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Time and Trust: Penn State basketball coach Mike Rhoades talks building roster

On Thursday, new Penn State basketball coach Mike Rhoades discussed his plans to build a roster centered on long-term success.

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Mike Rhoades, Penn State basketball coach
Dec 5, 2018; Austin, TX, USA; Virginia Commonwealth Rams head coach Mike Rhoades walks the baseline watching the team play during the second half against the Texas Longhorns at Frank Erwin Center. Mandatory Credit: John Gutierrez-USA TODAY Sports

State College — Yesterday was a special day for the Nittany Lions basketball program. On Thursday, Mike Rhoades was introduced as the next Penn State basketball coach. In his introductory press conference, Rhoades outlined a vision for his Penn State basketball program: bold, different, and aggressive.”

A critical first step in this vision will be building a roster. Rhoades inherits a bare-bones roster, with most players from Penn State’s 2023 NCAA Tournament run either graduating or in the transfer portal. The new Penn State basketball coach will have to restock a depleted recruiting class as well. But despite the pressure for immediate gratification in college athletics today, Rhoades has indicated that he won’t be swayed from doing things “the right way.”

Penn State basketball coach Mike Rhoades discusses building roster

There’s no way to sugarcoat it; Penn State’s roster is in dire straights. The Nittany Lions have lost six players to graduation and only have three scholarship players not in the transfer portal. When asked how he would handle the difficult situation, Mike Rhoades stated that he plans to be aggressive in the transfer portal but that there must also be a balance with recruiting. “We owe it to the program, and we owe it to what we’re trying to do to get it right,” Rhoades said on Thursday.

But Rhoades is focused on building a sustainable roster for the long term. Rhoades indicated that doing this will require hard work, but the effort will pay dividends over time.

“It’s time to go recruit. It’s time to build relationships with the guys that are here,” Rhoades said. “…to build relationships takes two things: time and trust. I’m gonna give them my time, and hopefully, that builds trust…We got to go build a roster. But I assure you this — we’re going to do it right, and we’re going to do it to last.”

Part of a family

Mike Rhoades also spent considerable time in his Thursday press conference harkening back to his Pennsylvania roots. A Schuylkill County native, Rhoades said that, as the Penn State basketball coach, his teams will embrace the hard-working mentality of Pennsylvania’s coal region.

“Like the people of this commonwealth and this university, every day we’re going to go to work,” Rhoades said. “We will be blue collar. We will have dirt on our hands, and we’ll be damn proud of it. That’s who we are around here.”

Ultimately, Rhoades believes this hard work will bring his teams together. A formula that has brought success at his previous destinations, Rhoades expressed that this sacrifice bonds him to his players for life.

“If you sweat for me, invest your time, and put everything you have into this, you become part of our family… It’s going to be about more than just a game. It’s going to be about building relationships that go beyond the court and into peoples’ lives and their futures.”

He has a daunting road ahead of him as the Penn State basketball coach, but Mike Rhoades expressed the right mentality to get the job done. But now that the pleasantries are over, it’s time to go to work.



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Penn State basketball: New transfer portal addition is reason for excitement

Mike Rhoades is killing it in the transfer portal so far.

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Penn State basketball, Mike Rhoades, transfer portal addition, Favour Aire
Mar 31, 2023; Houston, TX, USA; Miami (Fl) Hurricanes center Favour Aire (12) looks on from the court during a practice session the day before the Final Four of the 2023 NCAA Tournament at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday, newly appointed head coach Mike Rhoades continued to bolster his revamped Penn State basketball team by adding another player from the transfer portal. The addition of Favour Aire, a former four-star recruit, has sparked significant excitement among Nittany Lion hoops fans as they eagerly anticipate the upcoming 2023-24 season.

Penn State basketball adds another transfer portal addition

After a remarkable season that saw Penn State basketball achieve one of its best records in history at 22-14 and reach the Round of 32 in the NCAA tournament, former head coach Micah Shrewsberry decided to leave the program for Notre Dame. Following Shrewsberry’s departure, the Nittany Lions made an excellent choice in hiring Mike Rhoades, the former head coach of the VCU Rams. Rhoades, a Pennsylvania native, played a significant role in elevating the VCU program to prominence within the A-10 conference, even capturing a conference title in the 2022-23 season.

When Mike Rhoades assumed the coaching position at Penn State, the team had only two scholarship players on the roster. While the rebuild is not yet complete, it is certainly progressing in a positive direction. The latest addition to Penn State’s upcoming roster is Favour Aire, a former four-star center from Miami, standing at an impressive 6-foot-10 and hailing from Maryland.

Favour Aire is headed to Happy Valley

A season ago, Penn State basketball lacked a true big man in the paint; instead, the Nittany Lions relied on their small guards and star players like All-American Jalen Pickett. However, when the offense struggled, the defense was often ineffective against larger teams. Fortunately, Mike Rhoades has addressed this issue by acquiring a new center.

Penn State basketball is currently undergoing significant identity changes. Micah Shrewsberry’s fast-paced offensive strategies are about to transition into Mike Rhoades’ defensive schemes, which may not be the smoothest transition. Nevertheless, Rhoades seems to be benefiting from the opportunity to shape the team according to his vision.

According to the ON3 rankings, the newest addition to the Penn State basketball transfer portal is a former four-star recruit. Initially ranked as the No. 112 recruit in the class of 2022, he was also regarded as the No. 20 center in the nation and the No. 4 recruit in the state of Maryland.

Some fans may raise concerns about his limited playing time during his season in Miami. However, it’s important to consider that the Hurricanes were incredibly successful last season, and he was playing behind an All-ACC-caliber center, which made it challenging for him to secure playing time.

For the rebuilding Penn State basketball program, this significant addition brings much excitement as they enter year one of the Mike Rhoades era in State College.



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Penn State guard joins former coach on staff of in-state rival

The former Penn State guard will be joining his old coach in Philadelphia.

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Penn State guard Cam Wynter, Temple basketball
Mar 18, 2023; Des Moines, IA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions guard Camren Wynter (11) shoots the ball against Texas Longhorns forward Dylan Disu (1) during the first half at Wells Fargo Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

The coaching carousel in college basketball has now slowed considerably in May. Many schools, like Penn State, have made their head coaching decisions, and the necessary staff pieces have followed in recent weeks. However, some moves are still being made that impact the Penn State world. This week, Penn State guard Cam Wynter, who just finished his playing career, decided to join his former coach Adam Fisher on the Temple basketball staff.

Turbulent times in Happy Valley

There has been much turnover on the Penn State basketball coaching staff over the past few years. First, in 2020, Pat Chambers resigned after allegations of inappropriate conduct after a steady nine years at the helm. Replacing Chambers was interim head coach Jim Ferry, who was not retained by Penn State. Ferry went on to become UMBC’s head coach. 

Penn State thought it found stability with the hire of Micah Shrewsberry. Quite frankly, Shrewsberry took Penn State’s program to heights that were not thought of as possible. Impact transfers like Jalen Pickett, Andrew Funk, and Cam Wynter all transferred to Penn State with Shrewsberry as head coach. This past season, Penn State finished as runner-up in the Big Ten Tournament and made it to the Round of 32 in March Madness. But shortly after the season, Shrewsberry left Penn State to return to his home state of Indiana to coach for Notre Dame. Penn State was once again searching for head coach answers. 

Penn State finds its next head coach

After Shrewsberry left, Penn State prioritized finding someone with Pennsylvania ties who could keep Penn State as an NCAA Tournament-caliber team. Penn State fans jokingly clamored for Jay Wright, who had won two national championships at Villanova. But Wright was obviously not going to leave the CBS TV studio to come to Happy Valley. Colgate Head Coach Matt Langel’s name was mentioned by many media outlets. FAU Head Coach Dusty May was also a top candidate. Neither guy ended up with the Penn State job. 

Much attention was also given to Shrewsberry’s assistant head coach, Adam Fisher. Fisher was a Penn State alum with years of coaching experience at Penn State. Many Penn State players vouched for him, including Jalen Pickett, Myles Dread, Andrew Funk, and Camren Wynter, who all tweeted that Penn State should promote Fisher. 

But Penn State athletic director Pat Kraft decided to go another way. Kraft brought in Mike Rhoades from VCU, who took the Rams to three NCAA tournaments in the last four years. Rhoades has immediately brought impact transfers to Happy Valley.

Adam Fisher gets his shot with Temple basketball

Ultimately Adam Fisher did get a head coaching job in Pennsylvania, just not with the program people expected. Fisher was named the next head coach of Temple. The choice made sense for the Owls, as Fisher has obvious Pennsylvania ties and has taken a team to the NCAA Tournament. 

Former Penn State guard Cam Wynter follows Fisher to Philadelphia

On Tuesday, it was announced that former Penn State guard Cam Wynter was joining Adam Fisher’s staff at Temple. Wynter played at Drexel for four years before transferring to Penn State for the 2022-2023 season. Wynter became a fan-favorite for his late-game heroics during Penn State’s push to the NCAA Tournament, hitting game-winning buzzer-beaters against Northwestern and Maryland in the regular season. 

Wynter was one of nine Division I athletes in the last 30 years to finish their career with at least 1,900 points, 600 assists, and 600 rebounds. After advocating for Fisher to get the Penn State job, Wynter will now follow his former coach to Philadelphia to begin his own coaching career.



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Penn State basketball: Nittany Lions make history with NBA Combine invite

Former Nittany Lions Jalen Pickett and Seth Lundy continue to make history for the Penn State basketball program.

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Penn State, Jalen Pickett, Seth Lundy, NBA Combine
Mar 5, 2023; University Park, Pennsylvania, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions guard Seth Lundy (1) celebrates with guard Jalen Pickett (22) following the completion of the game against the Maryland Terrapins at Bryce Jordan Center. Mandatory Credit: Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

Although it was overshadowed by the coaching change and roster turmoil that followed, last year was a historic season for the Penn State basketball program. The Nittany Lions played in the Big Ten Tournament Championship for the second time ever, made their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2011, and won their first tournament game since 2001. In a season of firsts, Jalen Pickett became the program’s first All-American since Jesse Arnelle nearly 70 years ago. And the 2022-23 Penn State basketball team made history once again Tuesday, as Pickett and fellow former Nittany Lion Seth Lundy were announced as participants in the upcoming NBA Combine.

Lundy and Pickett make history with NBA Combine invite

On Tuesday night, Penn State announced that Jalen Pickett and Seth Lundy had been officially invited to the NBA Combine, which begins on May 15 in Chicago, Illinois. The news marks the first time that Penn State basketball has had two players invited to the NBA Combine in the same year. Pickett and Lundy become only the fourth and fifth Nittany Lions to ever earn NBA Combine invitations, preceded by Jarrett Stephens (2001), Tony Carr (2018), and Lamar Stevens (2020).

Pickett put together one of the best seasons in NCAA history last winter. He became the first Division I men’s player since 1993 to average at least 17 points, seven rebounds, and six assists per game while shooting over 50% from the field for an entire year. The season was a capstone of a historic collegiate career for Pickett. Pickett is the first player since 1986 to tally over 2,000 points, 700 rebounds, and 800 assists over his college tenure.

An All-Big Ten Honor Mention, Lundy averaged over 14 points and six rebounds per game in 2022-23, his most impressive season at Penn State. Lundy’s 1,283 points and 229 three-pointers made rank 20th and sixth in program history, respectively. In March, Lundy announced his intention to enter the NBA Draft after his senior season in Happy Valley.

Penn State basketball’s dynamic duo look to make history once again

Two of the most successful players ever at Penn State, Pickett and Lundy will try to make history once again in next month’s NBA Draft. The duo aims to become the first Lions drafted since Tony Carr was selected by the New Orleans Pelicans in the second round of the 2018 NBA Draft. Carr is the only Nittany Lion taken in the NBA Draft this millennium. If both Lundy and Pickett are selected, it will be the first time Penn State has ever had multiple draft picks in the same year. Given their track record on the court, the pair has a great chance to check one final box for the Penn State basketball program. 



Thank you for reading Basic Blues Nation. Please follow us on Facebook and Twitter for the latest news and insights on your favorite Penn State athletics. For feedback, questions, concerns, or to apply for a writing position, please email us at basicbluesnation@gmail.com or direct message us on our social media. It’s due to your support that we can become one of the market’s fastest-growing Penn State sports outlets!

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