Penn State Basketball: Program Continues to Remain Upbeat Despite Losses
Penn State senior Nick Colella was the first player warming up before Monday's practice at the Bryce Jordan Center, shooting 3-pointers with ease into a basket surrounded by a net that funneled each shot into an automated ball return.
As Justin Timberlake's latest single "Suit & Tie" blared over the speakers inside the gym, players filed onto the floor one at a time, each heading to a basket to work on their respective shots.
The music went silent as assistant coach Keith Urgo plugged in his iPod, joking about his playlist as he interrupted a verse by Jay-Z. For a team that has yet to win a conference game, a passerby may not have known it by the energy in the room.
For head coach Patrick Chambers the season hasn't been an easy one. The loss of Tim Frazier is a storyline so rehashed that the story itself may to become injured. A devoted but small fan base understands the need for patience, a need that was greatly enlarged this year, but the uninformed, trigger-happy onlooker may see an 0-9 record as a sign of an early exit for the second-year head coach.
"I tell people the guys are working hard," Chambers said. "And they're getting better, and I really believe that we are developing them, their skill set, and as a team. Sometimes the ball hasn't bounced our way yet, there are no excuses here, guys have got to step up, have go to compete at a higher level, and we've got to make shots.
"We're getting there. When you've got a young team every day it's different and every game is different and every opponent is different."
Moving forward, Penn State's best chances for a conference victory are dwindling. Tuesday's 7 p.m. contest against Purdue at the Bryce Jordan Center will provide the Nittany Lions with their latest opportunity for victory and a sense of validation for the hard work and effort put in since the summer. The positive energy has not come without sacrifice, tears following games and hard practices are a staple of the work week.
"We went short but hard," Chambers said. "We went short but hard again (Sunday) too. Got in some yoga to get the guys stretched and feeling right. They'll be ready to go again (Monday)."
Following Chambers' press conference, guard DJ Newbill stood at the middle of the practice gym floor fielding questions, the focused but soft-spoken sophomore jokingly anointed a "class clown" by his coach only minutes earlier.
"Everybody is bringing positive energy with them," Newbill said, reflecting his coach's understanding that negativity has rarely bred success. "Everybody is ready to get to work again."
In the end, it's really the Nittany Lions' only choice.