The Nittany Lions are getting ready for their first Big Ten Tournament game on Thursday night. Pat Chambers was available to the media following practice on Monday. For the first time he spoke about topics that fans have been wondering about for a while, such as his team’s weary legs coming down the home stretch and Lamar Stevens’ overall status.
Before he got into the question and answer portion of the session, Chambers went through a list of accomplishments that the team and players managed.
- 76 wins by the senior class.
- 11 wins in conference play was the second-highest total in program history.
- Tied the longest period within the voter polls at ten weeks.
- Most 3-pointers made and lowest defensive field goal percentage since joining B1G.
He closed with this statement.
Chambers touched on the losing streak at the end of the year.
“We wanted it so bad, to get the double-bye or co-champion, that maybe we didn’t play our best. Maybe we weren’t as connected. But I felt like today we really got back to who we are and what need to do going forward.”
On the topic of what has been the recent focus of the media he pointed to the success of the team, “That’s the story you need to write. Don’t write that we lost five out of six. You write that this program is going to the NCAA Tournament and it’s only been there five times in sixty-five years.”
He should probably read the Black Shoe Diaries more often but in fairness, he has been busy taking the team to heights not achieved in decades.
At one point he called the attention that the team was getting on social media while it was riding high ‘poisonous.’ He later spoke about mental fitness and conditioning and how it is something that the team is working on to help deal with adversity.
When asked the question regarding Mike Watkins’ status, he answered more directly than he has in recent times. He even reached out at one point for backup to affirm that he was being as forthright as possible. It sounds like day to day means day to day.
On a much lighter note, mirroring the question we asked our readers on Monday morning, Chambers was asked, if it were possible, if he would change the way that the team arrived at an 11-9 conference record. At first he laughed a bit but then he gave a very honest answer, one that many fans can appreciate.
When Chambers was asked what a team needed to make a deep run in the post-season tournaments, he described Penn State. First he reminded the group that his team smashed the 3-point made mark for the program this year and then spoke about the post. “When Lamar and Mike are at their best, and John Harrar is shooting 62%, so we’ve got guys that can post up. If you can make threes and have guys that can score in the paint, I think you give yourself a real good chance to make a deep run.”
He went on to give Harrar praise while talking about how the team deals with the absence of Mike Watkins. “I feel like his ball screen defense is fantastic and he really cleans up some mistakes that the younger guys make. And he can get a double-double. He’s really playing at a high level. I couldn’t be more proud of a young man for his growth and development.”
The topic of Lamar Stevens’ recent slump came up and while answering, coach turned the attention back to the positive.
“He put pressure on himself. This kid wants to win. He wanted to win a Big Ten title. He put pressure on himself. As you know, when you choke the golf club, you’re going to duck hook one. When you’re over an 8-inch putt and your knees are shaking, you’re going to miss that putt. That point blank putt. So he’s missed some point blank layups. It could be fatigue, could be mental fatigue. It could be because he wants it so bad for this program and the university. Now I think the pressure is off. He’s done a great job, man. Four year starter. Did you guys write about that? Four years. Does anybody write about what a warrior this kid is, to show up every single day and not miss a game? You guys didn’t write about that, did you? You wanted to write about point blank misses.”
Yes, coach, we did write a little bit about Lamar Stevens and his point blank misses but as we said, it brought us no joy to do so.
Lamar Stevens has been a critical part of the foundation of a team that has 61 wins over the past 3 years, a number passed just once in program history over a 3 year period. In 1988-1991 when the team played in a much weaker conference it had 67 wins.
This team could still get to that number, but it would take a run that would be pretty fun for fans to watch. He spoke about it saying, “This chapter has not been written yet. I look forward to coming to practice, I like being around this team, I like traveling with the team. I try to enjoy it.”
Chambers closed by talking about what the team has done and will do until the game on Thursday night.