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March 19, 2012
UNIVERSITY PARK, PA.; MARCH 19, 2012 - Penn State men's basketball head coach Patrick Chambers met with the media Monday to give his thoughts on his recently completed first season at the Nittany Lion helm.
Led by All-Big Ten guard Tim Frazier, Penn State posted a 12-20 mark in Chambers' first season with a roster that contained just two players, Frazier and senior Cammeron Woodyard, that had seen action in more than one collegiate season and eight major contributors in their first or second college season. Three freshmen and three sophomores made a combined total of 84 starts on the year as the young Lions went 4-14 in the Big Ten. The Lions suffered the loss of junior Billy Oliver for most of the Big Ten season, after recurring concussion symptoms caused him to forego the remainder of his playing career, and Woodyard for the final three games after suffering a broken foot.
Frazier excelled setting a new Penn State season assist record with 198 while leading the Big Ten with 6.2 assists per game and finishing the season second in the Big Ten in scoring (18.8) and steals (2.4). Sophomore Jermaine Marshall had a breakout season with four 20-point games, including a career-high 27 vs. Michigan on March 4, and 20 double-digit scoring outings on the year, including seven-straight in Big Ten play. Redshirt freshman post Jon Graham played his best basketball at the end of the year, twice logging career highs in points (10) and once in rebounds (10) in the final six games, as did true-freshman Ross Travis who started 16 games on the year and finished strong with a career-high 15 points vs. Michigan (March 4) and a near double-double with 10 points and nine rebounds vs. Northwestern (Feb. 25).
The Nittany Lions will return more than 70 percent of their scoring and assists and 60 percent of their rebounding for Chambers' second campaign. Frazier will return as one of the top guards in the nation after becoming just the fifth Lion to score 600 points in a season and the first to record a top 10 season in scoring (602, to rank 7th all-time), assists an steals (76 to rank 5th all-time). The Lions will also welcome 6-4, guard D.J. Newbill to the line-up. Newbill spent last season on the practice squad after transferring from Southern Mississippi. The former Pennsylvania Class AA Player of the Year averaged 9.2 points and 6.2 rebounds per game as a freshman at Southern Miss while starting 32 games for a team that went 22-10. The Lions will also welcome a 2012 recruiting class that will include 6-8 forward Brandon Taylor (Tabernacle, N.J.), a 1,000-point scorer at Trenton Catholic Academy who posted a 41-point game in late February.
Patrick Chambers Season Ending Press Conference Transcript:
When did you find out that Trey and Matt intended to leave the program?
Not until after the season. We usually meet with individuals and players on the team to discuss whatever is on their minds - their future. You get players when you get to a program, I'm not one of those coaches that's like all right I can't wait to get my own guys. No, you try to make them your players. So, over the course of the year we develop relationships, and develop trust and become a family. It's always hard when a player leaves. It's always hard, it's not easy, but sometime it's for the best and it's for the right reasons and you want to support them, and that is what we're going to do.
Do you expect any more transfers?
I don't expect any more. I've only been in this business eight years, but to me it's been a long, long time and nothing surprises me anymore. I was looking at a kid last night. I was just talking with my staff. He's on Lehigh, B.J. Bailey, he was at Boston with us and had to leave for whatever reason, and there he is on TV, so you hope it all works out for everybody.
On the current scholarship situation
We are putting some thought into these last few days. The worst thing I can do is rush and make a rash decision just to fill a scholarship. We're not going to do that. We are going to be very patient. This is a process, and I want to get to know whomever those scholarships are being given out to. I want to get to know them on a different level than basketball, because that is something I think you need to do. You need to know that this is a two-way street, and we both need to be on the same page. So, we're going to take our time and get the right fit for Penn State and for me and for this program. All those have to add up instead of us just jumping at the next 6-7 athlete or next big phenomenal shooter or whoever it may be. We have to take our time. We have to do our research. We have to develop trust. We have to develop relationships. Hopefully, we can do that and if it's this year, great. If it's not, well we still have a good team coming back that I'm excited about and the foundation has been set. The culture has been set. The environment has been set. So, that's what we're going to focus on.
Has this issue been a curveball with recruiting?
As a staff, we always believe that you don't know what could happen. Just like injuries, who knew Billy Oliver, who knew Cam was going to get hurt three times, who knew Trey was going to get hurt a couple of times. You don't know that's going to happen, but you always have to plan for things. You always have to be ready for adjustments and handle adversity. So, we definitely had our eye out there just incase something went awry or somebody else was out there. And, I'll share this with you, there's a lot of coaching changes and there is going to be a lot of de-commitments. It hasn't really started, that snowball hasn't started yet and we're not allowed to contact anybody, but our eye is out there. We're seeing what could transpire. So, again it's a reason to be patient and really take our time and make good evaluations and good decisions.
On the coaching staff
I love my staff. I hope they like me. We get along really well. There's a lot of trust within our staff - a lot of loyalty within our staff. I always believed, and I took this from Jay Wright, if someone from your staff does leave, that's a compliment to your program, especially for a better job. So, if that does happen, I'm going to be happy for that individual and we're going to support them and any endeavors.
Was it 100% the players' decisions to leave the program, or were there other forces there?
It really just comes down to what is best for them and for us. I'm not going to put a percentage on it. Like I said, I care about these kids. I want what's best for them and I want what's best for us, and if the best decision at the end of the day is to investigate other opportunities then that is okay too. There is nothing wrong with a fresh start. I transferred, and it was the greatest decision of my life. I have my friends forever. One works with me now, and I have best friends for life. So, sometimes a fresh start can be a good thing. I guess in that situation, being closer to home that's okay too. You understand that. Peter is going to go to Philly U, which is great; he's excited about it. He's going to play for a hall of fame coach, and I went there, so I'm excited for him.
Do you anticipate having to answer a lot of questions about why several players decided to transfer after the season?
Yes, I would think so. If they are really interested in our program, then they should want to know and they should ask that difficult question. And it happens. Just like I told you guys, you want the best for your players, for them, and you want what is best for us. Again, they are not easy decisions. They are hard decisions. They are decisions that will last a lifetime for them. So, hopefully they make the right ones.
What kind of qualities are you looking for in players you are recruiting for this program?
Obviously academics. It's not easy here and I'm going to continue to stress that. It's a very difficult school academically, so they need to be into academics and into getting their degree. I know that sounds funny to say, but some kids out there don't have that at the top of their lists. I want winners - guys with winning mentalities. I want toughness, skill, and guys who love to play the game. Sometimes as a coach you become a motivator. You feel like a motivational speaker every single day, every game. Sometimes when you put together the right group of guys, it comes from within them and it comes from within the player. I'm still going to do that. I love doing that. It's a part of me and that's the way my coaches helped to motivate me. That's what we're looking for. There is no, "We need this, this and this..." We just need to put together a good core of guys. We need a great locker room and that's important because that always transitions into the floor.
On his intense coaching style
No question I'm a little different and I expect more. I guess you could say intense. But, if you can handle that energy and that enthusiasm and that intensity, you're also going to get loved up, you're going to get hugged. I think we developed really good relationships, especially me as a head coach. I sat with Tim this morning. I was with Sasa a couple days ago. I was with Jermaine a couple days ago. So, I have personal relationships with these guys. I'm not like an NBA coach who shows up at 10 and leaves at 3. I'm here for them whenever they need me. We have an open door policy. So that's a change that could be a change for anybody. And, we have structure here. Their days are planned out, especially for freshman. It can be eye opening. It can be the wow-factor. Wow, this is intense, this is a lot of things to do. But, as you gain trust and as you get accustomed to what we're asking for, I think it helps you be successful as a man and that's our goal. Our goal is not only to win games, but our goal is to help these guys when they get in the real world let them know it's not easy, it's hard. It's hard stuff. So, a degree and getting them prepared to be a man, it's all part of the process of playing in this program.
On his relationship with team
I thought the last month of February, I thought they were used to what I was doing. As a matter of fact, I felt like Tim, the captains and even D.J. Newbill really stepped up where I wasn't yelling and screaming as much. They were because they wanted to win - they want to be successful. So, I felt like February and March it started to change. For these guys to come in my office, I'm not one of those guys you're afraid to talk to. Let's say we're getting on the elevator together, they are going to get on the elevator with me. They're not going to take the steps. We have a different relationship off the floor. I always tell them that. On the floor I'm going to get after you. I'm going to push you. I'm going to drive you. Off the floor, I'm your father, I'm your uncle. I'm going to lead you, but we're going to have that talk about your girlfriend, talk to me about home, talk to me, you know? We have that type of relationship, which I think is great. And I think, so far, it is headed in that direction. When September rolls around, they're going to be ready and they're going to be happy.
How do you feel about D.J. Newbill next year?
Can't wait! I think we're going to have the best backcourt in the country! You heard me, in the country! The reason is because those two together. I put them together a few times towards the end on the blue team just to see, because at that point D.J.'s kind of losing interest. He hasn't played in a game. He wants to see where he is with all his hard work. So, we put him on the blue team and the way they played together and how unselfish they were and how they shared the ball and how committed they were to defending, rebounding and just doing little things. And the speed that they both have, it's exciting.
Can you tell us a little about what D.J. brings to the team?
Yes. Toughness, a winner's mentality, a hard worker, an extremely hard worker. He loves to play. He's always in here shooting or doing something. Really becoming a leader, he's going to help Tim out with his leadership role. He's got a great personality, a great smile, a great personality. You're going to love dealing with D.J. and you're going to love him on the floor, because he's going to give you maximum effort every time. Think about that. He didn't play one game and he was up in our (practice) statistics. He was in the top three almost every day when he wasn't hurt. He was hurt for a while there. He was out for maybe two months with a shoulder injury. So, I'm excited.
On the depth of the backcourt
It's a concern, but you still have Tim, you have D.J., you have Jermaine, you have Nick who has played major minutes. We also want to develop Ross. Ross is an undersized four. He's 6-6 playing a four spot. You saw what Ross was capable of in that Michigan game. He did some things off the bounce and got a little bit more of a consistent jumper. He rebounded the ball really well. I think Ross could truly be that fourth or fifth guard. We're also going to do something totally new. We are going to do individual work in the Spring with maybe one group workout, because, really, we'd like to fine tune and maybe change some jump shots and develop these guys a little bit more as far as their skill set which I think is going to be important for them and, selfishly, in the end it's going to be great for our program and team.
Have you changed any shots during the season?
We tweaked Jon Graham's foul shot and we tweaked Tim Frazier's three. And, when I say tweak it's not a dramatic move, it's jut shortening something up. Keeping your shot, but making it a little bit shorter, nothing too drastic.
Who will start next year?
They have to earn it. Everybody's got to earn it. I would take a guess that Tim would be one, I can say that. Tim Frazier. But, there are four spots open. You have to earn it everyday, every week in practice. You can't just hand somebody something. Nobody is going to do that in the real world. No one is going to hand you a job and say you're going to make this much money and next year you're going to make this much. It doesn't happen that way. You have to earn everything that you get. That is also a part of becoming a man. These guys know they have to earn it. I just talked to Ross Travis about it. He told me he knew he wasn't guaranteed a starting spot and knew he had to work hard. He already has the right mentality.
What do the `Bigs' have to work on to get better?
I thought Jon Graham came along. He got a lot better as the season went along. And, Sasa too. I think they need to rebound the ball better. Tim Frazier can't be your leading rebounder. He's not pounding the trenches, although he's got a great nose for the ball. He's out on the perimeter, he finds it, he seeks it, he runs it down. I'd like to see our bigs average anywhere from six to nine rebounds a game. I think that's what our bigs need to do.
On the Bigs' scoring abilities.
I think as far a scoring, you saw Sasa had a great game against Ole Miss, and Jon had a couple good games in there and Sasa threw in a couple good games. If we could get some consistency from both, collectively it would be great. We want to put the ball inside, because it breaks runs and it gives our guards a break. There is going to be so much pressure on Tim Frazier next year, that adding D.J. is going to be great for him. If we can put the ball inside a bit it only helps those guys out. I just think they're young. Jon Graham was a redshirt freshman who had never played in the Big Ten. Sasa had to sit out because of his knee. So, these guys are young and they were just getting used to the Big Ten and the physicality of it and getting used to the game speed again. I think they are going to be that much better with their little baby hook shots. Sasa over his left and a mid-range jumper. I never said they couldn't shoot a 10 or 12-footer. If they feel like they have one, they can shoot it. You want guys to play with great confidence, clear heads. If they do that, it's only going to help Tim. It's only going to help D.J., it's only going to help the guards because it is going to open more things up. I'm with you, they need to continue to develop and get better and be a threat.
What did you learn in your first season as a head coach in the Big Ten?
That's a really good question. You threw me off. I hadn't thought about that. I really enjoyed it. I loved it. Going up against some of these schools and some of the talent at these schools, and the coaches. They challenged you every game because everybody played a different style. I would say I need to be a little more patient, and I think that's hard to do for a coach especially on this level. You see all the firings and you're not sure how long you have. So, I probably need to be a bit more patient and maybe give them a bit more rope on the offensive end. What an experience, it was terrific. It was everything I thought it was going to be. It was very Big East-esque. When I was in the Big East, especially that final year, with the Big East being as good as it was.
Season ending thoughts
Our percentages don't tell the real story. We ran into some teams that just got hot and hit tough shots. We were getting the rotations down though; I think our guys were doing a really good job and that our ball screen defense was getting better. We did some really good things man-to-man wise, but as a defensive minded coach, you can always get better. You can always do things a little bit better. You can always rotate a little bit better. You can always be in a stance. Blow-bys really hurt us this year. I felt like we needed to do a better job in our close-outs. And that's going to be some of our focus next year - closing out, blow-bys and doing a better job. Towards the end, I thought rebounding finally caught up to us. We kind of masked it a little bit. Everybody thought we were a great rebounding team, and towards the end we gave up some crucial offensive rebounds at poor times. So, that is going to be a focus too.
Did you get the progression from the team you wanted?
I really believe we were the best team we could've been at the end of the year. Let's not forget, Cam Woodyard out, Billy Oliver out. They would've helped. They would've helped greatly, especially towards the end. They knew what I wanted. They knew what I expected. They knew the rotations. They were seniors. They got it. It's unfortunate that they were injured or couldn't continue to play, so that hurt us. But, as far as playing younger guys, Jon Graham, Ross Travis, Tim's development - the future's bright. I think even our last practices in March there was energy in the building still. We didn't lose them. They wanted to be there. Sometimes at 4-14 it's kind of like Spring Break is right around the corner. But, they weren't like that and I give them a lot of credit. And I give Tim and our leaders a lot of credit too. So, I felt like we were the best team we could be under the circumstances and adversity that we faced.
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