and I think they are adapting," Chambers said.

Chambers also sighted that consistency in practice is still an area where the Nittany Lion newcomers can work on improving to build trust among teammates and coaches heading into week one.

Among newcomers Chambers mentioned today, he noted that he has seen tremendous versatility from Stevens, a 6-7 forward who has already shown the ability to play at the three or four and even the five in a tight situation.

"We are moving him all over the place and he has earned it," Chambers said. He's strong, he's a freakish-athlete, shooting the ball much better than I remember in high school. He is really going out and playing hard, making mistakes and allowing us to coach him, which I think is huge."

Hear more from Stevens below.


Garner Stepping Up Leadership
With the departures of 2015-16 senior leaders Brandon Taylor, Jordan Dickerson and Donovon Jack, Chambers said that Garner knew coming into the season that he would need to step into the leadership role to guide the younger members of the team. 

"In the summer and fall, it was a little bit slower for him but once practice started I now hear him a little bit more," Chambers said. "We have attitude club in practice and he has been in the top three for eight practices. For a guard, like Shep, that's pretty impressive." 

Garner talks more about stepping into that leadership role below.


Scoring 80

Chambers unveiled plans for a new offensive style coming this season, one that's up-tempo and quick, ideally producing 80 points per game.

Drawing inspiration from NBA teams such as Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Nittany Lions will look to inject some serious speed into their game this year.

"There are going to be some tough stretches, there are going to be some high turnover games and that's something we have to coach these kids," Chambers said. "But we are going to play at a very high tempo. That is what we want to do this year. I am committed to it."

Behind The Scenes at Palestra Press Conference Day

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PHILADELPHIA - Penn State men's basketball head coach Patrick Chambers hit the road today, traveling to the City of Brotherly Love for a press conference regarding the Nittany Lions' Big Ten matchup against Michigan State at the Palestra Saturday, Jan. 7, 2017.

Prior to the 10:30 a.m. press conference, Chambers took an early morning flight to arrive in Philadelphia just in time to make an appearance at Breakfast on Broad, live on Comcast Network. He also took a quick trip to do a little sight seeing at the historic The Rocky Statue, just outside the The Rocky Steps leading up to the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  

Check out our exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the early morning trip. 


Chambers opened his press conference on location at the historic Palestra, located right in the heart of Philadelphia.

 

"A lot of exciting things wrapped around this day for our Philly kids and for myself too," Chambers said. "I'm from here, my brothers played here, I played here, so it should be a fun filled weekend for Penn State basketball to be put on this stage."

In the early planning stages of the event, Chambers mentioned that part of the reasoning for the Philadelphia location came back to relationships, with a total of six Nittany Lions currently on the roster calling the Philadelphia area home. 

 After clearing the idea with the Penn State administration and the Big Ten, Chambers reached out to Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo, who had never coached in the Palestra. Chambers noted that Izzo was thrilled with the idea. 

The Nittany Lions and the Spartans are set for a noon or 1 p.m. tip-off on ESPN, as announced by the conference earlier this month. The matchup marks the first appearance on the primary ESPN network for the Nittany Lions since 2012. 

An afternoon tip-off could also also potentially bring rays of sunlight streaming through the Palestra, which has windows lining the upper walls of the building. That's no reason to be concerned for Chambers though. 

"If you go back to the old school days with the doubleheaders that start in the afternoon and run into the evening, there is a mystique about it - there's an old school feeling. I want our guys, and I want Penn Staters to have that feel, to live those old school says," Chambers said. "I think that's what we are going to bring back, I think people are going to appreciate it and I think they are going to remember this game, they are going to remember this experience wrapped around this day." 

 Penn State has won 11 of its last 18 games in the Palestra, having most recently visited the building in 2016, where the Nittany Lions rallied to defeat Drexel, 63-57.

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