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Here’s To The Fighters

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They could have all left, but they chose to stick together.

NCAA Basketball: Minnesota at Penn State Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

On a cold November afternoon, a few Penn State Basketball players were answering questions as their season was about to begin. Having resigned just a few weeks before this day, those players took the opportunity to reflect on their coach, but to also state their displeasure at how the process unfolded.

At the time, it would have made perfect sense to see some of those players opt out of the season in response to the news, looking to find a different place to call home for the rest of their college careers. After all, the coach that had recruited them to Penn State had suddenly departed, no reason for the resignation given.

Instead, that group of players decided to play a historically tough schedule, overcoming obstacle after obstacle to give the fans one of the most exciting basketball season in a long time. It didn’t lead to the greatness of even one season prior, but it showed a level of unity that is not often seen around these parts, especially with basketball.

As with any team, this Nittany Lion squad saw some very high highs, and some frustratingly low lows. The same team that went on the road and dismantled the No. 15 team in the country couldn’t find a way to beat a dead-last, sub-100 team at home. The same team that beat an opponent it hadn’t beaten in 10 years, scoring a record 50 points in a half in the process, proceeded to lose to that same team a few days later in blowout fashion.

They were as inconsistent and as surprising as this entire year plus period has been, but they were also some of the most satisfying moments in a tenure that left us wondering “what could have been.”

Here’s to the players, who stuck it out when they didn’t need to last season, who have moved on to different teams. To Myreon Jones, whose ability to score from everywhere on the floor kept Penn State in many games, but also helped the Nittany Lions put the foot on the throat in others. To Jamari Wheeler, whose defense was the cause of many players’ nightmares over his four years with the Lions. To Izaiah Brockington, whose athleticism made him a matchup nightmare for teams. To Trent Buttrick, who didn’t see the floor as much as he should have, but made his minutes count. Here’s to D.J. Gordon, we didn’t get to see much of you, but there’s little doubt you’ll do great things. Here’s to the others who left for greener pastures, good luck in your adventures.

And here’s to those who stayed.

To Myles Dread, whose leadership and dedication have shined a light on this team since the day he stepped on campus. May your last two seasons bring you overdue success.

To Seth Lundy, who’s shown just how good a player he can be, thanks for believing in the future of Penn State basketball.

To John Harrar, the prototype for hard work and dedication. The shoes you were asked to fill were not small by any stretch of the imagination, yet you managed to not only fill the role, but you became one of the most consistent players that played the position with the Nittany Lions.

To Sam Sessoms, who stands tall among the trees and does not back down from a challenge. The floor is yours.

To the freshmen, we didn’t see a lot of you, but something tells me that’s about to change.

And lastly, to the incoming players, may you bring the kind of success this program is eager to see. May you find Happy Valley to be as happy for you as it has been for so many of us over the years.

Here’s to the coaches too. They took over in a really difficult spot, with both a global pandemic and and the knowledge that their former head coach would be leaving right before the season started. They managed to keep the team together, and showed resilience that would have easily been lost with everything that went on this season.

Here’s to the people who made this season the oft-frustrating, but overall enjoyable journey it was. And here’s to a brighter future ahead.