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Penn State Hoops Building New Culture Around Returning Stars

With a new head coach and nearly 10 new players in the building, Penn State men’s basketball is undergoing a rebuild.

Oftentimes, rebuilding is associated with losing. People think about things like “The Process” and tanking when rebuilding is mentioned, but this isn’t always true — especially in college sports. This year, the Nittany Lions have other plans in mind.

“[To build a unique culture], you try and take the things that directly lead to winning,” head coach Micah Shrewsberry said Tuesday. “That’s been one the most important things on my mind since the day that I got here.”

The media got its first inside look at how Shrewsberry runs thing Tuesday afternoon. Penn State’s practice was lively, competitive, and never lacking energy.

In fact, Shrewsberry mentioned he was worried his players would injure each other with how hard they competed at practice. Senior guard Myles Dread is already day-to-day with a small injury that kept him out of practice Tuesday.

The influx of new faces was certainly noticeable at practice, but there were plenty of returning stars there, too. Guys like Dread, John Harrar, and Seth Lundy have been with the program for a while. Sam Sessoms, who received plenty of meaningful minutes last season, is back as well.

The story of the season will be the turnover of players and personnel, but much of last year’s core nucleus remains the same. Shrewsberry knows this and used it to build his team through the portal.

“That’s the one thing when I talked to [Harrar] about coming back,” Shrewsberry said. “I owe everything. Everything that we’re doing this year is for the guys that came back.”

While Harrar, Lundy, Dread, and Sessoms were huge parts of Jim Ferry’s rotation last year, some of the supporting cast is back as well.

Dallion Johnson and Caleb Dorsey didn’t see lots of floor time during the 2020-21 season, but that doesn’t mean they won’t play this year. Ferry was in a sort of “win now” mode, and at times prioritized winning and loyalty over development. Fighting for the head job, the interim head coach’s decisions made sense.

Dorsey, especially, will likely see the floor a lot this year. At 6′ 7″ and 235 pounds, he will be a great big man reserve alongside Greg Lee. Dorsey and Lee could also see time at the four, as Shrewsberry hinted that Penn State might use some “funky, different” lineups this year.

As a first-time head coach, Shrewsberry said he’s faced challenges since the first day he was hired. At the wheel of the Nittany Lions, he’ll need to pave his own way and develop his own culture.

“I have to find out what it is that makes us work, and what championship basketball is all about,” Shrewsberry said.

The head coach isn’t completely starting from scratch, however. He gave a “caps off” to the regimes before him, noting that guys like Harrar have competitiveness ingrained in them.

Along with an on-court identity and playstyle, details like practice length and intensity are other things Shrewsberry will need to dial in.

He said Purdue often hosted daily, three-hour practices, while Brad Stevens and the Boston Celtics often kept things short, sweet, and intense. So far, the Nittany Lions have yielded toward the shorter practices with higher intensity, which was on full display Tuesday.

Above all else, Shrewsberry seems to be a bit of a traditionalist and a “stickler” for fundamentals and details. The media was provided wide access to practice, and he doesn’t care for the hoopla and razzle-dazzle of years past.

“I’m not a huge slogan guy,” Shrewsberry said. “I’m not huge about visual graphics and things like that. It’s not important to me, and it doesn’t help you win all the time.”

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About the Author

Ryan Parsons

Ryan is a redshirt senior majoring in business and journalism from "Philadelphia" and mostly writes about football nowadays. You can follow him on Twitter @rjparsons9 or say hi via email at [email protected]

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