‘Let’s Make It More Than Basketball:’ Penn State Hoops Head Coach Mike Rhoades Building Team On & Off Court In First Year
It’s been nearly seven months since Mike Rhoades was hired as the head coach of the Penn State men’s basketball program, and since then, the former VCU coach and company have been hard at work.
After former head coach Micah Shrewsberry departed Happy Valley for Notre Dame, Rhoades took the keys to the Bryce Jordan Center and convinced freshmen Kanye Clary, Jameel Brown, and Demetrius Lilley to stay in blue and white.
The problem, however, was that he still needed 10 players to fill out the roster for this season.
Rhoades began his recruiting journey in the place he most recently led: Richmond, Virginia. VCU stars Ace Baldwin Jr. and Nick Kern followed their coach north to State College, while former recruits and familiar faces like Puff Johnson and Bragi Gudmundsson signed on to the offbeat ensemble.
Once the team formed and scholarship positions were filled, it fell into place quickly, according to Rhoades, but still has room for improvement like any team in its first year together would.
“We still got a ways to go to get where we want to go, but I do like what we’re becoming,” Rhoades told the media Monday. “I think each week we’ve gotten better. I’ve been really, really appreciative and excited about the steps our team has taken here this preseason.”
Bringing a group of people together to accomplish anything is hard, but doing it with a nearly full group of people who barely knew each other less than six months ago seemed impossible. Rhoades is fully committed to the challenge and noted he’s aiming to turn the program into a successful one over time.
The Mahanoy City, Pennsylvania, native feels confident he’s put together a team of winners, but success at a consistent, high level can only come if the group trusts each other and its leader.
“For these guys to give me and our program and each other everything they got, the first thing that they want to know is, ‘Coach, you got my back, you care about me,'” Rhoades said. “Our job as a coaching staff is spending time with these guys on and off the court.”
Building relationships is key to any successful team and doing that in such a short amount of time is a hard thing to do. Still, he’s invested in his players and spent time with them in one-on-one outings, whether that be just hooping in the gym or grabbing wings. No matter what, when, or with who, time spent together is time contributed toward total team advancement.
“Let’s make it more than basketball,” Rhoades said. “That’s just me. Some coaches, it’s just a basketball relationship that goes further. I want it to be the other way around. I want these guys to have real relationships with us beyond basketball. Basketball’s the easy part that brought us all together.”
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For the second year in a row, the Land Grant Trophy is headed back to State College.
Tickets for the event will go on sale 10 a.m. Friday, December 1.
Were the Ford Field end zones Penn State fans?