It’s been quite the up-and-down season for Penn State.
A month ago, the Nittany Lions played their last game of 2021 before coronavirus cases within their program canceled all games until Jan. 2.
With just a week of practice to prepare for Indiana, the blue and white miraculously left victorious, doing so again three days later against Northwestern before just narrowly losing to then-No. 3 Purdue last Saturday.
“If you get one opportunity to come watch us play, whether it's Rutgers, whether it's Purdue, whether it's Minnesota,” coach Micah Shrewsberry said. “If you get one opportunity to come and watch us play, we want you to leave and say, ‘Man that that was money well spent.’”
In a normal season, without the debilitating nature of coronavirus outbreaks, developing a winning culture wouldn’t likely be an easy task for Shrewsberry in his first season in Happy Valley.
Nonetheless, Shrewsberry seems to be doing just this, even with key transfer additions Greg Lee having just returned from an injury and Jevonnie Scott still waiting to take the floor due to NCAA eligibility issues.
So why do the Nittany Lions look considerably better since returning from coronavirus protocols?
To forward Seth Lundy, he and his team are just “focused.”
“When you’re trying to accomplish something great, you can’t procrastinate and put any work to the side,” Lundy said.
During a 22-day break from basketball activities within the program, Lundy didn’t stop working.
“It’s easy to be lazy in that situation,” Lundy said. “But I was seeing [my trainer] every single day, trying to stay in shape… When we came back we were working even harder than we were before.”
The at-home regiment was the same for Lee, who revealed he’s about 90-95% recovered from the undisclosed leg injury he suffered prior to the season’s tipoff.
“I knew Seth was going to go home, still put the work in,” Lee said. “Everybody just maintained their work ethic, and it paid off by the time we came back.”
When Lundy and Lee returned to the Bryce Jordan Center to take on the Hooisers, the Nittany Lions just looked more polished in a number of areas.
That day, the blue and white outrebounded Indiana 39-29, holding the Hooisers to just 58 points on 39.7% shooting, while shooting 50% from its own 3-point line.
All that and one broken-Shrewsberry clipboard later, and the first-year head coach had found himself his first conference win.
Micah Shrewsberry: 1️⃣Clipboard: 0️⃣ pic.twitter.com/UrQa69kBHQ— FOX College Hoops (@CBBonFOX) January 2, 2022
“I don't have the energy to try and be somebody in public, and then come to practice and be somebody else, and then go into the office and be somebody else with my staff,” Shrewsberry said. “Like, I'm just being me.”
To the public, Shrewsberry’s clipboard snap was likely the first true overload of emotion he’s shown as Penn State head coach.
To his team, though, Shrewsberry’s emotion surrounding the game of basketball is evident every single day.
“He’s just so passionate about the game,” Lundy said. “He loves winning, he talks about it every single day. He wakes up, the only thing he can think about is winning.”
For a program trying to break through as the next up-and-coming team in the Big Ten, that same mindset is necessary in each of the Nittany Lions’ 15 players in order to reach success.
To Lee, Shrewsberry’s energy and passion is “contagious.”
“He just wants to put us in a better position to win,” Lundy said.
With the spring semester starting up, the Nittany Lions will finally be faced with some normal collegiate obstacles, such as passing classes and balancing their extracurricular — basketball.
Even with classes, Penn State’s players don’t seem too concerned about an extra time commitment on their hands.
“You have to take care of school,” Lee said. “It’s something else to add on, but the focus is still the same.”
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