The calendar has finally hit autumn. Obviously football is fully-engaged on the networks, but fall also signals the start of production for the cagers on the hardwood. Season 3 of the underrated series, #ATTITUDE, is expected to draw its biggest ratings yet with a promising cast of new characters. Official practice starts tomorrow for the Lions while today is the start for many other colleges, so here's a behind-the-scenes look at what has transpired the last six months to set the stage for Pat Chambers' biggest season yet.
At the end of last season, questions abound regarding the roster's scholarship situation and the oversigning of 2 players. Little did we know the massive overhaul that was ready to unfold last spring.
It was expected Sasa Borovnjak would forgo his last year of eligibility and return to his native continent after obtaining his college degree. Despite everyone's best efforts, Sasa did indeed leave State College and signed on with a professional team in Greece. His departure from the team is easily the most devastating when you consider how well the skilled big man played down the stretch last season and how little frontcourt depth exists on this year's roster.
Two underclassmen, Patrick Ackerman and Akosa Maduegbunam, also transferred out of the program, freeing two more scholarships. Ackerman had a forgettable two years in Happy Valley that included a stint in Pat Chambers' dog house last season. Akosa's departure was a bit more surprising considering he was Chambers' first recruit to the program when he took over in June of 2011. Ackerman has since landed at the University of Detroit, while Maduegbunam is continuing his career at LIU-Post, a Division II school.
The departures didn't end there, however. Towards the beginning of summer, both Jermaine Marshall and Jon Graham, holdovers from the DeChellis era, also decided to end their careers in Happy Valley. Marshall was the biggest surprise considering he was the Big Ten conference's second returning scorer behind DJ Newbill. Marshall went from heading overseas to support his family to taking advantage of the graduate-transfer 'rule' and will spend his final year of eligibility as an Arizona State Sun Devil. Graham, who had a very disappointing RS sophomore year, has moved to his father's old stomping grounds at the University of Maryland.
Throw in Nick Colella's graduation and six members of the '12-'13 team will not be wearing the blue and white this year. From a paper perspective, losing 50.6% of minutes, 47.3% of points, 59% of 3PM, 39.4% of rebounds, and 44.5% of assists from a team that finished just 2-16 in conference play doesn't instill confidence for a jump up the standings. Don't expect to see PSU picked better than 10th in the Big Ten any preseason mags. So where's the optimism coming from?
Tim Frazier is back for what will be his fifth year in the program after missing most of the 2013 season with his torn achilles suffered in Puerto Rico. He finished his rehabilitation two months ago in July and has already got some game action in on the foreign tour. With four full months on a healthy achilles to prepare for the season, the early indications suggest Frazier is well on his way to returning to his all-B1G form.
Entering the program this year are four key freshmen that arrived on campus earlier this summer. The staff's first real recruiting class consists of a quartet of 3-star recruits in Geno Thorpe, Graham Woodward, Payton Banks and Julian Moore. They are walking into a pretty good situation; they all will have the chance to contribute but none will be heavily relied upon barring injuries. Their presence also fills out the bottom of the roster, improves the talent on scout team and raises the intensity of practices.
The staff also dipped back into the ever-growing transfer pool to fill some of the vacated spots. Pittsburgh transfer John Johnson will be eligible to finally join the PSU backcourt on December 22nd after sitting out his academic year in residence. The staff also added two more players over the offseason in guard Allen Roberts and center Jordan Dickerson. Roberts, who is eligible immediately as a graduate-transfer, essentially fills Jermaine Marshall's void on the perimeter, while Dickerson, who is coming from SMU, is a raw 7-footer that will be expected to develop in the years to come after having to sit out this season.
After two hectic offseasons, Pat Chambers has constructed what could be considered 'his' roster.
|1||Cammeron Woodyard - Sr||Tim Frazier - RS Sr|
|2||Nick Colella - Jr*||Nick Colella - Sr*||Allen Roberts - RS Sr|
|3||Tim Frazier - Jr||Sasa Borovnjak - RS Jr||Alan Wisniewski - Sr*|
|4||Sasa Borovnjak - RS So||Jermaine Marshall - RS Jr||D.J. Newbill - RS Jr|
|5||Billy Oliver - RS So||D.J. Newbill - RS So||Ross Travis - Jr|
|6||Jermaine Marshall - RS So||Jon Graham - RS So||John Johnson - Jr|
|7||Matt Glover - So||Pat Ackerman - So||Brandon Taylor - So|
|8||Ross Travis - So||Donovon Jack - So|
|9||Jon Graham - RS Fr|
|10||Peter Alexis - Fr||Akosa Maduegbunam - Fr||Geno Thorpe - Fr|
|11||Trey Lewis - Fr||Brandon Taylor - Fr||Julian Moore - Fr|
|12||Pat Ackerman - Fr||Donovon Jack - Fr||Payton Banks - Fr|
|13||Ross Travis - Fr||Graham Woodward - Fr|
Recruited by Ed DeChellis
Recruited by Pat Chambers
*Walk-on who earned unfilled scholarship
The New Coaches
Not only did some players leave State College this offseason, but so did a few coaches. The biggest loss was associate head coach Eugene Burroughs, who departed for an assistant position at Marist University under Jeff Bower. The move was considered to be for personal reasons rather than career advancement. His duties were split up among current assistants Keith Urgo and Brian Daly, who now hold co-associate head coach titles. The vacant assistant position was filled by former Villanova basketball player Dwayne Anderson, who had just finished his playing career in Europe.
Adam Fisher left his position as director of player development to take a promotion as the DOBO with the University of Miami. His position was filled by Ryan Devlin, the former Waynesboro High standout, who brings valuable connections in the JuCo community. You also will see a familiar face on the bench this season as former Nittany Lion Andrew Jones returns to State College as a graduate assistant. Lastly, Brad Pantall is no longer overseeing the men's basketball conditioning program as they promoted in-house assistant Brandon Spayd to assume those duties.
We've already covered the two transfers that committed to the program over the summer, but the staff also kept working on building for the future. The summer recruiting periods are always the most crucial aspect of the offseason and PSU didn't disappoint. The program secured two verbal commitments from promising Philadelphia products - 2014 guard Shep Garner and 2015 forward Michael Watkins.
Garner was a kid the staff had near the top of their list since coming to campus. Their efforts paid off when the 3-star guard chose PSU over numerous high majors and city schools back in June. Watkins actually beat Garner to the punch, verballing just a few days prior. The raw prospect was yet to be a household name on the recruiting scene, but was receiving interest from all the big city schools. They are the 5th and 6th Philadelphia-area products the new staff has lured to Penn State.
There's still one 2014 scholarship available and two more open for the 2015 class. There will be more to come on the #DoWorkPat efforts.
The Foreign Trip
The highlight of the offseason was Penn State's mid-August trip to Europe. They were due to utilize the NCAA's foreign tour rule that allows basketball programs to visit the world for 3-4 exhibition games every four years. Another caveat of the trip was the allowance of ten live practices in preparation. This was an invaluable opportunity to give Tim Frazier some live action against other competition, while the freshmen were able to get a early start on acclimating themselves into the program.
Unfortunately John Johnson and Jordan Dickerson were ineligible to participate, but the rest of the team was able to go and spend the whole week together in Europe. For the full recap, check out Chad's rundown from last month.
The last big announcement of the summer was the unveiling of the 2013-2014 schedule. The non-conference slate features plenty of Pennsylvania opponents with road trips to Pittsburgh (Duquesne/Pitt) and Philadelphia (UPenn). The Lions were paired with UPitt for the first meeting in 7 years in the B1G-ACC Challenge, while they also locked down a spot in the Barclays Center Classic where they will face off against St. John's and either Georgia Tech/Ole Miss.
The conference schedule features a favorable new set of one-plays for the Nittany Lions. Penn State will only see Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Northwestern once this upcoming season. Considering the talent Michigan and Iowa brings back and there's no impending trip to the Kohl Center on the slate, PSU won out on this draw in the rugged Big Ten.