‘There Was Nothing But Love’: Penn State Hoops ‘Veterans’ Mixing With New Roster

Jameel Brown was in the grocery store when he found out that he no longer had a coach.

Brown, a sophomore guard for Penn State men’s basketball, found out at the same time as the rest of the university that Micah Shrewsberry was leaving his position as head coach to take the same job at Notre Dame, just after the team’s historic run in the NCAA Tournament.

Brown didn’t take the news terribly. As difficult as it was to lose his college coach, he understood the rationale.

“I wasn’t really upset,” Brown said. “Because everybody has a job. Everybody wants to do what they want to do in life, so I’m not mad at anybody for doing anything.”

The players at Penn State reacted in different ways. Some, like current NBA players Jalen Pickett, Andrew Funk, and Seth Lundy, were already destined to leave. Others packed their things and transferred schools. A couple of commits followed Shrewsberry to Notre Dame, too.

Three players stuck around. Now, sophomores Brown, Kanye Clary, and Demetrius Lilley are left as the trio of players to persist from the Shrewsberry era of Penn State basketball into the Mike Rhoades era that’s replaced it.

The sophomores’ relationship with the rest of the team is a little interesting. There’s just one true freshman on the roster, so those three are some of the least experienced on a roster dominated by upperclassmen. Nonetheless, they’ve emerged as makeshift veterans within the roster.

“I have some experience, so if guys need help with things, I can teach them,” Lilley said.

While Lilley said the experience as a veteran is strange, it’s one he’s living up to. In a roster where nine players have at least two years of experience already under their belts, the 20-year-old is trying to step up.

Lilley seems to be sharing that mindset with the other players who stuck around from the Shrewsberry era. The trio saw a team that had just reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament dwindle to a list of just three scholarship players. Now, it’s on those same three players to help get the team back to the height it reached in March 2023.

So much of Penn State’s roster is brand new to the school — and brand new to each other. The players who stayed from Penn State knew each other, as did Ace Baldwin Jr. and Nick Kern Jr. from VCU and D’Marco Dunn and Puff Johnson from North Carolina. But past that, everyone else was strangers to the rest.

Despite that, the players have said that they’ve bonded well. For a group of 18 players thrown in a room together and told to play basketball, they’re hanging in there. And those who stuck around, bonding with the new team was easy.

“I think we did pretty good. We did pretty well for guys who didn’t know each other,” Lilley said. “So there was nothing but love when everybody came in.”

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About the Author

Joe Lister

Joe is a junior journalism major at Penn State and Onward State's managing editor. He covers Penn State football, among other Penn State sports. He also listens to Mac Miller more than you. If you want to find him, Joe's usually watching soccer with his shirt off or at the gym with his shirt on. For dumb stuff, follow him on Twitter (iamjoelister). For serious stuff, email him ([email protected]).

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