Payton Banks felt his Penn State teammates would need to hear the message again Wednesday.
After experiencing the emotional high of beating Michigan State last week, Banks knows it could be easy to lose focus and stumble in Big Ten play. So the redshirt junior said the Nittany Lions need to make sure they “don’t get so high” and stay consistent in their preparation.
Banks has been comfortable speaking up this season, and his younger teammates have been receptive to his advice.
“I feel at home with these guys,” Banks said. “I feel like they’re my family and they’re really easy to talk to and they understand everything’s, I’m just trying to help ‘em and nothing’s negative.”
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Banks is trying to keep the Nittany Lions (10-7, 2-2) on track going into their game against No. 24 Minnesota (15-3, 3-2) at noon Saturday at the Bryce Jordan Center.
While the 6-foot-6 forward has been steady on the court — averaging 12.0 points and leading the team in 3-point shooting — Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said Banks has grown into a leadership role off the court throughout the season. He’s also done little things like asking to have his roommate switched during road trips.
“He’s conducting himself like a senior and his leadership has been absolutely off the charts — off the charts,” Chambers said. “He talks the most, he’s leading by example and he’s really trying to help these freshmen.”
At the start of the season, Banks and fellow captains Shep Garner and Terrence Samuel tried to stress the importance of the defensive end to their young teammates.
The veterans realized they’d get the message with experience.
“Once you see what defense does like in the Michigan State game, in the Rutgers game, it makes you want to do it more,” Banks said. “I feel like they’re really mature in that aspect that they understand that, and we don’t have to tell ‘em.”
“There’s obviously lapses. Everybody has lapses. I’ve been here 8 million years and I still have lapses.”
But Penn State has kept the lapses to a minimum in Big Ten play. The Nittany Lions are currently ranked second in the league in field goal percentage defense, limiting their opponents to 39.5 percent shooting in conference games.
Banks said the difference in the team’s communication defensively has been “night and day” when comparing its effort in a season-opening loss to Albany to its win over Michigan State. He credited part of the improved effort to the team’s chemistry.
“It’s also getting used to the guys you’re playing with, and that’s why I like rooming with different people because I feel like that communication is also just as important,” Banks said.
It gives Banks the chance to build camaraderie as he embraces his leadership role this season.
“He’s trying to pick and choose his spots, doesn’t want to step on toes,” Chambers said. “I think he’s very secure with who he is and what he’s doing.”
Notes: Minnesota is coming off a 65-47 loss to Michigan State on Wednesday. The Golden Gophers are ranked for the first time since 2013. They have wins over Purdue, Northwestern and Ohio State in conference play. ... Minnesota’s Reggie Lynch leads the league with 3.1 blocks per game. Penn State’s Mike Watkins is second with 2.9 per game.
Minnesota at Penn State
When: Noon, Saturday
Where: Bryce Jordan Center
Radio: WQWK 1450