Myles Dread isn't dumb, he knows what having Lamar Stevens back means to everyone. He knows the difference between having good players and having a great one. He knows.
"It means the world," Dread said last week two days after Stevens announced his intention to return for his senior season. "Obviously he's a great player, and all-Big Ten caliber player. He's a great leader and we're very excited to have him."
Two separate things are true in the case of the talented forward. Both that Penn State has had talented players before and has had limited success in spite of it. Also true, that the gulf between a Penn State team with Lamar Stevens and a team without him is massive, the Nittany Lions going from a somewhat rudderless collection of talent to a potential Big Ten contender.
Will it happen? Who knows, but it certainly wasn't going to happen without him.
Nevertheless, Dread and his teammates had to be ready to whatever happened next as they waited on Lamar.
"We were more-so preparing for anything," Dread said. "We don't want to rely on one player at any point in time. We always want the best for him so we were just looking at his best interests and not really thinking about ourselves. We talked a few times just to see how he was feeling and I was just curious for myself."
Of course Dread is being a little politically correct, he knows what having Stevens does to this team, but he also knows that Stevens can't do it on his own, and that means taking care of his job too, a job that requires work off the court as much as work on it.
And that's the good news for Penn State fans, the jump players make between their freshman and sophomore years. A leap from "hey I'm in college" to understanding what that really means. Dread scored nine or fewer points in six of Penn State's last seven games, making three shots from beyond the arc in Penn State's final four games. But he also had a stretch of double-digit games and plays that looked the part of a budding star.
So how much has Dread seen change in himself?
"A complete 180 degree turn," Dread said. "Last year I was more excited for the one the court things but not necessarily paying attention to the off the court things. So nitpicking at the little things like that and looking in the mirror and seeing what I really need to do is part of my maturity and something I take great pride in."
"Been eating right, doing a lot of lifting and running, working on my game, working on ball handling and working on making my shot more consistent."
Of course the elephant in the room is that this same team struggled to achieve the goals it wanted to achieve and now it has to do it without Josh Reaves and Rasir Bolton. So do you wipe the slate clean and forget about everything that happened before, or do you remember it?
"We do both," Dread said. "We let go of it as in, we don't let it define us. But at the same time, last year is unacceptable and we don't want for that happen again and we're going to take the neccisary strides to make sure that doesn't happen."
And how does that happen?
"100% buy-in, trusting our coaches, trusting each other and trusting ourselves."