March 11, 2010 • Steve Kirkpatrick checks in from the Big Ten Tournament


Without a doubt, one of the greatest privileges of playing Division 1 basketball is the quantity and quality of the food we eat on a daily basis. Due to NCAA rules, on a normal practice day, the team is allowed one provided meal each day. So, after practice, we all head upstairs to a private room in the BJC and are served a buffet meal that we call Training Table--all we can eat and drink. It is always a great spread of pasta, veggies, chicken, steak, and even the occasional seafood item. This gives us a chance to relax, talk about the day's practice and other events, and just an overall chance for team bonding. We always leave there stuffed, but craving one final thing... our beds!


On the road on game day is a different story. We wake up to an amazing breakfast spread of pancakes, eggs, muffins, and various breakfast meats. We usually head to shoot-around after that (where I can often barely move because of how incredibly stuffed I am). Post shoot-around we are usually given money to get our own lunch if there are restaurants nearby, but that's almost never necessary because of our scheduled pre-game meal. For pre-game meal, we usually have half breakfast foods for those who don't abide by the "breakfast only served before 11 a.m." rule and half the typical training table servings. This meal always takes place four hours before tip off because some medical genius at some point in time was able to prove that was the appropriate digestion time. After the game, we get on the bus where pizza or subs are almost always awaiting us. So, even if you're like me and don't get to play much, game days are still always the best days; I get to watch a basketball game from the best seat in the house at the end of the bench, all while ingesting somewhere around 4000 calories and trying my best to get face time on the Big Ten Network.


On a more serious note, we are all really looking forward to playing Minnesota tonight in our opening game of the Big Ten tournament. The great thing about tournaments like this is that records and previous wins and losses are thrown out the window. Every team is 0-0 and fighting for an automatic NCAA tournament bid. If you get hot at the right time, it doesn't matter if you didn't win a game all season. I feel like we are playing our best basketball right now, and can't wait to see if that translates into some tournament victories for us this weekend. WE BELIEVE!


March 4, 2010:Adam Highberger looks forward to the Big Ten Tournament


With two Big Ten games left in the season, and with a 3-1 record since my last blog, we're feeling more confident than a 3-13 team should be going into Indianapolis next weekend. The frustrating part about getting hot so late is that we realize how good of a team we can be when we're all on the same page. Let's face it though, it's never easy to replace three key players and develop chemistry with so many new pieces to the puzzle. And, the exciting thing is that we have EVERYONE back for next season.


The great thing about our team and our coaching staff is that in my blog today was the first time the phrase "next season" was mentioned in our program. Facing the hardships we did this year, you would think a young team would be easily influenced to talk about next year and our potential, but our focus is still completely on this season. We're starting to develop confidence in each other, and confidence in ourselves, and really feel like the teams on our side of the Big Ten Tournament bracket are getting cheated out of a guarantee win over a 10th or 11th seed.


So, here we sit. We're about seven hours away from competing against Michigan State, and two days from playing Purdue - two of the top teams in our conference. What an opportunity heading into the tournament next weekend! I think you will all see over the next two games that Penn State, despite our record, does have a chance to make some noise in Indianapolis!


February 19, 2010:Steve Kirkpatrick give a shout out to THON as Lions prepare for Michigan


VICTORY! The win on Wednesday night against Northwestern was a long time coming. It was amazing to see the figurative burden immediately lifted off of the players' and coaches' backs when the final buzzer sounded. As players, this win will do a lot for our psychology. By no means am I a psychologist (it was actually my worst grade so far in college), but just having and feeling the thrill of victory was something that we needed to experience again to get back on the winning track. Winning a close game on the road against a tournament hopeful like Northwestern will really be a confidence boost for us as we buckle down for the final stretch here at the end of the year.


We now have a very unique opportunity. Like Iowa was for us last year (Jake Kelly, I am not a fan!), we can play the role of spoiler now as we round out the regular season. With games left against Michigan and Northwestern, how they fare against us could really determine whether or not they get a tournament bid or not. We also have games against each one of the three teams at the top of the Big Ten right now--Ohio State, Michigan State, and Purdue. Barring a total collapse, these teams would be considered tournament locks, and we have the opportunity to really decide what kind of seed that they get in the tournament. I'm really looking forward to seeing how the guys continue to play against these teams after such a balanced and steady attack against Northwestern.


This afternoon we are flying out of State College and practicing at Eastern Michigan University in preparation for tomorrow. We are unable to practice at the BJC today because of THON. For those of you who are not familiar, the Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon is the largest student-run philanthropy in the world and raises funds and awareness for the fight against pediatric cancer. Last year, the students raised $7,490,133.87 to contribute to the Four Diamonds Fund. I know I speak for my teammates and coaches when I say GOOD LUCK and THANK YOU to everyone who is dancing, participating, helping, donating, and supporting THON 2010. It truly is an amazing event for a serious cause.


The game tomorrow at Michigan begins at 6:00 pm (ET), and should be a great game. At practice yesterday, the guys really seemed to have a grasp of Michigan's offensive concepts and defended them well. After our big first win, I know this preparation will carry over into the game tomorrow. What's better than a road win in the Big Ten, you may ask? I'll tell you... Two of them!

February 17, 2010:Adam Highberger checks in from Evanston


It's really crazy how college basketball goes, or even life in general. One season you're cutting down nets at one of the most historic basketball arenas in one of the biggest cities in the U.S., and the next you're sitting in a hotel room in Chicago, winless in the Big Ten, trying to figure out what we have to do different to get our first "W." A lot of my friends and family ask me how hard it is to be going through a losing streak of 12 games, and if any of us ever feel like quitting or just giving up and looking towards next season.


The really peculiar thing about this season, however, is that we don't feel like we're 0-12 in Big Ten play. For example, 8 of our 12 losses in conference play have been a difference of 10 points or less, 5 of those losses were 6 points or less. Although we haven't been winning, it's hard to throw in the towel when you feel like your record could be....no, should be well above .500. That's just a testament to the level of play in the Big Ten. You can throw any rankings or records out the window when you step out on the floor in this conference, because the 0-12 team has just about the same chance of beating you as the teams at the top tier of the conference.


That's why when we step out on the floor tonight against Northwestern, we're not going to play with the confidence of an 0-12 team, but rather with a confidence our record does not reflect. After all, we have nothing to lose tonight, and teams are dangerous with nothing to lose.


February 4, 2010: Steve Kirkpatrick weighs in on the Lions recent stretch of road games vs. ranked foes

When your looking for your first win in the conference, the last things you want to see on your up-coming schedule are the names "Purdue" and "Ohio State". Purdue currently sits at fifth in the Big Ten, with a conference record of 6-3 and a national ranking of seventh. Ohio State is in a three-way tie for second in the conference with a 7-3 record and are ranked 13th nationally.


The great thing about Penn State basketball is that the culture has really changed since Coach DeChellis came in as the head coach. Sure, there have been a few down years, where wins were hard to come by, but, after last year's success, winning has come to be expected, not hoped for. So, after preparing for Purdue and losing a game in which they really got hot (thanks, Robbie Hummel) in the second half, it's not like the coaches or the players took it lightly. The attitude was not, "Hey, they are the seventh-best team in the country... We shouldn't have beaten them." The guys really fought hard, and I was proud of our overall effort. We need to get better at maintaining our cool while absorbing the opposing teams' run in the second half. That is a characteristic of a team with a lot of experience--something we weren't necessarily blessed with this year. The Ohio State game was a little different. We entered the halftime break down 12 and worked our way closer as the game progressed. It was 65-62 with about two minutes left, when John Diebler (who was something like 0-6 up to that point) knocked down a huge three for the Buckeyes. After we failed to score on our next possession, it became a hack-fest, and we couldn't catch up.


One highlight of the Ohio State trip for me was meeting the most famous college basketball blogger in the country--OSU walk-on Mark Titus. Adam and I made a point to meet him and tell him that we are both big fans of what he is doing for the walk-on contingency in his blog (clubtrillion.blogspot.com). That name (Club Trillion) is derived from what the official stat sheet looks like for a player when he gets one minute of playing time and records no statistics during that minute (a 1 followed by a lot of zeros). From what I've seen, Mark has some good insights on the blog about the life of a walk-on...but hey, none of us Penn State faithful want to read anything about Ohio State, right?


If you are able, please come out on Saturday to support the team as we take on Minnesota at 2:00 p.m. The fans make a huge impact at home games and I think can really help us crack through the win column Saturday. If you can't come, the game will also be shown on the Big Ten Network, but it's Saturday, so come on out.



January 31, 2010: Adam Highberger from the Hilton Garden Inn in West Lafayette, Ind.

Hello from West Lafeyette, Indiana! It's Sunday morning and we just wrapped up a film session on the Purdue Boilermakers. I remember before I got to Penn State being very curious about a typical road trip for Division 1 teams, so I decided to write this blog about our traveling routine.


We typically leave State College after a late afternoon practice the day before the game. After practice, we take a bus out to State College airport, which is about a five-minute drive from the BJC. The bus takes us right up to the chartered jet, and we board the plane on our way to our destination. It's amazing up in air how big, strong division one athletes suddenly turn into fearful, vulnerable people with a little bit of turbulence at 20,000 feet. Our post-practice meal usually consists of airplane cheeseburgers, which are in fact a lot better than they sound. A lot of us sleep or listen to music on the plane ride, but it also provides an hour and a half worth of study time if we have a test coming up.


When we reach our destination, another chartered bus is waiting to pick us up and take us to the hotel. It's great to be able to avoid the clustered, busy airports with curbside shuttle service. The bus takes us to the hotel, which is typically very close to the opposing team's arena. Depending on the time of arrival and gym availability, we sometimes head over to the other team's arena for a shoot around. It's always nice to be able to get a feel for the rims on the road before game day. Occasionally, like this weekend at Purdue, we leave early in the day the day before competition and even practice on the opposing team's floor.

After shoot around, they order us a late night snack, usually pizza or something of that sort. Cell phones are collected at 11 o'clock to make sure no one's up until 2 in the morning telling their girlfriends how much they love them. Although this rule is not popular, it does get rid of any outside distractions that would divert attention from the goal of the trip.

In the morning we get a wake-up call from Jimbo or Jack, two of our managers (I prefer Jimbo, he's a little more enthusiastic in the mornings). We head down and watch film of our opponents for the last time, and wash down that information with a catered breakfast. Finally, we retreat to our rooms for last-minute rest, which is where I find myself now. This gives us a chance to lie around and visualize a little about the game plan we've been working on the last two days of practice (or for some guys, gives them time for a quick power nap).

From there it's game time. Let's see if we can pull one out here in West Lafeyette!


January 27, 2010: Steve Kirkpatrick Gets You Ready For Illinois

Adam and I just finished up some studying for a class we have together, and I thought I'd write a little something before tomorrow's game. The last two days have been good for us. The players have kept the practices intense and competitive, and the coaches have kept our legs in mind with a little shorter practice time.

We really want to focus and bring a lot of the "Three E's" to the game tomorrow. Coaches are looking for us to bring a lot of Energy, continue with maximum Effort, and be sure to Execute for all 40 minutes against Illinois. We did all of those things for about 39.5 minutes against Wisconsin, and almost came away with the win. It's that extra half a minute that we will play that will help us win!

In practice today, we did a lot of scout team segments. This is where some of the guys who don't play a lot of minutes in the games put on the other team's colored jerseys and emulate a player on the opposing squad, and run through some of their scouted plays. So today, for example, I was Illinois' Mike Davis; this meant that I really focused on rebounding (he is one of the Big Ten leaders in that category), and had the option to post up or face up to the basket and shoot the 15-18 foot jump shot that he usually knocks down. It is a fun change for those of us on the scout gang, but it also gets the players used to what they are going to see come game day. I'm confident that we will bring all of our "E's" tomorrow, and am hopeful that we can get that elusive first Big Ten win. We compete against each other so hard every day, now it's time we do the same against a good opponent like Illinois.

Interesting side note: After practice today, a lot of guys got some extra shots up... and I happened to watch Chris Babb knock down 27 3's in a row. He was STROKIN'!

January 24, 2010: Adam Highberger Checks in From Wisconsin

Like Steve commented on the previous blog, I was also excited when Coach Perry asked me to contribute to a blog on our Penn State basketball website. So much goes on behind the scenes of a Division 1 college basketball program, and I'm looking forward to conveying some of the cool stuff we experience as collegiate athletes to all of you. First, I'm a 6'1" guard from Blairsville, Pa - a small, but very proud Southwestern Pennsylvania community. I grew up playing a variety of sports with four or five of my best friends - an experience that even flying across the country playing Big 10 basketball has trouble competing with. Our high school athletic teams were very successful, winning a few conference championships in football and making a few memorable runs in the state tournament in basketball (one of which was ended by my current teammate DJ Jackson's high school team (Kennedy Catholic)...believe me when I say his fervor for reminding me about that game hasn't diminished a bit!.


I received some attention from the Penn State basketball coaches during one of our runs, and when they offered me a spot on the team as a walk-on, the decision seemed rather simple to me. One visit to Penn State made me realize why people are so passionate about the university. My career has been plagued with injuries - two ACL surgeries in a timeframe of two years. I use the word "plagued" loosely, however, because it's amazing how much I've learned and matured as a player and a person because of my injuries. My injuries have really put into perspective how much I appreciate the game of basketball, especially having the privilege of playing it at PSU.


Now, a little bit about the season. Obviously, with a slow start in conference play, the season has been tough, so far. We're currently 8-10, and feel like we're just a few plays away from being 14-4. This is my fourth season at Penn State, and these past four seasons have been a roller coaster to say the least - from a few losing streaks in the Big Ten to the satisfaction of winning the NIT on a national stage in New York City. Sitting at 0-6 in the Big Ten, it would be easy for us to throw in the towel; let me reassure you that we as a team are doing THE EXACT OPPOSITE. Practices have been more and more competitive and I'm confident that we will start making those few toughness plays that will push us on the winning side. Tune in today as we face the Badgers of Wisconsin on the Big Ten Network!

 

January 20, 2010: Meet Steve Kirkpatrick

When Coach Perry asked me to start a blog for our team, I was very excited that he asked me to do so. I'm new to the blog scene, though, so please bear with me as I figure out exactly what I'm doing. I suppose it would be fitting to start with a little background information about myself. My name is Steve Kirkpatrick; I am a six foot, five inch junior forward from Carlisle, Pennsylvania--a small town a few miles outside Harrisburg. I attended Cumberland Valley high school, a perennial state football powerhouse in PA. I led my team in scoring and rebounding as a junior and senior, and we were also fortunate enough to make it to the state playoffs for the first time in quite a few years.

Interestingly, one of Coach DeChellis's assistant coaches, Kurt Kanaskie, is also a Cumberland Valley graduate, and he was very instrumental in how I ended up a Nittany Lion. Coach D and Coach K came to a few of my games throughout the year, and were gracious enough to offer me a spot on the team the following year. I was very excited to be part of a program on the rise like Penn State has been the last few years. After a roller-coaster of a freshman year in 2008, we put together an awesome run last year--winning the NIT title at Madison Square Garden in New York City. It was quite an experience, fueled by the heart and desire to win of the players, the preparation of the coaches, and most importantly, the continued support of our loyal fans.

This year has been an interesting one from the stand-point of a player. Our record currently stands at 8-9, which is very frustrating, because we are not an "8-9 caliber" team. So far in Big Ten play, we have had a legitimate shot to win each game, we just seem to be one or two plays away when the final buzzer sounds. We are all working very hard in practice to prepare ourselves to be better suited to make that play or two that we need in the upcoming games. We are just so close to getting over that hump! I feel that we've had some very good and extremely competitive practices recently, so hopefully we can transfer those onto the court. We're preparing for Indiana now, and I know we'll be ready to go when the ball is tossed at the Bryce Jordan Center on Thursday night. I'll check back on Friday! WE ARE!!

 
 
 
 
 
 
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