Penn State basketball preview: New approach for Chambers
Patrick Chambers is doing yoga with his staff this season. He’s softened his Twitter policy for players. Those same players like to cite that Chambers is “giving them rope.”
As a coach entering his fourth season at a school, if Chambers is feeling any pressure to deliver results, he doesn’t seem to be showing it. Buoyed by a mix of an improved win total last season, a veteran roster and some head-turning recruiting successes, the intense Chambers is showing a softer, gentler side.
“There’s no doubt: I’m demanding, I’m intense,” Chambers said during the Nittany Lions’ media day last month. “But also, you pick and choose your spots.
“After three years of incredible experience, it’s an old cliché, there’s a lot to be learned from failure. I’ve learned so much over these last three years, going into year four. It’s been invaluable to learn on the job this way. The approach with the players has changed.”
Make no mistake: Chambers insists he’s “still going to be demanding.” But with nine of the 14 players on his roster either juniors or seniors, he’s recognized that his roster has earned his trust.
“When he says ‘giving us rope,’ I think he means the bond is different,” said Geno Thorpe, a sophomore guard from Shaler who appeared in 32 games (three starts) last season.
“The bond between the coaches and players is a lot stronger than last year. It’s better because everybody coming back knows what is expected of them.”
Though the loss of third-team all-Big Ten point guard Tim Frazier to graduation stings, the Nittany Lions return four regular starters and seven players who started at least one game from last season’s team that won six of its final 12 conference games.
Half of Penn State’s losses last season were by five points or fewer, leading to optimism that a now more-experienced team can pull more games out in the waning minutes.
“We’re a little bit older, a little bit wiser and hopefully we’ve learned from past experiences,” Chambers said. “As a coach, that’s what you’re banking on.”
After finishing second in the Big Ten in scoring last season, senior D.J. Newbill is projected to begin the season at point guard, though if one or both of newcomers Devin Foster and Shep Garner emerge, that would free Newbill up to play his more natural 2-guard position.
In lieu of that, two players with Pittsburgh ties could vie for the top shooting guard spot: Thorpe and Pitt transfer John Johnson.
The frontcourt has experience in 6-7 senior Ross Travis, 6-9 junior Donovon Jack and 6-6 junior Brandon Taylor — all of whom started last season. At 7-foot-1, Jordan Dickerson is an x-factor in the paint.
With no players remaining who played for Ed DeChellis, there’s no mistaking this is Chambers’ team. With two consensus four-star recruits verbally committed for next season, his teams, in theory, figure to continue to improve.
“It could be a really incredible week for us that week,” Chambers said of the early signing period Nov. 12 to 19.
All part of the gradual ascension of the program that Chambers vows to continue to deliver.
“It’s been a process, there’s no question,” Chambers said. “We’re headed in the right direction.
“The process has been long, it’s been windy, it’s been difficult, but you have to cherish it sometimes, because you’re really building something special, building something from the ground up. For me, I would like to see us take that next step this year.”