With Penn State's basketball media day about two weeks away, Pat Chambers opened up the doors yesterday to give fans a chance to see what this whole attitude era is all about. About 300 or so season ticket holders made their way to the BJC to see one of the more intense practices to have taken place on the BJC floor. Here are some observations from that open practice.
My captain, my captain: Following the NIT run a few years ago, the biggest issue that the team had the following season was replacing Jamelle Cornely's leadership. This year Penn State will have to reload again after losing a core of players who have been around for seemingly forever. Between Cam Woodyard, Billy Oliver, and Tim Frazier all being named captains the leadership is there in theory. From the practice however this is clearly Frazier's team. Woodyard sat out due to recent surgery and Billy Oliver has enough of his own demons to fight that it really seems to be on Frazier's shoulders to guide the team.
On his own, Frazier looks more confident with his shot and is as crafty around the basket as he has ever been. It shouldn't be a stretch at all to expect him to average double figures, which quite frankly is the only way Penn State will have a chance.
We talking bout practice: Penn State may not win many games this season, but assuming that they can make it through their own preseason, they should be in good enough shape to keep up with anyone. Running and hustling on the floor was the focus of the day, but by all accounts that isn't going to change any time soon. Chambers spent a lot of time stressing the importance of getting back on defense and running the offense quickly. If Penn State is going to run a 4 guard offense, which they seem intent on doing, athleticism and quickness will be key.
Well hello:To Ed DeChellis' credit, he put together a pretty solid class of recruits before heading to Navy and the talent the freshman class has was fairly evident. Trey Lewis looks physically like he has been playing college hoops for a few years and has a swagger about him that was fairly obvious from several feet away. For better or worse Lewis was one of the more vocal leaders on the floor but considering his status as Mr Ohio Basketball runner-up (to former Penn State commit Trey Burke), it isn't a surprise that he is continuing his leadership role. From a basketball standpoint Lewis has a pretty nice looking midrange game and made some impressive passes around the basket. Lewis also knocked down a few deep threes which made the crowd nod in approval as though if they squinted Talor Battle would still be on the floor.
Ross Travis was also impressive making several nice plays from almost every part of the floor. In a lot of ways Travis is a more consistent version of the young Jeff Brooks. A long body but control around the hoop and plenty of athleticism to match. Between Travis and Lewis Penn State very well could be looking at Big Ten freshman of the year contenders. I might change my mind whenever I find out which man-child Ohio State has brought in this year though.
Junior college transfer Matt Glover also had a solid day but mostly on the defensive end where he made a few nice stops and was pretty good at staying with his man. In the 4 guard offense, Chambers is going to need a few players that specialize on taking on whoever they're facing regardless of their size. Glover seems to be the guy Penn State can count on to take his man out of the equation.
I like it when you call me Big Papa: Somewhat as expected this is an area of weakness for Penn State. Peter Alexis has the biggest frame on the team and looked pretty solid around the rim but the ball never really got to him in the post. Pat Ackerman looked bigger than I expected but also saw limited time down low. At this point it seems reasonable to expect Jon Graham to start in that role, but if Alexis can get his feet under him he might see more time than I had previously expected. Sasa also got a good amount of work down low but seems to be inconsistent with his assignments and shooting. If Chambers doesn't see Penn State running offense through any of their big guys then that might not be a problem.
- Ross Travis doesn't have to try hard: He almost beat Tim Frazier in wind sprints without really looking like he was trying hard. It isn't a knock on his effort, but it looked like he was practicing at 80% and still keeping up with everyone.
- No Center? It doesn't mean much, but the roster handed out yesterday doesn't include any players listed as a Center.
- That's my D.J: Southern Miss transfer DJ Newbill is out for 3-4 weeks with a shoulder injury. He can't play this season due to transfer rules but it'd be nice to get him in practice. He looks in shape though so that's a good sign.
- No "I" in Team:It's early in the year, but every time a loose ball came out on a play there would be 5 or 6 players diving on the floor, in a few cases head first into the stands to get it. If somebody was knocked down after a play, everyone would come and help him up. Penn State is in for a long season, but if they're in it together it might not be such a bad trip.