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October 11, 2018

Patrick Chambers

Madison Square Garden - New York, New York

THE MODERATOR: We are now joined at the podium by Penn State head coach Patrick Chambers. Chambers begins his eighth season and welcomes back 10 letter winners from last year's squad that won the National Invitational Tournament.

We'd like to start with your opening statement, Coach.

PATRICK CHAMBERS: Good morning. Penn State basketball definitely climbed last year. I feel like the players feel it, there's great momentum for us. The fans feel it, as evidenced by our ticket sales right now are skyrocketing, which is fantastic. We're climbing in the right direction. I think that's why there's so much optimism surrounding our program right now.

I think we see it recruiting. I think the Big Ten conference sees it as well. We're returning three fantastic players. I think our frontline can go against anybody in the country. These guys need to build, though, off that 26-win season last year. Cutting down the nets at MSG, we broke 51 records last year. So really exciting stuff for Penn State basketball.

Led by Josh Reaves, All-Defensive Team last year. Mike Watkins, All-Defensive Team last year. Lamar Stevens, Most Outstanding Player in the NIT, honorable mention, All Big Ten. You have three veterans right there who have logged a lot of minutes.

You add in big John Harrar, who helped us to a 7-1 record at the starting position. That's a frontline to be reckoned with.

You throw Jamari Wheeler in there. Again, that NIT run was a valuable experience for these guys, all right? A ton of minutes to educate them so they can learn how hard it is to be successful in this league.

You marry that with a great young freshman class that we have, really skilled, really talented, high IQs, really shoot the basketball. There's great optimism for Penn State basketball.

Leads us to our schedule. Our non-conference schedule is going to be the most difficult we've had in my tenure. We're hoping that non-conference schedule prepares us for the 20-game slate that the Big Ten now has us playing. That will put us in position to get that NCAA Tournament berth. That's the goal, make no mistake about it. That is the next step in our process, the next step in our climb is to get to that next tournament.

THE MODERATOR: We'll open the floor for questions.

Q. You said the season tickets are spiking. Bryce Jordan has always been the quietest arena in the Big Ten, that's a challenge you have to face. Do you have any numbers that you're willing to share with us at this point?
PATRICK CHAMBERS: I'll share some numbers with you last year: The last five games of the year we averaged close to 11,500 fans. It really became a home-court advantage for us. In Madison Square Garden, our numbers were huge as far as Rutgers and Penn State filling MSG. For the championship game we have 11,500, most since 2005. So I think Penn State fans want good basketball. They're craving good basketball. I think they're sensing an incredible buzz about what we're doing.

With the guys we have coming back, I think that's why you see a great spike in our ticket sales.

Q. You said you got to keep climbing, take the next step to get to the NCAA Tournament. Losing a guy like Tony Carr, what is it going to take, what do you think you have in place besides that front court that's going to get you to the next step?
PATRICK CHAMBERS: Tony Carr was a great player. You're never replacing a kid like Tony Carr. Our first draft choice since 1999. He's doing terrific. It's got to be a collective effort led by Lamar, Josh and Mike. We have great leaders this year, coupled with a lot of talent. So the next step for us is defending a little bit better, rebounding a little bit better, doing the little things just a little bit better, and more consistently.

I think if we get more consistency from our frontline and our veterans, I think the younger guys are going to follow suit. One advantage we have is when Lamar, Tony, that great group came in, I don't know if we had the leadership. This year we have the leadership. That should pull us through, especially in tough times, especially on the road in the Big Ten, when the venues are very difficult to play in.

Q. You talked about replacing Tony from the standpoint of leadership, that sort of thing. How about positionally, what you do in the backcourt?
PATRICK CHAMBERS: Right now Jamari Wheeler is playing great basketball. I think you remember him from last year, shot out of a cannon. Great defender. Also good at managing the team right now. Really bringing those freshmen guards along, setting the table for Josh, Lamar and Mike to be successful on the offensive end.

As long as he continues on that path, I think he's got a great chance to do something special for us, to lead us.

Couple with that Rasir Bolton, Myles Dread, Myreon Jones, really talented freshmen that can score the basketball, high IQs, can score off the bounce. You add those four guys together, they're not going to average 19, one guy, but I think collectively we can get anywhere from 20 to 25 points out of those guys. That's the goal for them.

I don't want to put a lot of pressure on them, which is another advantage. When Tony came in, there was a lot of pressure on him. I gave him the ball from the start. Now you have four guys that can really handle business. Jamari got great experience last year to be able to pass down to these younger guys.

THE MODERATOR: Coach Chambers, thank you so much for your time.


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