A New Era Dawns for Nittany Lion Hoops
Tim Frazier was looking for an example that would fully convey his new coach’s intensity. He wasn’t lacking for options.
“Coach is pure energy, all the time,” Frazier said Tuesday. “Even in free throw drills.”
That assessment certainly jibes with everything we’ve seen and heard from Patrick Chambers in the five months since he was named head coach of the Penn State men’s basketball program. Whether with fans, the media, or his players, Chambers seemingly is always intense—intensely positive about the program’s potential, and intensely focused on how he plans to maximize it.
Chambers and his players met the press Tuesday at the team’s preseason media day, where they explained how intensity and optimism might translate into wins.
Penn State comes into the 2011-12 season without four starters—and the overwhelming majority of its points, rebounds, and assists—from a team that last year reached the NCAA tournament. Outside consensus is that the Nittany Lions won’t be able to overcome those graduation losses—they’re a popular pick to finish dead last in the now-12-team Big 10. Frazier, a junior guard, is the only returning starter, and he knows his days as a supporting player are over.
“I don’t want to put it all on Tim Frazier,” Chambers said. “But he is a freak—his speed, his athleticism. He is a much better shooter than people give him credit for. His decision making, his IQ, he runs a team. He can jump out of the building. He’s going to play with great energy and great passion. I told him today, ‘Bring guys with you. Drop that ladder and bring guys with you.'”
The question is just who on this team can play at Frazier’s level; at this point, the Lions lack anything resembling a proven second option. Chambers was hired in part because of his reputation as a recruiter, but until he has the chance to bring in some new players, he’s got to get the most out of the largely unheralded group he inherited from Ed DeChellis ’82. He says he’s not interested in excuses.
“We all have our pocket full of excuses,” Chambers said Tuesday. “We lost Talor Battle ’11 and three other seniors. We have a new team this year, and that’s okay. That’s not going to be our crutch all year long. I’m talking about who we have, who we are, and who we are going to be.”
They’re going to be intense, certainly. Warming up Tuesday for practice at the Bryce Jordan Center (under a massive new HD scoreboard), the Nittany Lions created a steady buzz of encouraging chatter that never let up. That’s Chamber’s influence. Fans will get a sense of how the coach does things Wednesday night, when the Nittany and Lady Lion basketball teams host the buzz-building “Hoops Madness” event at Rec Hall. I’ll tell you all about it tomorrow.
Ryan Jones, senior editor