‘That Steady Ground We Need Sometimes’: Pat Chambers’ Calming Presence For Penn State Hoops
Penn State men’s basketball had a nice little fling in the Top 25 for four weeks following its 76-69 upset over Maryland in December. Ranked for the first time since 1996 and reaching as high as No. 20, the Nittany Lions tumbled out of the rankings after a three-game losing streak.
Coming after an exhausting win over then No. 23 Iowa, Penn State took losses to Rutgers and Minnesota on the road and Wisconsin at home. The bleeding was stopped with a crucial win over then No. 21 Ohio State. The Buckeyes have since also bowed out of the Top 25 after going on a tough stretch themselves, losing five of their last six contests.
Despite not earning a return trip to the AP Top 25 after its win over the Buckeyes, Penn State has remained confident and focused. Even with other members of the loaded Big Ten leapfrogging into the rankings — namely No. 21 Illinois and No. 24 Rutgers — head coach Pat Chambers has maintained a neutral stance.
“I try not to talk about other teams because that’s not our mindset,” Chambers said. “I’m happy for teams like Rutgers and Illinois. They’ve really climbed the mountain, but this is really about Penn State and what we control.”
Chambers further elaborated, citing his team’s continued focus on the mental aspects of the game, such as remaining calm, getting rebounds, and playing hard defense when frustrating moments occur. It’s a resilience that Chambers sees as a key part of the team moving forward.
“We finally had some impressive dives onto the floor [for loose balls] against Ohio State, we attempted charges. That looked like an old school Penn State team,” Chambers said. “That’s what our focus should be. If we can play like that every game or every day in practice, you’re going to give yourself a chance at success.”
Forward John Harrar agrees with Chambers, as he sees his coach’s outlook as a powerful tool for the Nittany Lions to stay collected as the season moves along. He also sees Chambers as an important leader for the team, keeping them in the right frame of mind whether ranked or unranked, ahead in a game or behind.
“Basketball is a game of runs, so when we’re in the huddle we’ll try and talk to each other for a minute and Coach will come, and everyone will just calm down and breathe because we know that we gotta punch back,” Harrar said.
Penn State will play unranked Michigan in Ann Arbor on Wednesday before having a week off. The Wolverines are 5-5 in their last ten games following an 8-0 start that had them ranked as high as No. 4. Continuing to assert dominance over middle-of-the-road Big Ten teams like Michigan and Ohio State will be crucial for Penn State in making a run at the Big Dance.
But no matter what comes, Harrar is confident that Chambers will continue to provide him and the other players with a strong foundation for success and a renewed, one game at a time mindset.
“I think we [share coach’s feelings] because it’s just human nature,” he said. “But because coach is our leader we’re always looking towards him, and he’ll just give us that steady ground that we need sometimes.”
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