University Park, Centre County—The following is the transcript from today's Penn State Men's Basketball Media Day press conference with new Head Coach Patrick Chambers. Chambers discussed the status of Red Land's Jermaine Marshall who is currently not on the team.
Penn State Head Coach Patrick Chambers Men's Basketball Media Day
Q: What is your approach to motivating the guys after the players they lost last from year? Are you just going to move on and not talk about it? A: Exactly what you just said, not talking about that. I'm talking about who we have, who we are, and who we are going to be. I'm talking about getting better every single day, competing everyday, creating the habits we need to create to play in the Big Ten and play on the road in the Big Ten. We all have our pocket full of excuses. We lost Talor (Battle) and three other seniors: David (Jackson), Andrew (Jones) and Jeff Brooks. We have a new team this year and that's ok. That's not going to be our crutch all year long. We need to get better every single day. We need to create those good habits. We need to be in the best shape that we can be in to compete at a high level. That's what I expect us to do. Our goal this year is very simple: be the best team we can be by the end of the year. I don't want to put any lofty goals in there with a team that's just getting to know each other and a team that's just starting to build trust. Once we do build those foundations, those building blocks, this team is going to compete.
Q: Can you give us an update on Jermaine Marshall? A: Right now, Jermaine is continuing to do what we asked him to do academically. He's keeping himself in shape. I'm in constant communication with him. I just had a meeting with him yesterday. He's doing everything we ask him to do to get back on this team. That's what he needs to do.
Q: Can you talk about Tim Frazier's role as a leader? A: I don't want to put it all on Tim Frazier. I don't think that's fair for a junior. It's Tim (Frazier), Cam (Woodyard) and Billy (Oliver). They are our three captains. They are our three leaders. They need to come out with the attitude leadership never takes a day off. These younger guys are always looking to these guys to lead the way. They need to do that. Of course, Tim needs to do that as well. There are actions, there are words, there is a way you can handle things in the locker room. The locker room is the most important thing to me. If that locker room is cohesive, and there is chemistry in the locker room and those guys like each other, that's a domino onto the court. Those three guys need to set the tone on that.
Q: You compared Tim Frazier to former Villanova guards. What do you see in him? A: Tim is a freak his speed, his athleticism. He is a much better shooter than people give him credit for. His decision making, his IQ, he runs a team. He can jump out of the building. On Saturday, we threw him a lob. He had a lob dunk and had a follow-up dunk, a very Randy Foye type of play. I'm sure people are criticizing me for making that assessment, but I was with those guys everyday during my tenure at Villanova. I think Tim is right up there.
Q: Any other players emerging as leaders? A: Again, Cam Woodyard, even though he is just returning (from injury), he has been very vocal, even on the sideline. A lot of guys sometimes you get hurt and sit on the sidelines and don't say anything and you just kind of hang out. Not Cam. Cam was right in the mix. He was talking to everybody and getting in huddles, being very energetic and enthusiastic and getting them going. He understands this is a fresh clean slate for him. This is a new opportunity for him and he understands that. I want to say Billy Oliver (has emerged). Billy Oliver did something that many shooters did not do. He didn't shoot the ball particularly well in the first half on Saturday (scrimmage), then he comes back and shoots 5 for 6. So, he's gaining confidence. With each day that he gains confidence, his leadership follows. That's not just making shots. He's also doing other things. He's rebounding the ball. He's in the right position defensively. He's taking charges, and he is doing all the little dirty work things he needs to do. I'm really pleased with his confidence level right now.
Q: What have you been able to learn about this team after working with them? A: There is willingness here to change and a willingness to get better. They want to be coached. They want to be good. Not just good, they want to win. There is a winner's mentality in this locker room that we are not going to accept losing. Losing can be contagious. We need to get that mentality and keep it, through thick and thin. There are going to be rough patches. There always are. We have already sustained a few with all of the injuries we've had. These guys keep coming everyday. They keep coming back and everybody is doing a good job of keeping practice at a high level. That's what we need on a daily basis. I was really surprised with their mentality and their willingness to get better on a daily basis, which is great. We need that moving forward.
Q: Have you learned enough about this team to figure out what style you'll play? A: It's probably going to be a work in progress. I have an idea right now of where we are headed. It's November 1st. I want to utilize Tim Frazier's speed. I think that's the most effective way to play for him and for this team. But also, we have to understand that if we take quick shots, it's almost like a turnover. We have to do a better job getting back and converting transitions and things like that. So, you're going to have to run some quality sets and move the ball side-to-side. We have implemented that as well. So, we have a nice dose of pushing the ball, a nice dose of looking through your options one through five and trying to make the best play with the shot clock.
Q: What challenges are you expecting with such a young frontcourt? A: I've said this in the past; it's good news, bad news. Good news is: they're young. So, I can mold them and teach them the way that I want them to play their position and what we can expect from them. The bad news is: they're young. They're inexperienced. There's no better way than to just put them out there in a game and let them go play and make mistakes and teach them. We have been diving into film the last couple days and just showing them where you have to be, where your stance needs to be, how you have to play a little bit lower. We have to think that we are playing Jared Sullinger everyday in practice every game. He's the best player in the country and we play them. So, we have to understand, in the Big Ten, you're going to play against five men like that. Not just Jared. There are a bunch of good, big men. So, that's the way we have to approach them. It's okay when they make mistakes. As long as you're doing it hard and with enthusiasm and some energy and effort, I can't fault them. I can't fault them this year. When they're juniors and seniors, maybe.
Q: Was there anything about this team that surprised you after working with them? A: The younger guys have really impressed me. Matt Glover being one, Trey Lewis, and Ross Travis their competitiveness. Even though they're young, they're grasping the concepts very quickly for freshman, which is positive. With Billy (Oliver) and Cam (Woodyard) being out a little bit, we are still getting a read on Cam, and Jon (Graham) and Sasa (Borovnjak). Sasa is as skilled as any guy I've coached. He is very skilled. He has a high basketball IQ. Tim Frazier is a lot better than people think. Every magazine that I read and I see I know I tell my guys that's not important, that what the media says is not important, don't get caught up in the outside world and those distractions. But, we still read it. I'm just being real here. I just told him, 'You're not even a top 30 point guard. They're talking about other guys in our league. They're not talking about Tim Frazier.' I think you're going to see a new Tim Frazier: one that plays defense, one that is going to be in a (defensive) stance, one that shows great body language and great facial expressions, one that's not going to let the game bother him. You're not going to see a stoic kid out there. He's going to play with great energy and great passion. I told him today, 'Bring guys with you. Drop that ladder and bring guys with you.'
Q: Can you talk about Peter Alexis and what he is bringing to the game? A: It's an adjustment for bigs. Let's just talk about Peter (Alexis) and Patrick (Ackerman). Let's talk about these big guys for a second. It's an adjustment from high school to college. It is a jump. It is a leap. Because, in high school they are playing against 6'3" centers or 6'4" centers. Now, they're actually going up against guys their own size and their own strength. Usually, you don't get that in high school, for the most part. I think they're adjusting. That's what they're working on everyday. Adjusting playing against someone their same size and somebody who can block their shot and is just as strong as them. They're adjusting and they're coming along. Again, attitude is a big word for me and it's a big word for this program. They're coming in with a great attitude everyday to get better. As long as you have that, you feel pretty good about the direction you're headed.
Q: How do you expect Tim to adjust to the extra attention A: Humble and hungry. He is going to remain humble and hungry. And, that is going to open doors for Cam (Woodyard), Billy (Oliver), Matt Glover, Ross Travis, Trey Lewis. All are very good shooters. So, these guys are going to have open looks to make plays. If Tim Frazier is going to get trapped or blitzed or get all the attention that we all know he's going to get, that's going to open up the floor for a lot of other guys to make plays. Tim is unselfish. We all know that. We have all seen that. I think he'll be able to score, get himself to the foul line, as well as make plays for others. I think he's going to elevate everybody on this team.
Q: Who can make the big shots if Tim Frazier is not able to do so? A: I will give you a better feel on Saturday once the lights are on and there are people in the stands. Everybody makes shots in practice. We have to see who is going to make shots with people in the arena. The way Cam has been shooting the last two days has been pretty impressive. Billy Oliver went 5-for-6. I mean, we have guys that are gym rats. I would say that about the women's team. That's why they won 25 games. The women are always in there shooting. Coquese (Washington) has done a great job with them. It's exiting to say our guys are getting in there too, and it's not by me telling them to get in here. When I look out and hear a ball bouncing, I am praying and hoping it's one of our guys. Sometimes it is, which is a good thing. That's the direction we're headed in. That's positive.
Q: Sasa (Borovnjak) missed last year with his ACL injury. How does he look in practice? A: He is doing a pretty good job. I don't know if any of you have had knee injuries, but I have a knee injury, so I know what he is going through. You don't trust it right away. When you get back to full competition, you are still kind of playing on one leg. He is in great physical condition again. He needs to trust it, and once he gets in tip- top shape and once he trusts it, I think you are going to see a solid five man in this league. He can do a little bit of everything. He can rebound. He can knock down the mid-range jumper and he has a very good vision for passing. Once he starts to trust that knee, I think we have a five-man for our future.
Q: Do you have any plans to red-shirt anyone? A: Not right now. We are still checking everybody out, but with all of the injuries that we have we cannot afford it. We had 10 guys a week ago in practice, so I was just excited with Cam coming back and, hopefully, Trey will be coming back in a week or so and we will have some bodies again.
Q: You talked about Tim and his improved body language. Do you think that is something that was missing? A: It's in every point guard. I was a point guard and it's always your fault. When you are the leader and you are the point guard, it is always your fault, so you have to know that. It is not so much his bad body language, but it's his reaction to certain plays and your team feeds off of those reactions. If those reactions can be a little bit more intense, more upbeat and more positive, then it is going to be a domino effect into the rest of the team. That is what he is doing. A guy might miss a shot, and he's clapping confidence. A guy might miss an assignment, and he'll get on him one day and then the next day, build him up again. That's what leadership is.
Q: Tim has to live with a tough last play of last year. Has he gotten over that? A: I don't think he's ever going to forget that. I could tell you some plays from when I played that still haunt me today. As a player, when you care about your teammates and your university and your program and wanting to win as badly as you do, you'll probably never forget about that. But, that's the way he is playing. He is playing with a chip on his shoulder disappointed that that happened. It's an unfortunate situation. A guy steps through and that's a tough shot. It happens.
Q: What have you seen early on from Trey Lewis this year? A: He plays with great confidence. I always ask the question, 'Who is the hardest worker on this team?' Trey always says, 'I am,' which is great. You want that. The guys all laugh at him, but I want that. That is the confidence that this team needs. Trey Lewis plays with a swagger and a confidence that makes him not 6'1" but 6'6" and he is willing to take on anybody. The greatest thing for me is when Trey and Tim are going at it everyday in practice. I'm not taking Trey and telling him to leave Tim alone, because I want to see battles. That's what it is in the game and we want game like situations. Trey Lewis is doing that. That's why it stings a little bit, him being out right now, because nobody is really going at Tim. So, he will be coming back soon. Trey Lewis is doing a great job.
Q: Do you think you have the right kind of non-conference schedule to test this team before Big Ten play starts? A: I do. I used to do the scheduling at Villanova, so I'm well aware of the schedule. We start out with a couple team that I know, a couple of guys that I've coached against and they are going to have some very unique styles of play. In the Big Ten, everybody has their own unique way of playing. In the beginning, it is going to be a challenge. I think this non-conference is a good slate to get us ready for that Michigan game in late December because of the different variety of teams we are playing. It also gets our freshman ready and gets us to create good habits and gets them out there in game situations on the road and at home. We are going to be ready. We are going to be prepared.
Q: How did D.J. (Newbill) look in practice before he got hurt? A: We keep statistics in practice, and he was dominating the stat line. He was winning the Attitude Club every single day. He practiced five times, and he only lost once, to Tim. He brought some toughness and an attitude that we need, and he is great in the locker room. He is another guy who is on the sideline but not just in his own world, doing his own thing. He is into the team, firing them up and getting the huddles going. He is starting to show his leadership and inject his personality into this team.
Q: What can fans expect from Hoop Madness tomorrow night? A: It is something that Brian Siegrist and LC (Loren Crispell) and I were talking about, mulling around if we should do it or not. I talked to Tim Frazier a little bit and we never really had anything like this and I just saw what it did when I was at Villanova. We actually did something at BU my first year and saw the excitement it could bring to the students and the alums and for our players. Sometimes you deserve something fun. After two and half hour practices, it is nice to go out and have some fun, bring in an entertainer and have prizes for the students. We want to do something that they will remember for a long time. Usually, colleges use it for recruiting and I didn't use it for that this time. This is about the students. This is about our players and the students and building a relationship. Obviously, the community and the alumni as well and all the great groups we have around us. It is about that.
Q: What new elements have you brought to practices and what kind of feedback have you gotten from the players? A: Practices are intense and there is definitely some energy in the gym. As a coach, I think a quiet gym is not a good thing. A quiet gym just means I don't know if the kids are ready to play or if they are really into it. I think when a gym is loud and energetic that means they are into one another and the team aspect of it. The thing with the statistics is now I have a group of guys come up to me after practice and look at the attitude sheet and say 'Where was I today, how many rebounds did I get today?' When you start to see that evolve when you get 15 guys believing in Attitude Club you are going to get something special.
Q: Who keeps track of the attitude club? A: The managers. They also keep track of it during games. So, everything is accounted for and you know when a player is playing well or not playing well and if he is into it or not into it.
Q: What do you want to accomplish this season? A: This is so difficult to do as a coach. To be patient with these guys and bring them along slowly, and we're trying to do that. I just want to create the best atmosphere that we can. I want this team to go out and compete every night for 40 minutes I don't care where we are. I want them to make Penn State people proud, the alumni proud, the students proud, the administration proud. I want them to go out and compete as hard as they can for 40 minutes, and, if we can create those habits and do that on a daily basis, then we are going to like the outcome. At the end of the year, we just need to be the best team we can be. We can do that as long as we can keep getting better every single day and they keep that willingness to get better.
Q: Do you have a guy you will count on for points? A: In 20 minutes on Saturday, we scored 39 points. We have some talent. Tim is going to demand a lot of attention. Billy Oliver is going to get wide-open shots. Cam Woodyard is going to get wide-open shots. Matt Glover is going to get some looks. Ross Travis is going to get wide-open shots, and they are all very capable three-point shooters, which is a positive. Sasa is capable. Jon (Graham) is definitely capable of finishing on the inside, so it was exciting to see that on Saturday. We don't have to put everything on Tim's shoulders. We have many guys capable of helping out the cause.