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Pat Chambers talks freshmen, big city games in Facebook Live press conference

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One week until football, and we’re talking about practice. Basketball practice.

NCAA Basketball: Penn State at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

There’s only one week until football season! Even less than that if you consider that many teams kick off on September 1. And even less than that if you consider that Hawaii and Cal are playing a game in Australia this Saturday. Still, we’re talking about basketball in this story because Pat Chambers held a press conference that was broadcast on Facebook and we transcribed some of it because that sort of thing was not made available on the official Penn State website. Why let a good (okay, mediocre) transcription go to waste? Let’s talk hoops!

One of the big themes of the day was the phenomenal four-man freshman class that Chambers has landed. Some of them will be making their debuts this year, but maybe not everyone. Joe Hampton, a forward out of Oak Hill Academy, was made a topic of conversation because he’s listed at 6’8” and 290 pounds. That’s a big boy, but Chambers is confident that he’ll be ready to contribute in November.

He’s legit 6’8”. I think he’s shed a few more pounds. He’s got a ways to go, but when the season comes around, then you figure out if Joe’s ready to go or not. And I think he will be, as long as he stays on the path he’s on right now.

Let’s hope Hampton stays on that path, because he has the potential to add a lot of scoring to the Penn State frontcourt.

Speaking of the frontcourt, Mike Watkins might as well be a freshman this year because he sat out all of 2015-16 due to academic reasons. It’s too bad he didn’t get any game experience last year, because Chambers is very excited about his potential.

He’s really maturing as a basketball player and as a man. He really is exceeding expectations to this point, and I think that last year sitting out was really a blessing. It’s really helped him in every facet of his life: academically, socially, athletically, kid loves to be a part of everything… He’s got a big, beautiful smile that lights up a room, so that’s the type of juice that we’re going to need throughout the season.

He catches everything. He runs the floor like Josh Reaves. He’s just as athletic as Josh Reaves. He can block shots like Jordan Dickerson. He’s going to bring energy, he’s going to bring fire, he’s going to bring juice. If there’s one thing that’s quiet, that nobody realizes, it’s that he’s one heck of a passer, he can really find the open guy out of the post. He’s going to be one of the better big men to come through Penn State in a long time.

A big man who is as athletic as Reaves? Now that is something we haven’t seen since the days of Geary Claxton. Those teams were lacking in other areas, though. If Watkins can keep his grades up and get on the floor, his ceiling, as well as the program’s, looks quite high.

Yet another center/forward who can affect the future of Penn State basketball is Satchel Pierce, although he’ll be sitting out this year due to NCAA rules after transferring from Virginia Tech.

I know it says 6’9”, but I’m going to say 6’10”, and a very strong five man. So he’s going to prepare us for the Big Ten. He’s going to really help Joe [Hampton], Mike [Watkins], and Julian [Moore] as far as banging those guys and getting them ready. And what we can do for Satchel is continue to change his body, get him in the best shape possible, and continue working on his skill. He’s a very smart kid; doing very well academically. So we just have to do some things with his skill and his body, and he’s going to help our team every day in practice.

Pierce doesn’t have the type of scoring skills that we are projecting for Hampton and Watkins, but it’s always good to have a big, defensive-minded center on the roster, if for no other reason than to keep the scorers out of foul trouble. The Ohio native will add depth to a young frontcourt rotation starting next year.

As for the rest of the new guys, Chambers ensured us that their #ATTITUDE has been top notch on the practice court.

I love their willingness to be coached. When you get a highly-ranked class like this, sometimes kids think they know everything, and that’s not how these kids are at all. They want to be coached, they want to be pushed, they want to be driven, and they want what’s best for Penn State, which is terrific.

Physically they are gifted and blessed athletes, and they are very skilled. I’ve been really impressed with what our new strength coach Greg [Miskinis] has done and how they have responded to his coaching. They came in prepared and ready to go. There was no slippage, there was no waiting. Because usually there is a little bit of a wait for freshmen. They are very coachable. Right now they’re all ears. They want to please the veterans, and they want to get on the court.

The Philadelphia-heavy class will surely be excited about Penn State’s trip to the City of Brotherly Love in January, when the Lions face Michigan State for a special Big Ten home game at the historic Palestra. Chambers and the basketball staff had to jump through a lot of hoops to get the game scheduled, but they had a lot of good reasons for doing so.

We wanted to take a big-time game to Philadelphia for so many reasons. Obviously, it’s the largest alumni and fan base, the Philadelphia region is. The students will be on Christmas break, so hopefully the students will come out for that. And we have six players on the team that are from Philadelphia. And oh by the way, I’m from Philly, so there are so many positives… The experience is going to be amazing for this program to once again put ourselves on a different platform, a different stage, to prepare these guys to be the best team that they can be by the end of the year.

Philadelphia isn’t the only east coast city that the Lions will visit this season. There’s also a trip to Madison Square Garden in New York scheduled for December when Penn State plays on the road against St. John’s. Chambers expressed excitement at returning to the World’s Most Famous Arena for the second time in as many seasons.

The Michigan game should tell you a lot from last year. Man, that was awesome. Penn Staters came out, the experience was incredible. Again, it’s not a Big Ten game, but it’s a Big East game. St. John’s is going to be really good this year. We want to continue to push ourselves east. These are the areas that our team is from; Terrence Samuel is from New York. Our players and families, most of them are from the east coast… And then, they’re recruiting hotbeds for us. These are the areas that we want to get into for the best student-athletes for Penn State. If you can’t make it to the BJC, we’re coming to you. We’re coming to an arena near you very soon. We’re going to be in Connecticut, we’re going to be in New York, in New Jersey, in Maryland, in D.C., so there’s so many opportunities for alums and fans and families to come out and support this program. That was the goal.

Soon, Penn State basketball will be dominating east coast recruiting just like the football team has done. Hey, a guy can dream, can’t he? Here are some other thing that Coach Chambers talked about during the press conference.

  • Penn State wants to play fast this year, and conditioning will be a big part of that. Strength and conditioning coach Greg Misknis will make sure the team is in top shape. It will also help that the Lions will have a deep rotation this year. Chambers thinks that he has eight to 10 players who are capable of starting this year.
  • The downside of having such a deep roster is that it’s going to be tough to find the best combinations of players to put on the floor. Chambers said that he’s not close to knowing who his starting five will be.
  • This year’s leadership council consists of Shep Garner, Terrence Samuel, Payton Banks, Julian Moore, and Josh Reaves. The guys are making sure everyone is working hard and buying into the culture of the program.
  • Chambers said he scheduled the exhibition game with Lock Haven to get first-game jitters out of the way and make sure the team is in top form for its regular season opener against Albany on November 11.
  • Penn State went through some rough shooting stretches last year, but the team is getting better at knocking down three-pointers. In their last seven games, the Lions hit at least nine triples in each game. Chambers is confident that the shooting trend will continue in 2016-17.

And that’s a wrap! Aren’t you a little more excited for hoops season now? I know I am. If you want to watch the full 20-minute press conference, you can find it here. Peace out!