Before the DC caravan main event but after the media event with the other coaches, I was able to get a one-on-one with Coach Chambers, who didn't disappoint. He was as passionate and fiery as ever, and we at BSD thank him (and Brian "Stretch" Siegrist) for making this happen.
BSD: How hard is it to maintain momentum on the recruiting trail after a, kinda, down year for you guys?
I think a lot of people watched us in February and March, and even though we didn’t have a great record, I truly believe they saw something coming together. The way we finished the season, Michigan, which obviously was huge and we’re hanging our hat on right now, I’m looking forward to moving on from that. But beating Northwestern on the road, on their senior night was huge, and then playing Wisconsin—they hit a buzzer beater on us, it’s like, you’re playing top 25 teams, you’re competing. You’re coming really close. And I think the people on the outside who know basketball KNOW [emphasis added] we’re really close.
How sweet would it have been to beat Wisconsin in overtime, like hockey and football did to close their seasons?
All I wanted to do was to go into overtime. That’s all I wanted, and you know, I kick myself every time I think about that game and as a coach, you know, you second guess yourself—what we could have done differently, and, you know, I stuck with what we normally do and he just hit a very difficult shot.
Yeah, I mean it sucked but it was a beautiful shot…Is there still a lot of buzz around the program when you go out on the road recruiting?
The buzz is still good, people are fired up, people are excited. Again, the way we finished, I think people are coming, even the coaches in the league—these coaches are great. I’ve gotten text messages, you know, at the end of the season, you know, what a great job we did, the kids are so resilient, so we gotta carry that buzz. And everyone just saw, Tim Frazier’s coming back for a fifth year and then everybody’s been saying, like, Penn State’s on the rise. Quietly Penn State’s improving. You better look out for Penn State. You know, people send me these articles, and I’m like, you’re really encouraged. Now, however, we have to stay healthy. We’re not Ohio State, Michigan State and Michigan where they can play one through ten. We’re pretty good one through seven, you know, but if anyone gets hurt in the top five, it really hurts us. Whereas, the other teams, it doesn’t hurt as much.
Although I think next year, and I’m sure you’ll agree, next year will hurt you less than it did this past year.
No question. Now, you’ve got Frazier back. John Johnson’s not playing til December, so…
Speaking of Johnson, how’s his appeal going?
We’re working on that right now. As of right now, he has a year and a half, the appeal process we’re working on, so as soon as I find out if we can get him that extra year we would want to do that.
Obviously, yeah. Now, I know you guys were talking about a foreign tour. Have the plans for that been finalized? And, if so, do you think Frazier would be able to join you guys?
Yes. Tim Frazier is on track. We’re being cautious with his rehabilitation, so by July, middle of July, he’ll be in full contact. And then, he’s definitely going to come with us in August. Now, it hasn’t been inked; like, I’ve signed a few documents to say "let’s go", there’s a couple little things that they have to clean up on their end for us to say "we’re definitely going on the foreign tour". 99 percent done, though.
That should be sweet. I was talking to Coach Washington, and she said what a team builder it was.
Yeah, I think it’s going to be great. And think about it, we’re going to have four freshmen—Tim Frazier gets to get back out there and compete. Now, I’m not going to play him forty minutes like I did his junior year, but we’ll play him like ten, fifteen minutes, just to get him loose, just to get him used to it. But, it’s not about, I mean, of course I want to win, but I want to get the freshmen out there, I want to see what they can do and it’ll be great for us.
Sasa’s production in the last month of the season, that kind of really fueled your guys’ offense, and part of that really motivating last month that you were talking about. Do you think you’ll be able to get similar production from someone else at the five spot? And, if so, who?
Yeah, and I’m gonna add to that; I’m gonna add Ross Travis to that, because I think Ross was a double-double machine coming down the stretch and he really became a reliable scorer… he really came on strong, had ten points, had a double-double one game. He really played strong, because you really had to worry about everybody on the floor, not just a few guys. You know, I think Jon Graham, I think Brandon Taylor, I think Donovon Jack, who joined more; guys like that, we’re gonna play that five spot as a committee, and if we have to play small, we’ll play small. If we have to play Brandon Taylor at the five, we’ll play him at the five. We’ll play Donovon at the five. We’ve got to put the best players out there to be most successful.
Absolutely. Now, your team has struggled a little bit in the last two years in shooting threes. What do you think that you need to do improve on that? And, do you expect a marked improvement next year?
I do. I expect a huge improvement next year with Tim Frazier being back, and more options on the floor. I think that we take difficult threes. Not that we’re a poor shooting a three point team, I think, you know, we really focused on DJ [Newbill] and Jermaine [Marshall] for most of the year. And next thing you know, Sasa opens things up for you, and now Jermaine’s getting open shots! And Nick [Colella] got open shots! So, if you look, the last six games, Nick and Jermaine shot great threes. And DJ shot a good clip at three the last six or seven games, so I really believe that having that big man that can really open things up for you, kinda like Michigan did with Mitch McGary playing so well (that’s why they really made a deep run into the tournament), we’re going to need that.
In light of Frazier’s injury last year, that kind of derailed the progress that you were making. With him back next year, do you think you’re on track to make the kind of improvements that you want to make and put the program where you want to put the program?
I think with the growth of DJ and Ross and the younger guys, we’re older now. We’re a little bit wiser. We’ve been through the league, and we’ve been through the gauntlet for two years. And with a healthy Tim Frazier, I expect us to make a little bit of a jump. Not that anybody—I mean, everybody’s like "oh, oh, Minnesota’s going to be down, Illinois is going to be down"—nobody’s going to be down. You’ve got to go out and compete, you’ve got to battle, and it’s going to be, who’s going to win the most games on the road? And we’ve got to take care of home.
There are a lot of good Philly guys that are looking to transfer to different programs this year. Last I checked, I think you had one scholarship open. Are you looking to fill that with a transfer? Are you going to look to wait, and whatever happens, happens?
We’re looking at every option. We’re looking at bigs, we’re looking at guards, we’re looking at the best guy out there that can help us. If not this year, then next year. We’re looking at fifth years, we’re looking at JuCos, we’re looking to bolster that roster. I want a deep bench. I want options. I want to look down my bench and go, Wow! I’ve got so many options! Which is unusual for me, because the last two years, I didn’t have that luxury. We had injuries, we had guys come in not ready to play. So, we’re out there, we’re looking. There’s a lot of Philly guys transferring, we’re looking at them to. We’ve gotten a lot of calls, fielded a lot of calls. So we’ll see what happens.
Thanks again to Coach Chambers for the interview. Now, onto some tweets from the actual Caravan event, for those of you not on twitter:
Chambers says the only reason he's up there with these coaches of the year is because he's PRESEASON 2014 coty #psucaravan— BSD (@BSDtweet) May 2, 2013
Chambers says they got out of a ticket on the bus today because he told the cop he was Coach Sanderson. #psucaravan— BSD (@BSDtweet) May 2, 2013
...and then: "No, I haven't been drinking...I wish." #psucaravan— BSD (@BSDtweet) May 2, 2013
Here he goes, firing up the crowd. "The NCAA did something right; they gave Tim Frazier his extra year." #psucaravan— BSD (@BSDtweet) May 2, 2013
Chambers says they're gonna play a way called Nascar. "Have you heard of that?" #psucaravan— BSD (@BSDtweet) May 2, 2013
Question about what he coaches havr learned from losses; Chambers says he knows the most about that on the panel, so he'll start #psucaravan— BSD (@BSDtweet) May 2, 2013