Penn State Men’s Basketball Head Coach Patrick Chambers spoke to the media Thursday as part of the team’s annual Media Day and discussed the team’s offseason progress and his expectations going into the season.
Chambers’ team finished last season with 15 wins and 18 losses, with only six wins in conference play. Defense and rebounding have been two of the cornerstones of the program during his time in Happy Valley, but the seventh-year head coach didn't see that in the 2016-17 season.
“You know we gave up 72 plus points and in rebounding, we were one of the worst in the Big Ten. I can’t be more direct than that," he said.
Throughout the season, the team struggled with consistency and mettle in the final minutes of games, losing six contests decided by less than three points or that went to overtime. That consistency is something that Chambers said the team has worked on this offseason - trying to correct the little mistakes that plagued the team last year.
“If you can really bear down, and get some stops, I think a lot of those close games turn to [wins].“
This year’s offseason was successful for the team, as most of the players committed to spending both summer sessions in State College. The team is also returning all five starters - Tony Carr, Shep Garner, Josh Reaves, Lamar Stevens, and Mike Watkins - from last year.
“Obviously, having your starting five back is something we’re not used to,” said Chambers. “There’s a lot of excitement around here.”
Chambers noted that although last year's starting five have all returned, their continued status as starters is not guaranteed.
"We’re still having healthy competition," he said. “We have to put the best five guys out on the floor, and sometimes it might not be the most talented five guys. Maybe it’s chemistry, maybe who defends better, who plays better together."
With the return of over 80 percent of their possession minutes - plus three new freshmen and Virginia Tech transfer Satchel Pierce - the Nittany Lions have been able to develop a close bond over the summer and into fall practice.
“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, powerful, and I’m noticing that through the preseason and now at practice,” Chambers said.
One topic that continues to hang over the team is the expectation of postseason play. The 2017-2018 season is one of importance for the program and Chambers, as well as athletic director Sandy Barbour. When asked about postseason expectations, Chambers instead focused on the now.
“We’re staying present, we’re staying here and now. I can’t focus about what’s going to happen in March,” he said. “All I can worry about is today, and how we get this team better today.”
Chambers also praised sophomore guard Nazeer Bostick, calling him “one of those guys that may have a breakthough year for us.” In addition, he compared freshman guard Jamari Wheeler’s speed to that of former Penn State guard and current Washington Wizard Tim Frazier.
“His speed is going to give a whole 'nother pace to the game, which I think fans should be so excited about,” he said.
With a few weeks left until season play, Chambers is excited about what the year will bring for the Nittany Lions.
"We’re going to keep climbing and I hope you all climb with us,” he said.