Penn State Basketball: For Reaves, Thursday Upset Began With A Long Drive
If the game had started at any other time, Penn State may very well have played without Josh Reaves on Thursday night.
The reason, he was still in State College, hours away but also just hours from finding out if his midseason academic issue had been taken care of. If he got the okay he would be eligible. If not, stuck at home watching the Nittany Lions take on No. 13 Ohio State without him.
So Penn State left him behind, there was no way to know for sure what the answer might be.
Even so, coach Pat Chambers and Director of Ops Ross Condon held out hope, so Condon stayed behind with a car, just in case.
“We're going to do whatever it takes to help this program. We're going to do whatever it takes to help this team,” said Chambers. “Ross Condon and I had a conversation the day before the Ohio State game. We looked at each other. He said, What do you think? I said I don't know, it could happen. And he's like, I'll stay. I want to do this."
And early Thursday afternoon Reaves got the word, he was eligible again, and so he and Condon headed on the road. They arrived a little after 6:30. Reaves spoke with Chambers, got a brief scouting report and headed onto the court with his teammates who cheered and hugged him as he returned.
“That's a guy who is selfless," Chambers said of Condon. "It didn't matter to him that it was a five-hour drive. He was going to do it regardless if Josh was in the car or not. And to have that faith and to sacrifice the way he did, this staff is going to do whatever it takes to find success, compliantly. And I think there's something to be said for this team and this staff and the direction that we're headed in here.”
It's safe to say Penn State would have missed Reaves too. The Nittany Lion made his return to action in style with 10 points and three rebounds off the bench. It wasn't his best game, but he added key depth to a Penn State lineup that had been missing it. Couple that with his all-Big Ten defense and Penn State gave the Buckeyes everything they could handle.
“He still gets you double-digits. He still plays incredible defense. W were ready to play with or without him, but I just saw a whole other level, a whole other step of confidence and belief.” said Chambers.
“And that's the way they played. They played very loose, they played with great confidence, and let's give Josh a little credit. It's because of him and his leadership out there is amazing.”
And as Tony Carr banked in a game-winner a few hours later, it was hard not to wonder if Penn State's biggest win of the year may have never happened, if not for a long day in the car.