It's hard to believe that a new basketball season is almost here.
It seems like just a few days ago that Micah Shrewsberry was being unveiled as Penn State's next head coach. Now, the Nittany Lions have opened fall practice, building toward the season opener against Youngstown State on Nov. 10, which is now just over a month away.
The game against the Penguins will be another milestone in a new era for the hoops program under Shrewsberry.
Shrewsberry met with the Penn State beat for his first in-person media availability (his introductory press conference back in March aside) as the Nittany Lion coach. He discussed the start of practice, the importance of his veteran players for this season, and a lot more.
Here are five takeaways from the press conference and the open practice session that followed.
Myles Dread Out With An Injury
As part of Shrewsberry's opening statement ahead of Tuesday's practice, he noted that senior guard Myles Dread would not be participating in the session because of a minor injury.
While his teammates worked through various drills to open up the practice, Dread was doing some light work with Athletic Trainer Justin Pomar and riding the stationary bike just off of the floor of the BJC.
"It’s a small injury, nothing serious," Shrewsberry said. "Day-to-day. It’s still early and we have a month until we play. So, it’s better to be safe now and get him to when we need him to be 100 percent healthy, and that’s November 10th.”
There are a lot of new faces for Penn State this season. Eight of them to be exact – five transfers and three walk-ons.
There is no doubt an adjustment period for players and coaches alike when you add them all together for the first time.
Still, Shrewsberry is happy with the progress his team has made in adjusting to the coaching staff's offensive and defensive schemes, and with learning how to play together for the first time.
“We've gotten in a lot of different things for our system, which was the goal for the summer and the fall," Shrewsberry said. "I feel like we’re on track with where we need to be defensively and offensively as we head toward the season. We still have 36, 37 days until we have to play a game. I feel good about where we are schematically, but we’re still working at it. It takes time to learn the schemes and for those guys all to know each other.”
Pickett, Lee Impress
Following our time talking to the head coach, we got to watch an hour or so of Penn State's practice.
While it's obviously way too soon to make any judgments about the Nittany Lions' newcomers, a few players stood out as the team went through different drills.
Transfers Jalen Pickett and Greg Lee both look like they're already capable of playing in the Big Ten from a physical standpoint. As much of a cliché as it is, both definitely look the part of Big Ten players.
Lee moves around the court really well for someone his size and knocked down a couple of jumpers from around the free-throw line with a teammate's hand in his face.
Pickett's passing also stood out, which is something that Shrewsberry highlighted in his presser.
"Jalen is so versatile as a player. We’ll use him in a lot of different ways," he said. "He can really pass the ball. His vision as a playmaker was something that stood out to me when I was trying to recruit him. The assist numbers that he had throughout his career so far [were impressive]."
The Nittany Lions have seven seniors on their roster, something that is pretty rare in this college basketball. Junior Seth Lundy has also played a ton of basketball for Penn State the past two seasons as well.
Shrewsberry likes the fact he's got a good set of veterans who have experienced Big Ten basketball before and has been impressed with how hard the incoming players have pushed the incumbents.
“We’ve done a lot of things this summer and fall, a lot in the weight room and with conditioning. Those new guys are leading the charge as well," Shrewsberry said. "For as great as a competitor as John Harrar is and how hard he works, Greg Lee is working right there with him. Seth Lundy has had a great offseason and has pushed himself to the max to really be a good player. To have guys like that leading the charge, whether they’re old guys or new guys, they’re coming together and pushing each other well."
Slogans and catchphrases have been a big part of Penn State basketball in recent seasons under Pat Chambers. "Climb With Us" and "Attitude" became staples of press marketing materials or in social media messages from the team.
Don't expect much of that under Shrewsberry, though.
“You have to try and take the things that directly lead to winning. That’s been the most important thing on my mind from the day that I got here. What directly leads to winning and let’s focus on that first," Shrewsberry said.
"I’m not a huge slogans guy. I’m not a huge guy about visuals and graphics and things like that. It’s not important to me. It doesn’t help you win all the time. Some people have had success with it, I’m not knocking any of it, but for me and my program, I have to find out what it is that makes us work. Find what championship basketball is all about, and then mix that in with the players that we have here.”