The last time we saw this team, they were unjustly heartbroken out in Arizona. Flash forward through one of the most interesting offseasons in this program that I can remember and here we are. Today finally marks the start of the basketball season as official practices get underway. Many schools with a fan base celebrate the occasion with some version of Midnight Madness, a recruiting extravaganza and celebration for fans that's complete with team introductions, dunk contests, and free giveaways.
Penn State has always been at a disadvantage because any preseason events like this in the past at PSU have been sparsely attended. However, after a year's worth of planning from the marketing staff and the arrival of a new coach that gets everyone fired up, hopefully Penn State's Hoop Madness on November 2nd at Rec Hall will be a different case. As a side note, big kudos to the men and women for finally joining forces. The ghost of Rene might finally be gone.
Anyway, for a while now many have written this season off. We all dreaded the day when Talor Battle would no longer be around. That day has come, so now nobody thinks this team is worth anything. While I'm not afraid to admit this team is going to struggle quite a bit, there are still plenty of reasons to take interest in the team this season.
Yes, we all know Chambers is the new coach and have heard all the reasons why he'll be successful. But enough of the talk and the stories. All of us will finally see a coach on the bench that's outside the 'Penn State coaching tree'. Bruce Parkhill and his proteges have run this program for nearly 30 years, Parkhill more successfully than the others, but it's been a long time coming for some new blood in this program. There is guaranteed to be change in the way Penn State plays basketball, and the consensus says the change is for the better. Even if it's not, at least it's unpredictable.
Signs Of Life On The Bench
Does anyone see Chambers taking crap from Ed Hightower, Tim Higgins, or Teddy Valentine this winter? I'm very excited to see how Chambers handles himself court-side during the games. I have a sneaking suspicion that Chambers will be one of the rare coaches who has that intense demeanor but can keep his composure in crucial situations. I haven't seen much footage of him on the bench at BU, but he's sure to be an upgrade from the constant blinking and aimless foot stomping from you-know-who. I'd expect Chambers to draw a few technicals that will energize everyone in the BJC.
Tim Frazier And Trey Lewis As A Duo
The last time we saw Tim, he was really growing into his own towards the end of the year. Everyone remembers when he torched Michigan State in the conference tournament on a bum ankle (22 pts, 8 rbs, 5 ast). I'm curious to see where Tim's game is going to be at when the team hits the floor next month. In Chambers' (or should I say Villanova's) offense, point guards need to have the ability/confidence to score. We all know his superb passing skills, but how has his individual offense game improved? He's definitely going to command more attention from opposing defenses.
Joining him in the backcourt this season will be true freshman Trey Lewis. DeChellis deserves some credit for this. Over the last 3 years, he's recruited and/or developed some exciting backcourt duos in Talor & Stanley, Talor & Tim, and now Tim & Trey. Bringing Lewis on board has let me forget all about Trey Burke's switch to Michigan. However, it's important to remember that Lewis is still a freshman. Even Talor Battle had his freshman moments, like his 6-32, 1-20 from behind-the-arc performance in the Old Spice Classic in November 2007. But for now, we'll let the highlight tape showcase Trey's potential:
The redshirt freshman from Baltimore has been a guy I have wanted to see play for a while now. He was a rather unheralded spring signing in 2010, brought in to fill the void left from transfers. Unfortunately, he was recognized more as his father's son than for his own game at the time. His father, Ernie Graham, was a Maryland legend back in the late 70s. Jon came to PSU at a scrawny 215 lbs with growing pains in his knees. The growing pains apparently continued at the start of his PSU career, so he was redshirted last season because he couldn't handle the workload from a full season.
However, the word from practices last season claimed that he was a beast. Coach DeChellis raved about him in this article last March, calling him a potential all-conference player in the future. He has physically developed through the strength program and sounds ready to be a player this winter. I can't wait to see what the hype is all about.
Lastly, since nobody reads the fanshots, be sure to check out my interview with UMHoops about the team.