The Future of Penn State Basketball

posted February 3, 2012 in Sports, CommRadio by Matt Lawrence

With year one of the “Pat Chambers Era” quickly coming to an end, the framework has been set for the future of Penn State basketball. Despite a likely last-place Big Ten finish, Coach Chambers has instilled a new culture to a program that has been irrelevant for decades. Here we will look at a few of the changes Chambers has brought, as well as what to expect in the seasons to come.

Realistically, not much could have been expected in Chambers’ first season. After making the NCAA tournament in 2011 under Ed DeChellis, Penn State lost over 80 percent of its scoring as well as All-Big Ten guard Taylor Battle, arguably the greatest player in the program’s history.

With Chambers attempting to install a new system while breaking in four new starters, the season has played out just about how any realistic person could have expected. In a home loss to Indiana, where Penn State put up 82 points, they looked like a tournament caliber team that could compete with almost anyone in the country. That same team traveled to St. Joseph’s, where it took almost 13 minutes for Penn State to get on the scoreboard. But through the up-and-down season, the future of Penn State basketball is being planted.

As a Philadelphia native, Chambers began his coaching career under the tutelage of Villanova head coach Jay Wright. Wright’s staple at Villanova is having guard oriented basketball teams. Chambers was an assistant at the time when the Wildcats routinely played a lineup consisting of four guards. It is now evident that this is the direction that Chambers hopes to take the Penn State program.

Without the presence of a true inside scorer, the Lions have spent much of this season playing with four guards. Nearly 75 percent of the scoring has come from the guard position led by Tim Frazier and Jermaine Marshall. Chambers has publicly expressed his appreciation for Frazier numerous times and he fits perfectly in the up tempo type of style Chambers hopes to play.

The great Villanova teams of the past were predicated on having quick guards that were capable of getting to the bucket as well as shooting the three ball. This is where Chambers lacks the necessary personnel to run this type of system.

Frazier and Marshall are capable of creating their own shot, but at this time, they do not pose a real threat from the outside. Cam Woodyard and Billy Oliver are the team’s lone three point threats, but even they are inconsistent at best and possess no ability to make plays off the dribble.

In order to implement this type of offense, Chambers must begin to recruit the type of players that fit in his system. Unlike other sports, in basketball a coach can turn a program around simply by recruiting superior athletes. Penn State is located in a recruiting hotbed with Philadelphia, New York City, and the Baltimore/Washington DC area all within three hours of State College. Penn State has not been able to take advantage of these opportunities and with Chambers at the helm, they finally have a head coach with legitimate connections to the Philly area.

Chambers has already brought in former Philadelphia standout D.J. Newbill, a transfer from Southern Mississippi. Newbill was a former Pennsylvania Class AA Player of the Year and will have three years of eligibility remaining beginning next season. Newbill is an athletic guard who also offers a scoring threat from the outside.

In order for Chambers to be successful, he will need to bring in top-level talent to a program that has no history or prestige. It is a difficult task, but Chambers has the charisma and drive to do just that. On the court, Chambers has gotten his players to compete and play as hard as any team in the country, and off the court, he and the staff are working harder than any staff in Penn State history to bring a relevant basketball program to Happy Valley.

 

Matt Lawrence is a freshman majoring in Broadcast Journalism. To contact him, email mdl5249@psu.edu.