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What Penn State Hoops Fans Can Expect From Micah Shrewsberry’s Coaching

For the better part of the past decade, Penn State men’s basketball program has run the same offensive and defensive systems behind former head coach Pat Chambers and, most recently, interim coach Jim Ferry.

Although Chambers led the Nittany Lions to an NIT Championship and what would have been Penn State’s first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2011 last March, it’s safe to say Chambers fell short of his initial expectations in nine seasons at the program’s helm.

The recent hiring of Purdue associate head coach Micah Shrewsberry showcases a sleek, modern offensive attack while focusing on vision, awareness, and communication on the defensive end of the floor. While next season will likely serve as a rebuilding year for the program amidst transition, Shrewsberry’s system relies on proven principles from some of the game’s most intuitive minds, including Ron Adams, Brad Stevens, and Matt Painter.

At Purdue, head coach Matt Painter instilled four key basic principles in Shrewsberry during his collective six seasons as the four-time Big Ten Coach of the Year award recipient’s right-hand man. Painter believes half-court defense, rebounding, limiting turnovers, and transition defense are the most important aspects to cultivating a winning on-court product.

Statistically speaking, the Boilermakers consistently hold true to Painter’s foundational recipe to success. This season, Purdue ranked fourth in the Big Ten in total defense, limiting opponents to a superb 66.7 points per game. Conversely, Penn State stacked up at No. 12 in that category, giving up an average of 73 points per outing.

Additionally, Purdue finished the campaign as the third-best rebounding team in the conference, trailing only Illinois and Michigan, two teams that earned No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament. With a positive rebounding margin of 6.2 boards over the opposition per contest, Purdue’s margin exceeds that of Penn State’s by nearly four rebounds each matchup.

As Purdue’s offensive coordinator, Shrewsberry implemented a five-man motion offense centered by setting quality screens to generate open looks from the field. The attack attempts to create one-on-one mismatch situations in the low post, favoring the center over undersized counterparts on the underneath block. Furthermore, the constant movement provides guard-heavy lineups with favorable catch-and-shoot opportunities from beyond the arc off of back cuts and vision from the players positioned in the key.

Most recently, the front-court duo of Trevion Williams and Zach Edey thrived in the low-post role for the Boilermakers this season. Williams, standing at 6’10”, averaged 15.5 points and 9.1 rebounds per game and also served as a pivotal disruptive presence on defense. In matchups against Iowa and Illinois, the combination of Williams and Edey limited both Luka Garza and Kofi Cockburn under their season-long averages in points per game.

With John Harrar’s apparent departure looming from the Penn State frontcourt, the Nittany Lions have only one true center remaining on the roster in Abdou Tsimbila. The freshman from Cameroon was certainly a work in progress for Jim Ferry’s group this season, as he scored just over one point per game in an extremely limited role.

Although many fans have been quick to hit the panic button after six pivotal pieces to the current roster’s makeup entered the transfer portal after the hiring of Shrewsberry, the new head coach’s blueprint to success is too strong to doubt his ability to quickly re-tool the team to better fit his identity during the offseason.

“A poor system with maximum effort, you’ll have a chance,” Shrewsberry wrote during his stint with the Boston Celtics. “A great system with effort and technique, you’ll compete for championships.”

While the current system in place is littered with moving parts, fans should rest assured the program is in good hands as Penn State basketball enters a new chapter. Despite taking the job without any previous head coaching experience, Shrewsberry’s track record in elevating Butler, the Celtics, and Purdue to championship levels should serve the Nittany Lions well for many years to come.

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About the Author

Connor Krause

Connor Krause is a senior from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania double majoring in journalism and business. He is a lifelong Penn State football and basketball fan and enjoys rooting for Pittsburgh sports teams. In his free time, Connor can be found playing golf or pick-up basketball. You can follow his Twitter and Instagram @ckrause_31.

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