Lamar Stevens steps to the free-throw line and begins his routine with three dribbles.
The Penn State freshman then spins the ball on his left hand and looks up at the rim before letting it go.
The trips to the line may not be as exciting as Stevens’ powerful dunks or knocking down a big 3-pointer, but they’ve been just as productive.
“I was telling Lamar the other day, just get excited about doing boring, which goes back to my word simple,” Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said at his press conference Monday. “Go to the free-throw line, shoot 50 free throws, whatever it may be. Be happy with those 15-footers.”
Stevens and the Nittany Lions are shooting 79.6 percent from the foul line through nine games. They were ranked 10th in the country in free-throw percentage going into Monday’s games. Of Penn State’s eight players who have attempted at least eight free throws, seven are shooting better than 71 percent.
Nittany Lion guards Tony Carr (89.7 percent) and Shep Garner (88.9 percent) are among the team’s best free-throw shooters.
But Stevens, a 6-foot-7 forward, leads the team in free throws made, attempted and percentage.
He’s gone 32 for 35, good for a 91.4 percent clip.
Chambers said Stevens is slowly but surely starting to understand his strengths.
“He’s getting there,” Chambers said. “He’s getting there.”
Stevens is averaging 12.4 points per game, thanks in part to his steady performance at the line.
His teammates have also proven to be reliable.
“I think we have a lot of guys that are into doing boring,” Chambers said.
Carr has learned plenty from his veteran backcourt mate Garner so far.
But he’s also noticed how redshirt junior Payton Banks prepares himself mentally and physically every day.
“He gets to every practice and workout two hours early just to make sure that he’s his best for the team, so I just try to follow his lead with a lot of things,” Carr said.
The freshman point guard has started all nine games and ranks second on the team in minutes played (32.6 per game). He’s averaging 11.9 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game.
But he said it’s been a “big leap” for him from high school to college, especially on the defensive end.
“I just try to make strides there every game and just try to help my teammates as much as possible,” Carr said.
A look at George Mason
Chambers will see a familiar face on the opposing bench when Penn State hosts George Mason at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
The Patriots are led by former Bucknell coach Dave Paulsen. Chambers and Penn State won two of their three meetings against Paulsen and the Bison from 2012-2014.
Chambers is expecting a similar matchup against George Mason.
“It will be another drag-out fight, backroom brawl, whatever you want to call it, like we had with Bucknell,” Chambers said.
The Nittany Lions (6-3) are riding a four-game winning streak, and the Patriots (6-3) have won five straight.
Marquise Moore, a 6-foot-2 guard, leads George Mason in scoring with 17.3 points per game and rebounding with 10.0 per game. Moore has five double-doubles this season.