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Jan. 6, 2012
By Tony Mancuso
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - It was Oct. 19, the sixth day of practice for head coach Patrick Chambers and the Penn State hoops team.
The squad was amidst running fastbreak drills when Coach Chambers blew the whistle hanging around his neck to stop practice.
Junior forward Billy Oliver had just missed a transition 3-pointer on the right wing. Coach Chambers yelled to a pair of managers to pass him a basketball. He proceeded to fire pass after pass after pass to Oliver in the exact same spot on the floor for nearly 30 consecutive seconds.
The Chatham, N.J., native drained roughly 70 percent of the shot attempts. When he was finished, Coach Chambers had a message to Oliver.
"I don't care if you miss 20 in a row; I want you to shoot No. 21," exclaimed Chambers.
That type of positive energy from Coach Chambers in the direction of the players on the roster has been the theme since day one. Coach Chambers has 100 percent confidence in Oliver making shots every time he touches the basketball.
Oliver played the best game of his Penn State career on Thursday night in the 65-45 rout of Purdue inside the Bryce Jordan Center. Oliver drained two open 3-pointers in the opening 3:44 and never looked back. He finished with a career-high 21 points and seven 3-pointers.
"He's got it in him," Chambers said. "Not to just do it once-in-a-while either; he's got it in him. He's got to play with great confidence. Tim (Frazier) got him wide-open shots and when Billy plays like that it really opens up things for Tim, too. So now, you don't know who to stop, which is a good thing."
The 6-8 forward came to Penn State having scored 1,300 points in high school. Oliver's jump shot has looked good from the day he stepped on campus, but confidence and injuries played a big role in limiting his success during his first three years on the roster.
But this season has been different. With Coach Chambers' belief that Oliver can play like he did on Thursday in every game, the Nittany Lion forward illustrated that he can perform at a different level. There was no hesitation from Oliver on any of his 11 3-point attempts against Purdue. While he went 7-for-11, every shot looked like it was going in when it left his hand.
"It's about time a couple fell," Oliver said. "It's a testament to (Tim Frazier) driving the wing. He's got four guys on him and somehow he still picks out a pass and puts it in the shooting pocket. All the hard work comes from him and the other guys creating my shots."
Oliver would love to top the 20-point mark on a nightly basis, but becoming another scoring option alongside Tim Frazier is what the Nittany Lions need to succeed.
"Every day you have to start form shooting and get back working hard," Oliver said. "And that's not just me; it's the entire team coming in extra, coming in at night. Some day's you're feeling it and, like I said, it's the other guys who are getting me the shots."
The Nittany Lions will now look to carry Thursday's effort over into a showdown with No. 12 Indiana inside the Bryce Jordan Center on Sunday at noon.