News & Notes From Penn State Hoops’ 2023 Media Day
Penn State men’s basketball’s season tips off in just 13 days, folks.
On Monday, the team hosted its annual Media Day ahead of Mike Rhoades’ first year at the helm of the Nittany Lions. Following the departure of Micah Shrewsberry to Notre Dame and the likes of Jalen Pickett and Seth Lundy to the NBA, there are a plethora of new faces within the program that reached the Round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament last March.
The day started with Rhoades addressing the media inside Bryce Jordan Center, along with Puff Johnson, Kanye Clary, and Ace Baldwin Jr.
Rhoades and the handful of selected leaders touched on several topics throughout the day, some of which included relationships with players, building a roster from scratch, a point guard duo, and Penn State roots.
All Rhoades Lead To Penn State
Rhoades is a Penn State guy through and through. Growing up in Schuylkill County in the eastern part of Pennsylvania, Rhoades has been around the university for a long time. He talked about his ties and vision for Penn State hoops on multiple occasions.
“I have to be at a place like Penn State,” Rhoades said. “I came here because of the belief that [Pat] Kraft has in Penn State and the belief he had in coming after me and the alignment of our president and our director of athletics… I know a guy like him has my back, and he’s been a lot of fun to work for in six months here and he’s excited about what we’re trying to do.”
Rhoades echoed to Nittany Lion fans that he’s here to stay in Happy Valley for the long haul after Micah Shrewberry’s two-year stint. With family in the area and his daughter a Penn State women’s lacrosse commit, Rhoades left no room for interpretation that his time in the Bryce Jordan Center would be brief.
“I’m two hours from my mom,” Rhoades said. “I’ve seen my mom in the last six months more than I ever have since I got into this crazy business, and so that’s been a lot of fun.”
Clary and Jameel Brown highlight the Nittany Lions returners from last year’s team. Demetrius Lilley and walk-ons Dan Conlan and Andy Christos also return. With only five players on this roster from a season ago, combined with an entirely new coaching staff that brought in 10 newcomers, the returning players often carried extra responsibility throughout the offseason.
“I’ve been coming here my whole life,” Conlan said. “So it’s been awesome. I know the area really well… it’s been good. I’ve been able to kind of show people around and kind of show what the culture is like and how the people are like and if we play extremely hard everyone’s gonna come and support us.”
For forward Demetrius Lilley, he discovered a role helping newcomers adjust not only to Happy Valley, but to the identity of Penn State basketball.
“First thing’s like just making sure everybody feels comfortable around here,” Lilley said. “Like just showing the culture of Penn State basketball. We play hard. We play gritty. We want to play to the last second of the game.”
Dynamic Backcourt Duo
Clary and Baldwin Jr. provide a unique set of guards for the Nittany Lions this upcoming season. Both are natural point guards and neither stands above 6’1,” which sets up an interesting scheme when both are on the court at the same time.
While new to each other and playing together, Baldwin Jr. arrived from VCU with plenty of knowledge and experience to share with his speedy counterpart.
“I mean definitely with two point guards, it is some questions that people are going to have,” Clary said. “It’s like two of the same people, but in a way it works for us because [Baldwin Jr.] can score, I can score, and he can pass, and I can pass. I think it just helps everybody on the floor get more shots.”
Rhoades emphasized that both Clary and Baldwin Jr. have been great leaders on and off the court. He also said he was excited to see the connection between the pair play out during the season as the primary ball handlers.
There might not have been a coach in college basketball who had a tougher task in rebuilding a roster than Rhoades did this offseason. From convincing players to stay, to bringing VCU recruits with him, to tapping into international scouting, it all happened pretty quickly for his staff.
“Lots of people have been asking me, how are you getting to know everybody? And I’m like, ‘What do you mean? It’s what we do,'” Rhoades said. “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.'”
For the coaching staff, it can be a whirlwind of a few months building connections and establishing relationships with players and their families. Through tight deadlines to fill a roster while cultivating trust, Rhoades said it starts with having a plan for everything they do.
“Number one is to have a plan, right? Have a plan in everything we do,” he said. “So we have a plan for our day as a staff. We have a plan for our players every day. From the weight room, from the classroom, to their meals, to their tutoring to their basketball to their workouts.”
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