Patrick Chambers knows part of his starting lineup.
Now, with nearly four weeks until the Penn State men’s basketball team’s season opener, the head coach is looking to find the right combination of players to surround guards Shep Garner and Josh Reaves.
“I can say right now Josh and Shep will start, and we’ve got to revolve around those guys, whoever makes them better,” Chambers said Saturday after the team’s Blue-White Hoops Showcase at the Altoona Area High School Fieldhouse. “And then how do they make the other guys better? So that’s the great science of this, the pieces of the puzzle to get that all together so we don’t drop off when I go to the bench. The bench has just got to be as strong as our starting lineup.”
So that’s the great science of this, the pieces of the puzzle to get that all together so we don’t drop off when I go to the bench. The bench has just got to be as strong as our starting lineup.
Patrick Chambers, melding a talented fresman class with the team’s veterans
Chambers gave the public a glimpse of his team and some potential lineups during the open practice and scrimmage Saturday. Garner and Reaves are returning starters who Chambers expects to lead his young roster along with Payton Banks, who did not play Saturday due to a hamstring injury. Chambers said Banks will probably be back Monday or Tuesday.
Without Banks, Chambers thought his team showed its youth playing in front of a crowd and their families.
“I didn’t think we shot the ball particularly well,” Chambers said. “We’ve been a machine at really sharing the ball, doing certain things, defending. We had a ton of turnovers, which I expect with the style of play.
“So I think we’re going to watch this film and we’re going to show guys the difference between practice and when you put fans and referees on the floor, we change a little bit.”
Chambers made tweaks to lineups from period to period during the scrimmage.
Garner and Reaves started together on three of the four lineups for the Blue team. The Blue team’s first starting lineup included 6-foot-3 guard Terrence Samuel, 6-foot-7 forward Lamar Stevens and 6-foot-10 forward Julian Moore alongside Garner and Reaves.
The pair started with 6-foot-3 Tony Carr, 6-foot-6 forward Davis Zemgulis and 6-foot-9 forward Mike Watkins in the second Blue lineup and started with Carr, Stevens and Moore in the final Blue lineup.
“Certain lineups I want to put groups of guards together and then small forward and hybrid 5 because Julian and Mike aren’t your traditional 5s,” Chambers said. “They can really run the floor. So who plays well together 4s and 5s-wise, who plays well together 1, 2 and 3 and then trying to marry all those five guys together to give this the best continuity and chemistry.”
As Chambers works to figure out a starting lineup, he’s looking at possible substitution patterns like who the first three players off the bench will be.
He said at the team’s media day Wednesday that he wants to use a 10-man rotation.
“That’s kind of how I did it today to give guys an idea maybe they’re going to come in here, jump on the Blue team here,” Chambers said. “But it gives me a feel for who can really play well together.”
Chambers said Stevens looked like a veteran.
The 6-foot-7 freshman showed off his athleticism with a pair of dunks, elevating for a powerful right-handed slam through a foul in the first period of the scrimmage and later coming up with a steal out of the press and coasting for a two-handed dunk.
“Unbelievable player, unbelievable athleticism,” Garner said. “He’s going to be good for us. He’s going to do a lot of things for us.”
Chambers said at media day that Stevens will see time at both forward positions and “in a pinch, he’s going to play the 5.”
He was able to score inside on a spin move, a drive and a fadeaway over 7-foot center Satchel Pierce. He pulled down rebounds and brought the ball up the floor himself, a valuable skill as Chambers’ team looks to push the pace this season.
“I’m going to give him some freedom because of that — the rebounding the ball and pushing, that really makes it hard to defend us,” Chambers said.
Garner said players enjoy their coach’s approach to the offensive end.
“Playing for coach Chambers gives you the ultimate confidence to be yourself,” Garner said. “He don’t put chains on you and make you into a robot. He lets you play your game.”
Carr and Watkins looked confident during the scrimmage.
Carr, a freshman guard, had five assists, and the redshirt freshman forward Watkins was decisive in the post and made an impressive backdoor bounce pass.
Chambers expects Stevens, Carr and Watkins to contribute.
“Those three guys whether you start ‘em or bring ‘em off the bench, you know that there’s not much dropoff,” Chambers said.
In the first period, Garner scored nine of the Blue team’s first 11 points on its way to outscoring the White team 17-4. Garner made back-to-back 3-pointers and completed a three-point play to give his team an 11-2 lead.
Garner was 7 for 10 from the field and 5 for 8 from 3-point range Saturday. The junior said he’s aiming to be efficient this season — he shot 38.2 percent from the field and 36.6 percent from beyond the arc last year.
Stevens finished 7 for 12 from the field and took second in the team’s attitude points. Watkins and Reaves both went 4 for 8.