Penn State Basketball

One of the keys this season to success for the Penn State men’s basketball team? ‘Mental conditioning’

Penn State men’s basketball coach Patrick Chambers, seen here last month, said on Wednesday that “mental conditioning” will be an integral part of his team’s success this season.
Penn State men’s basketball coach Patrick Chambers, seen here last month, said on Wednesday that “mental conditioning” will be an integral part of his team’s success this season. Centre Daily Times, file

Patrick Chambers is talking with his Penn State men’s basketball team repeatedly about “mental conditioning” to try to get a consistent effort from the Nittany Lions from game to game this season.

The coach is also preparing his team mentally at practice, calling for one more drill when his players think the workout’s over and keeping score in another drill with extra running for the loser.

“We need to have the mental conditioning to come back and compete at the same level or higher,” Chambers said Wednesday at the Bryce Jordan Center. “And that’s what we’re working on.”

The Nittany Lions are set to host Campbell at 4 p.m. Friday in their first game of the year. In the team’s first few games, Chambers said he wants to see his team sustain its strong stretches of play longer. Right now, the Nittany Lions can put together a solid run for 8-10 minutes, only to see a drop-off in their play at other times. To find that consistency this season, Chambers has challenged his team to be ready to go mentally.

That approach extends to the team’s offseason focus on defending and rebounding. Chambers likes what he’s seen from his team on the offensive end — the Nittany Lions scored 102 points against Lafayette and 84 points against Bloomsburg in their two exhibition games — but he’s looking for more consistency on the defensive end and the glass.

The Nittany Lions coach thought exhibition games on consecutive days last weekend served as another valuable mental test for his team before opening the season.

Penn State will have to play on back-to-back days as part of the Legends Classic at the Barclays Center. The Nittany Lions will face Pittsburgh on Nov. 20, followed by either Oklahoma State or Texas A&M on Nov. 21.

Last season, Penn State lost by 10 points to Duke in its Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament opener and suffered a 21-point loss to Cincinnati the next day. In the Big Ten tournament, after the Nittany Lions beat Nebraska, they lost 78-51 to Michigan State to end their season.

“I didn’t like our back-to-backs last year,” Chambers said.

Chambers has talked with the Nittany Lions about that challenge, saying they need to compete the same way on the second day of action. And he wants his team to make the sacrifices to be prepared throughout the season, making sure they get their sleep and head to the team’s facility for cold and hot tubs to stay fresh.

It all plays a factor in their ability to perform at a high level consistently.

“We’re the same team that beat Michigan State, and we’re the same team that beat Maryland and the same team that beat Minnesota, same team that beat Georgia Tech,” Chambers said. “We had some really, really great wins, but can we be consistent the next night? Great win. Are we going to play that way the next night? That’s what I’m looking for.”

Chambers ‘hopeful’ about Watkins’ return

Penn State forward Mike Watkins did not play in the team’s exhibition games against Lafayette and Bloomsburg last weekend. But Watkins could take the floor with his teammates this weekend.

“He’s working hard,” Chambers said. “He’s doing everything we need him to do. He’s closer and closer to being back, so I’m hopeful he’ll be back this weekend.”

When asked about the reason Watkins has been sidelined, Chambers said, “It’s in-house.” Watkins did not make the trip with the team to the Bahamas in August, either. Watkins averaged 9.7 points and 8.1 rebounds in 33 games last season.

Nittany Lions sign 2 players

Myles Dread and Rasir Bolton signed their National Letters of Intent to join Penn State on Wednesday, and Chambers described the pair as “winners.”

Dread and Bolton are both rated three-star recruits by 247Sports. Dread contributed to Gonzaga High School in Washington, D.C., capturing the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference title last season. The 6-foot-4 guard also averaged 10.4 points and 4.9 assists during his junior season. Chambers said Dread is a versatile player and a “very good” shooter.

“He does a lot of winning things for your team and he’s a leader,” Chambers said. “He’s not afraid to get in his teammates’ faces, he’s not afraid to put himself out there, and that’s the thing that you love about him.”

Bolton is a 6-foot-3 guard from Virginia who has scored more than 1,000 points in his high school career.

“The one thing that I asked him to do was really work on being more vocal and leading,” Chambers said. “And he’s done that. He’s been the loudest guy in the gym — positive or negative.”