Author Archive

Tyler Smith, A True Basketball Globetrotter

Our Nov./Dec. 17 issue includes an item on a new book by former Nittany Lion basketball player Tyler Smith, who spent much of his career overseas chasing a professional basketball contract. As you might guess, the extensive traveling involved in such a venture could lend itself to stories, and Smith ’02 has some pretty good ones. He detailed most of them in emails home to family and friends—having to take toilet paper to away games, playing on odd surfaces, and 30-hour bus trips one way just to get to games. It all lent itself to a pretty good outline for a book.

And so Smith compiled them all into just that: Called for Traveling: My Nomadic Life Playing Pro Basketball Around the World was released in October by Sports Publishing. “People seemed to get a kick out of the stories,” Smith said when we caught up with him by phone recently. “I loved hearing them kind of laugh through their emails.”

Smith’s LinkedIn profile tells the story. On it is a line: “Pro Basketball Player, 2002­–2013.” Under locations it lists Holland, Italy, Uruguay, Argentina, Utah Jazz, NBA D-League, Japan, and Thailand. “It’s such an unorthodox lifestyle—you’re in these foreign countries, you don’t speak the language, sometimes teams don’t pay you, you’re away from everybody and everything you know,” Smith said. “People wouldn’t believe some of the stuff that happens. They think, ‘Ohh, it’s traveling the world, and living this amazing life.’ Sometimes we have some pretty cool experiences and sometimes you’re bringing your own toilet paper to away games.”

He counts playing in Holland and Italy among the better experiences he had. Then there was Argentina: “I took a 30-hour bus ride, one-way, to play a game. They brought two bus drivers because we’d just drive as long as we could until one of them had to pull over and have a smoke.”

“I played in Uruguay three times, and the first time I went down there was the most shocking because there’s 16 teams in the league, and only four of them had wooden-floor courts,” he said. “It was like some kind of concrete or a tile or I don’t even know what you call it—you’re sliding all over the place. One time we were playing a game and my point guard wasn’t running back on defense and our coach is yelling at him and he says he can’t, his shoe is stuck in the floor. There, literally, was a hole in the floor and his shoe got caught in it.”

Still, Smith considers himself lucky to have had the experiences over an 11-year playing career. But the nomadic lifestyle is still in him: Smith has spent the past four years working as a medical device sales representative, still travelling across states to consult on medical equipment and prosthetic implants.

As for the book, “You don’t have to be a hardcore basketball junkie to like this book,” he says. “There’s a little bit of everything in there. I talk about family and bringing my kids with me—that adds a whole new element of challenge to the journey—and talking about my faith. I don’t know if anybody other than the three ladies in my mom’s book club are gonna read it, but if nothing else it’ll be down on paper and I can show it to my daughters.”

B.J. Reyes, associate editor

 

 

 

 

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November 7, 2017 at 10:58 am 2 comments

A Blue-White Weigh-in

Illustration via Corrine Furjanic

Weigh-offs before a mixed martial arts fight have a reputation for lots of posturing, stare-downs and the occasional scuffle. School spirit, not so much. But before his January 2012 fight against Rashad Evans, light heavyweight Phil Davis ’08 stepped on the scale wearing a Penn State singlet, the kind he would have worn as a four-time all-American and 2008 national champion for the Nittany Lions.

“It was a time where we needed a little morale,” said Davis during a promotional visit to Happy Valley ahead of the Bellator MMA promotion’s debut in the Bryce Jordan Center. Davis, along with three-time national champion Ed Ruth ’14, will be fighting Nov. 3 on a Spike-televised event from the same arena that would be packed to the rafters when they wrestled. As he prepares for a homecoming in the cage, the time seems right to bring the singlet back. “I might have to get a hold of one of those fatigue ones, man. That was sick,” says Davis, referring to the blue and white digi camo singlet that makes occasional appearances on the mat. “We’ll have to talk to somebody.”

The light heavyweight, known for donning pink shorts in the cage, said he appreciates the individualism afforded a fighter, mixing it with the team-first mentality of his college days. “Our values are that the basic blue and white, and uniformity is how we achieve together,” he said. “No names on the back. That’s who we are. Penn State, the wrestling singlet was unchanged for 100 years, and on our 100th-year anniversary we went from a blue singlet with white writing—get this, it’s going to get crazy—to a white singlet with blue writing. And that was living on the wild side. … I feel like I come to love and appreciate that mindset, and then take that forward with me into the world. But also, I think it’s fun to showcase my uniqueness and character a little bit. But not too much personality.”

There’s more on Davis and Ruth and their transition to the MMA cage in our Nov./Dec. 2017 issue, already arriving in mailboxes.

Bill Zimmerman, special to PennStaterMag.com

October 26, 2017 at 2:33 pm Leave a comment

Inside Our November/December 2017 Issue

You may have come from thousands of miles away, or from the nearest town over, but nothing quite compares to arriving on campus for the first time. Whether you were nervous to meet your roommate, excited to be on your own, or sad saying goodbye to family and friends, most of us probably remember that day.

We wanted to see what incoming students today thought of the experience, so we sent photographers to five Penn State campuses on arrival weekend to get up close with students—new and returning—and capture them in their element: suitcases, boxes, duffel bags, and lots of cheap plastic storage bins. The feature begins on p. 28.

Also inside, we take you back to a time of great transition and tension in the world, and particularly on campus, as the college transitioned into a military training camp during World War I. The story is told through the love letters between Norman Lake ’22 and Helen Gladys Keller, his then-girlfriend whom he would later marry. Their story begins on p. 40.

And you’ll meet David Titley ’80, a retired Navy admiral and atmospheric expert who has become a prominent voice on climate change as a national security threat.

Plus we’ll take you to the scene of the first away pregame tailgate, hosted by the Alumni Association, and introduce you to Denis Smirnov, the Russian hockey phenom who turned down the chance to play in a top Russian pro league and the NHL to play for the Nittany Lions.

Our Nov./Dec. 2017 issue should be arriving in mailboxes soon. Let us know what you think at heypennstater@psu.edu.

B.J. Reyes, associate editor

October 25, 2017 at 11:18 am 2 comments

Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story

When we met Mike Karns ’11 for our Sep./Oct. 2015 feature on alums making their way on Broadway, his digital startup Marathon Live Entertainment was handling social media for small, off-Broadway clients, a few real estate agents, and was in the infancy of its current stint with a show that had just started its run on Broadway, Hamilton. And just as the “ten dollar founding father’s” star has risen, so has Karns’ profile.

Today, he oversees a digital and social media empire for the Broadway phenomenon, which still plays to packed houses in New York City and has spawned a national tour. With tickets still in high demand, merchandising for the show has grown to include a mixtape, an instrumental soundtrack, and now a smartphone app—launched Aug. 11 by Karns’ company—that recently surpassed 750,000 downloads.

His social media efforts have attracted more than two million followers. In addition to Hamilton, Marathon Live handles the digital marketing for a number of other Broadway and off-Broadway productions, and he himself has become a Tony-nominated producer, after having latched on as a co-producer with Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812, a Broadway musical that has featured, among others, Josh Groban and Ingrid Michaelson. Away from Broadway, he’s president of the School of Theatre Alumni Program Group and a recipient of the 2017 Alumni Achievement Award.

Not bad for a guy whose claim to fame (more…)

September 5, 2017 at 1:46 pm Leave a comment

Inside Our September/October 2017 Issue

Since she was young, Zena Cardman has wanted to explore—to become a novelist, to venture out into the great outdoors. A high school interest in science led her down the path of more intellectual exploration. As an undergrad at North Carolina—where she earned a biology degree and minored in marine sciences, creative writing, and chemistry, with an honors thesis in poetry to boot—something clicked, and she realized science wasn’t just in the lab, but also out in the field. Research has taken her from the Gulf of Mexico to British Columbia, Antarctica, and now, Penn State, where she’s a Ph.D. candidate.

Next stop: outer space. As a member of NASA’s 2017 astronaut class, Cardman will train for missions beyond our own atmosphere and perhaps even into those of other planets, namely Mars. Meet Penn State’s newest astronaut—she would become the fifth alum to hold such a distinction—in our Sept./Oct. 2017 issue, which should begin arriving in mailboxes this week.

The new issue also includes an interview with Ben Locke,  director of Penn State’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS). “Coping Skills & Growing Pains” explains how the campus counseling center is helping today’s college students navigate anxieties and pressures unlike those of previous generations. And: How did a Penn Stater and OB/GYN by training step in to deliver a baby gorilla? Read her story in “It’s a Boy!”

Plus, learn about the former Golden Gloves winner and Penn State’s only professional boxing champion; go beyond the bleachers and into the structure and history of Penn State football’s iconic home with a crash course on Beaver Stadium; and see how this year’s senior class is looking to break tradition with three separate gifts.

What do you think about the new issue? Let us know by commenting below or emailing us at heypennstater@psu.edu.

B.J. Reyes, associate editor

August 23, 2017 at 7:04 pm Leave a comment

Nittany Lions in the Great War

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Our July/August 2017 issue has a short piece on the Penn State All-Sports Museum’s current exhibit on university athletes who fought in World War I. “Field to Front: Nittany Lions at War, 1917–1919” is a fascinating exhibit of mementos, photos, letters, cards, pins, flags, and other assorted memorabilia from the approximately 210 students who served in the Great War. Of those 210 young men, roughly 75 to 80 were sent overseas, and eight died.

The project was spearheaded by museum director Ken Hickman ’98, who spent the last year and a half researching and collecting the pieces for the exhibit, located in the temporary exhibition space. Hickman’s research process started with a book, Penn State in the World War, which was compiled after the conflict.

The book’s authors surveyed alumni and faculty in the years after the war to put together a collection of bios on all Penn Staters who served. For this project, Hickman and a small staff compiled a list of athletes and proceeded to work backward, tracing their genealogy forward to current living relatives. It was then a process of sending out surveys, contacting people, and trying to flesh out what information they could and couldn’t trust.

The result? “We did much better than I expected,” says Hickman. (more…)

July 12, 2017 at 10:59 am Leave a comment

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