I should preface this by stating that my fandom of Pat Chambers started during his tenure at Boston University, while I was a student there. Meeting him in person I couldn’t help but comment on this connection, and thank him for bringing the Terriers to the NCAA’s a few years back. Chambers used this as an opportunity to talk about his experience with legendary hockey coach, Jack Parker, one of three coaches to surpass 800 wins in collegiate hockey.
Parker helped mentor Chambers during his time at BU. “I tapped into Jack as often as I could to get advice, help me navigate dealing with players, with the league, with Boston U.” Coming to a football school in Penn State, Pat said it was helpful to start out at a hockey school like Boston. “I don’t even think that’s a negative anymore, people used to ask me, ‘Why would you go to a football school?’ Because the resources are off the charts. I think that BU set the table for me to become the coach that I am.”
With 4 players graduating and signing contracts to play overseas, Pat touched on the process he goes through with players who are leaving. “After the season we all have individual meetings. We sit down, and I am there as a resource. How can I help you? What would you like to do? We’ll bring them in, we’ll interview and talk. You just want to help your guy go through the next chapter of their life.”
“First of all, the expectations, I welcome them. It’s been a long five and half years, so it’s nice to have some expectations. We’re going to embrace those expectations and be fearless in our approach. But for me, inside the locker room and gym, it’s about getting better and developing habits. We have healthy competition, I have not put out a starting team yet, so the guys are really going after it.”
I couldn’t help but ask Chambers about the upcoming match-up with Duke. Pat admitted that when he signed up for it a year ago he was looking forward to it, but now he’s focused on Lock Haven and Albany to avoid having one of those teams trip Penn State up.
With the absence of seniors on the roster, Chambers isn’t too worried about leadership on the team. Brandon Taylor’s legacy will still be felt on this team, as he passed down a lot of characteristics and traits to Garner, Banks, and co. that will help them moving forward. If Shep can play alI season like he finished the final 8 games last year, Pat views him a First or Second All B1G team player.
I asked what the biggest difference might be with the team this year, and Pat quickly responded with, “Speed. We finally have the speed, athleticism, and shot-blockers. It’s just exciting to see it all come together.”
Rising Junior Payton Banks is expected to fill a leadership role on this team, and has helped the incoming freshmen with hurdles they face the transition to college hoops. “Speed of the game, being coachable, a lot of the defensive principles were different than I had in high school. Getting that mentality, going hard in every drill. They’re an extremely mature group, and they’ve picked that up very quickly. They’re ready to go.”
With the incoming freshman, Banks is trying to help them limit distractions, and keep focused on the team. When they go out, they go out as a team. “As it gets closer to the season we’ll start limiting that. Me and Shep, and the leadership council that we have, we’ll start taking the initiative to go to movies and try and stay out of the limelight when the season starts.
Coming into Penn State with chemistry already, Banks has noticed that the Roman Catholic trio are very mature and help to keep each other on track - which makes things easier on him. The chemistry they have is visible on the court, and Payton has paid attention to their relationship on the court to help him improve his own ability to connect with teammates.
This offseason, Payton has changed his free-throw routine, as he noticed he was taking too long at the line last year. “The longer I took to do my routine, the more I was thinking about it. So I’ve turned it into a quick one-bounce shot. Shoot it, make the shot, get back on defense.” His movement is a lot more simple this year, and he’s trying to clear his head and rely on the muscle memory. It’s something that stems from confidence, and Banks is trying to let the game come to him more this year.
As I sat down with Shep, I couldn’t help but ask if his soft-spoken nature makes being a leader a challenge. Because if there’s one thing quiet people like, it’s being asked why they are quiet. He admits, “I’m a little louder on the court, but having guys like Payton and Josh who talk and are vocal all the time helps. Coach Chambers does not allow me to be quiet, so I’ve been working on being more vocal and being louder. I don’t really talk a lot...I’m getting better at it.”
Garner is studying English at Penn State, and just recently started Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War” (watch out Big Ten), which he thinks will help him to become a better leader this year. In addition to being a more vocal leader, he’s concentrating on being the hardest worker every day to help lead by example.
Coming from a Basketball school in Roman Catholic, to a football school in Penn State, Shep has had to adjust to being a secondary focus. “Going from being the team in school, everybody who thinks of Roman thinks of basketball. You think of Penn State, you think football. I looked at it as a challenge, to make Penn State a basketball school, and it’s starting to pay off.
Off the court the team tries to bond and do things together: bowling, going to movies, playing video games. The favorite game being FIFA. Asked who the best player is on the team, Shep didn’t hesitate, “Terrence Samuel, by far.”