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Men’s Basketball Media Day 2017-18
Head Coach Patrick Chambers
I’m really looking forward to this season. I want to see the development of these players. I’ve been watching a lot of film from last year and what we did all summer. Most of the team committed to both summer sessions, which is phenomenal, and then, obviously the foreign tour and playing all those games. 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. So, I think we’re going to learn a lot from last year and those experiences and I’m excited for Shep (Garner) in his senior year and Julian (Moore) in his senior year, a couple with Tony (Carr), Lamar (Stevens) and Mike (Watkins). Obviously, having your starting five back is something we’re not used to. A lot of excitement around here, we’re climbing. I know you guys have seen that. Nate (Bauer of Blue and White Illustrated) actually climbed with me up Mount Nittany and we’re going to keep climbing. I hope you climb with us.
Q: What do you anticipate being the strength of this year’s team and what area needs to be reinforced?
[PC]: The strength is going to have to be on the defensive side. We gave up 72-plus points (last season) and rebounding, we were one of the worst in the Big Ten. Cannot be more direct than that. We have to clean up defending and rebounding. I think we did a better job towards the end of the year with turnovers. We took care of the ball. Even though we ended at 74 percent from the free throw line, I’d like to keep that consistently throughout the season. We shot better free throws in the nonconference than we did in the conference. So those four areas to me, if we can really bear down and gets some stops and get some rebounds and finished off plays, I think a lot of those close plays turn into Ws.
Q: What do you project Nazeer Bostick’s role to be coming off the injury last season?
[PC]: He’s one of the guys that might have a breakout year for us. 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. He worked so hard this offseason on and off the floor. Academically he got two As, in the weight room he’s got new personal records, really worked on his skill level, he’s really been more vocal because he’s a quiet kid in general. So, I think he’s going to have one of those breakout years for us.
Q: How much are you emphasizing making postseason play this year?
[PC]: The guy across the street (head football coach James Franklin) says 1-0. He never goes back, he never goes too far ahead. He’s always 1-0 and that’s our mantra. We’re staying present. We’re staying here and now. I can’t worry about what’s going to happen in March. All I can worry about is today and how we can get this team better today and how we can focus on their habits and taking care of the little things. I feel like we’ve done a great job of taking care of the little things, and that’s on me to correct that, and that should bode well for us if we take care of those things and focus on the present and not get too far ahead. Because if you do those things, that stuff’s going to take care of itself.
Q: Where do Satchel (Pierce) and Jamari (Wheeler) fit into the rotation?
[PC]: Satchel gives us that Reggie Lynch (University of Minnesota center) type body. 6’11, close to seven-feet, 260, 255 (pounds), who really is skilled. Great hands, great feet, willing screener, communicates often and an excellent passer so, he’s going to add a dimension where those 8-0 (scoring) runs, those 10-0 runs, if Mike (Watkins) is not in the game, I’m very confident he can get us an easy one. We call them go-tos or counters. He’s really skilled from 15-feet and in so, don’t be surprised if he’s knocking down a 15-footer and he’s a very good free throw shooter. He’s going to complement Mike and Julian (Moore) very, very well.
Jamari is going to be, and I don’t want to put this label on him, but he’s got the speed of Tim Frazier (2009-14). He’s got toughness beyond his years. He’s not a typical freshman. He’s the fourth-strongest on the bench (press) on our team and he’s 6-foot. I mean, that’s impressive numbers, and he competes. It’s the best thing that’s happened to Tony Carr. He gets after Tony Carr from the time he walks into practice to the time it ends and his speed is going to give a whole other pace to the game, which I think fans should be really excited about.
Q: Any plans to change the offense? In the past, you’ve changed the plan to your personnel.
[PC]: The plan of attack is going to be the same. You know, we averaged close to 72 points (last season). That’s the most since 2001 and we averaged 70 in the Big Ten, the most in Penn State history as far as the Big Ten. So, I don’t think it’s the offense. We will make some tweaks, especially if we have to play two bigs together, which we are working on. When Jamari (Wheeler) is in the game, if we want to play small, we’ll do some different things, different wrinkles. I don’t want to change too much because the guys are very comfortable with the sets and how we’re playing and the roles that they’re in. However, you add some new guys, if we get in foul trouble, somebody goes down, speaking of someone going down, Lamar Stevens has a sprained left ankle. He’ll be out 10 to 14 days.
Q: Where are Tony (Carr) and Lamar (Stevens) mentally and where is Mike Watkins after an up and down offseason?
[PC]: Tony and Lamar, especially in the offseason, really dedicated themselves to their bodies and their minds and watching past film to understand a little better the experiences they went through and how to handle those experiences moving forward. It’s only going to get harder. It’s not going to get any easier. ‘Oh, we went through it one time, we’ve got it figured out.’ No, that’s not the way it works because everybody else is getting better too and bigger and stronger and older. So, I think they have a great understanding of staying present. A great understanding of what we want to do and how we have to compete and how you can’t take possessions off and can’t conserve energy and if you play as hard as we’re asking you to play, put up a fist, we’ll get you a quick sub and we’ll put you back in the game.
The thing with those two, I think, is the leadership aspect. 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. 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? Like, 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.
As far as Mike, I think he’s learned valuable lessons. He knows there’s a standard here at Penn State to be a student-athlete and he’s adjusted well off the court, obviously, but on the court, he’s done some really good things. In the weight room, he’s done some really good things. He’s had a great beginning to the semester, really clear-headed. Just doing every little thing we’re asking him to do and that’s what it’s about. Learning from your mistakes.
Q: Where have you seen (coach) Jim Ferry’s impact in the first couple of months here?
[PC]: His experience, 19 years experience as a head coach so, it’s been great to have him in the office, it’s great for our staff, it’s great for the players. You can really tap into him, ‘hey, have you ever seen this?’ ‘What are your thoughts on this?’ when it comes to recruiting or community or fundraising, anything that has to deal with a program, so it’s been great to have him a part of it and then he has a very good offensive background. He likes a lot of the sets that we’re running. We just have to make some little tweaks here and there and dedicate a little more time on certain days than others. But, the experience have just been really good for me as the head coach to be able to lean on someone like that.
Q: How would you compare having this year’s starters back compared to years past where you’ve had open spots?
[PC]: We’re still having healthy competition. I haven’t said that you’re the five starters. We have to put the best five guys out on the floor. Sometimes that might not be the most talented five guys. Maybe it’s chemistry, maybe it’s who defends better together. Maybe it’s who plays better together. I think we’re looking at all of that right now, but definitely a little further ahead on the offensive side, with the foreign tour and those guys knowing the offense. This preseason has been all about defense and the start of practice, this last week and a half here has been about defending and rebounding. Being in stances, taking care of the little things, communicating, finding bodies, obviously rebounding was a weakness last year. Finding bodies when the shot goes up. That’s been our focus for the last couple of weeks and they’re buying into it because they understand when you lose so many close games, that this is the difference and sometimes we magnify those last two minutes, but it’s throughout the course of the game that we need that defending, the rebounding, the toughness, and the consistency.
Q: What were the things you told Tony (Carr) he had to work on after last year and how did he go about doing that?
[PC]: He’s one of those very few players to average 15, four and four (points, rebounds, assists) in the Big Ten, which is an incredible stat for a freshman. We really talked about leadership and leadership consistency. We talked about facial expressions, body language. He got a couple of T’s (technical fouls) last year when we want to try to control our emotions a little bit and that’s part of the growth process. That’s part of the maturing process. Obviously, we got to the basketball portion, but he did so many good things that we really focused on off the court stuff and leadership and being a point guard. What a great responsibility that is and how he needs to carry himself as a Penn State basketball player. He’s doing a very good job and obviously we keep attitude and he’s in the top-three so, that just shows you where his head is. He wants to compete, he wants to get guys better, and he wants to bring everybody along so that’s terrific.
Q: When you were in the Bahamas, obviously the results were good, but how would you rate their play while you were there and how much can you really learn from those games?
[PC]: Fabulous trip -- the ten practices -- unreal. We had the pros come up, Talor Battle (2007-11), D.J. Newbill (2012-15), Tim Frazier (2009-14), Andrew Jones (2006-11), Mel Cornley (2005-2009), I know I’m going to miss somebody, Tyler Smith (1998-2002), Jarrett Stephens (1996-2000). It was just unbelievable. The knowledge and wisdom they passed down to these guys and I truly believe, the first game, that went to double overtime, that we may have lost that if we didn’t have those practices, and those guys come back and I think they learned, also from the season. We went down 13. We’re playing against grown men, 28 to 38 (years old). Grown men who played all throughout Europe and on national teams. It was an unbelievable game and for them not to put their heads down and not show bad body language, come in the huddles, dominate the huddles. ‘We’ve got to play harder, we’ve got to stick together, we’re going to get back in this game’ and then you’re down four in the one overtime and it’s like, uh-oh, we’re going to lose, but no. We get the missed free throw. We get the made shot and just made all the right plays. That winning feel, that winning attitude that I saw in those huddles. That never say die, was great to see without me trying to rip it out of them.
Q: What has Shep Garner meant to this program and what are your expectations for him this season?
[PC]: He’s meant the world to us, I mean, he opened the door to Roman (Catholic High School). He obviously recruited Tony (Carr), Lamar (Stevens), and Naz (Nazeer Bostick). How he’s carried himself off the floor and what he’s doing for us on the floor, his leadership now is really shining through. He’s done it all. He’s going to embody, when it’s all said and done, what a Penn State basketball player needs to be for us. He’s meant a lot to this program for sure.
Q: Who has seen the greatest transformation from last season to now?
[PC]: I would say Nazeer Bostick. What he has done on and off the floor and how he’s approached every day. With the world that we live in with so many transfers at the end of the season, he could have been one of those guys. He didn’t get the minutes that he wanted throughout the season, but he went the other way. He decides, ‘I’m going to work harder. I’m going to get better grades. I’m going to work in the weight room. I’m going to get new personal records. I’m going to do whatever Greg Miskinis (strength and conditioning coach, MBB) says to do. I’m going to do whatever coach tells me to do.’ It’s very easy to change your attitude and do something different and fight the system. Instead, he embraced it and I think that’s why he’s going to have such a breakout year.
Q: Do you think the maturity is the “it factor” this year to get more consistent in the wins column?
[PC]: We still have seven sophomores and freshmen so, it’s really more about consistency. That’s why we’re climbing. The climb’s never straight forward. It’s left, right, it could go back, but that’s a great tagline for what we’re trying to do. So, as long as they’re consistent and bring a great approach and they stick together and stay connected and there’s a lot of love in the room, we’ve got a great chance to have a really successful year.
Q: How much does the foreign tour and the hike up Mount Nittany effect the team chemistry and the connection with the fan base and do they have a lasting impression after?
[PC]: I think they do because we stay in connection with them. It’s not like a one-time thing and then we’ll see you November 10. That’s not what it’s about. It’s about really building relationships and I think we’ve done that. To climb the mountain with them and to be a part of some of their meetings and go over some of their cheers and things like that, I think is important. They need to understand that they’re a big part of the game. They can really help us and if they can bring another student and they can bring two more students, I think it’s critical to get the student body involved.
Q: Have any decisions been made or are you open to redshirting any of the incoming freshmen?
[PC]: I’m not going to say that it’s not in play, but right now these freshmen have really been impressive. They not be the highly touted group, but they bring something to this team that we need. Jamari (Wheeler) with his speed and his toughness and his competitiveness. John (Harrar) with his football mentality, which is fabulous. James (Franklin) has snuck in here a few times just to get an eye on him and I said, “oh, no, no, no. Four more years buddy.” Trent (Buttrick) has been great in pick and pop situations. The youngest of seven boys, I mean he’s a tough kid. So, they’ve really filled a great role right now. With injuries, and academics, and things that are going on, right now, we’re not making any decisions.