News & Notes From Penn State Hoops’ Media Day

We’re 12 days away from Penn State men’s basketball season, folks.

The team hosted its official media day ahead of head coach Micah Shrewsberry’s second season at the helm on Tuesday. With eight new faces, including five true freshmen, excitement is brewing for Shrewsberry and Co. as they tip off their season on November 7 with a matchup against Winthrop.

The day started off with Shrewsberry addressing the media, followed by Seth Lundy, Myles Dread, and Jalen Pickett coming to the podium to answer questions. After that, the media was invited to the floor and had the chance to talk to every player and a few assistant coaches. The day ended with the team running three different drills on separate areas of the court.

Among the many topics talked about throughout the day included the freshmen adjusting to the program, a thirst for learning from all players and coaches within the team, and the major differences in feel and preparation in Shrewberry’s second season as head coach.

Freshmen Adjustment

One of the more surprising notes that were unraveled at media day was when Shrewsberry noted that for one of the team’s first practices, he put all the freshmen, and Pickett, on one team against the rest of the players. The result? The freshmen dominated.

One of those freshmen, Evan Mahaffey, was shocked it happened but was glad to gain the experience.

“It wasn’t expected, but you still got to go out there and play,” Mahaffey said. “And it was fun because you get to compete against these guys who’ve been training in college for four or five years, which is really good because you get to learn a lot with just that practice.”

From Shrewsberry to Pickett to Dallion Johnson, everyone had great things to say about the Class of 2026. However, the head coach did note there are growing pains when you’re dealing with young kids adjusting to college basketball.

“There’s days where, you know, Jameel Brown will be unbelievable, and the next day, you’re like, ‘Is Jameel at practice today?’ Kanye [Clary] is like really good, and Evan [Mahaffey] is really good. And Kebba [Njie] will have days where he just looks like a million bucks,” Shrewsberry said. “But, they have to put it together day after day.”

Shrewsberry also emphasized that all the freshmen complement each other and how some days they may lean on some skills more than others. But, it’s all a process for them to figure out the entire year.

Player Health

Shrewsberry noted that everyone is healthy but did mention that Demetrius Lilley is recovering from a calf injury and is just now returning to practice. He said it’s nothing serious, but the whole staff is taking the necessary precautions to make sure he is fully ready for the season. Andrew Funk came up as well, as Shrewsberry noted he had some shoulder issues but not serious enough to keep him out of practice.

Myles Dread talked about his offseason and not being held together by “duct tape” anymore. He noted that this offseason he took it easy. He worked with trainers to not only be healthy but to feel healthy and gain confidence in his body to perform. He even said he could feel that recovery process pay off during one of Penn State’s most recent practices.

“I just felt bouncy,” Dread said. “I was dunking the ball with both hands, which I hadn’t done in a while. It felt like a relief. Like, I know that I can get back to this point, and you know, now let’s just keep striving to get better.”

Shrewberry’s First Vs. Second Year

Shrewsberry said that last year was a major adjustment. After taking the reigns as head coach, not only was there a new system with players he never coached before but also a brand new staff that he had to assimilate into his culture.

“Last year, we had 100 new guys and a whole new staff, so I had to teach everything,” Shrewsberry said. “Now, they understand what we’re trying to do, and they understand how to teach it. So, that part has been really good and really helpful to free me up to do some more things.”

The veteran players also noted that after having a Shrewsberry season under their belts, they feel more confident in their abilities to execute the game plan. Moreover, Pickett even explained that knowing the system has helped him mentor the freshmen to help ease their transition into the team.

“Having a year under my belt, I know what [Shrewsberry] learned and how we’re trying to play this year,” Pickett said. “All of these freshmen are really good, and they’re hungry. So, [I’m] just trying to help them along and get them as comfortable as possible.”

“A Thirst For Learning”

Shrewsberry praised the team for its hungry desire to be better. He mentioned that all players have devoted more time in the film room to improve on last year’s mistakes.

“These guys — they have a thirst for learning,” Shrewsberry said. “There are more guys who come up and watch film this year.”

Lundy was especially vocal on his attention to film study. He mentioned he and Pickett, who are roommates, spend much of their free time going over film of themselves and other teammates, and they then work out adjustments in practice.

It’s not just the upperclassmen, either. Lundy noted that the five freshmen aren’t afraid to ask questions or pull aside a coach to make sure they’re understanding drills.

Practice Drill Observations

There was no scrimmage today, however, the team split itself into three separate drills that worked on ball handling, passing, and getting out of high-pressure situations in the paint.

Spectators were especially keeping an eye on the freshman big man, Kebba Njie, who showed explosiveness and hammered down some powerful dunks. He looked like an early candidate to take over the center position for the Nittany Lions to start the season.

Pickett, Lundy, and Dread were all practicing in the same group, too. The rest of the groups were split up as guards and another as forwards.

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About the Author

Tobey Prime

Tobey is a senior studying broadcast journalism from Lancaster, PA. He is a major Pittsburgh sports fan and Miami Heat fanatic. When Tobey isn't writing for Onward State, you can catch him looking at photos of his pugs. Send your best insults to [email protected] or sports takes to @tobey_prime on Twitter.

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