When Penn State coach Pat Chambers signed the best recruiting class in the program’s history last November, he quipped that it was like receiving a great Christmas present but not being allowed to open it.
Well, the wrapping paper officially comes off next week, when the Nittany Lions begin fall semester on-court workouts. After having limited contact with the four rookies (and the entire team) over the summer, Chambers is anxious to get down to some serious work.
And he says the true freshmen are ready for it.
“So far, they’ve exceeded my expectations,” Chambers said of a signing class that ended up No. 22 in Scout’s national rankings. “They’re very mature — mature beyond their years. That’s off the court, that’s in the classroom, that’s the way they conduct themselves in the locker room.
“Saying that, I feel very good going into the preseason here with them, to really get my arms around them a little bit,” he added. “You really only have two hours (per week) with them in the summer. But the talent’s definitely there, the fight’s there. They love to compete.”
The group is led by three members of Philadelphia Roman Catholic’s PIAA AAAA state championship team — point guard Tony Carr, wing Nazeer Bostick and combo forward Lamar Stevens. That trio arrived for PSU’s second summer semester in late June.
Are they poised to make an immediate impact in Happy Valley?
“They are,” Chambers said. “Physically, they’re gifted and blessed athletes. And they’re very skilled. I’ve been really impressed by what our new strength coach (Greg Miskinis) has done with them and how they have responded to his coaching. They came in prepared and ready to go. There was no slippage. There was no waiting. Usually there’s a little bit of a wait for freshmen.
“They want to please the veterans,” he added. “They want to get on the court. They’re very smart.”
The fourth member of the class is post player Joe Hampton, a product of powerhouse Oak Hill (Va.) Academy who is listed at 6-foot-8, 291 pounds. Chambers said Hampton, who enrolled for the first summer semester back in May, is probably less than 291 now.
Regardless of Hampton’s weight, the fact that he missed his senior season at Oak Hill with a torn ACL is prompting PSU to bring him along more slowly than the other rookies.
“He has a ways to go,” Chambers said. “But when the season comes around, then you figure out if Joe’s ready to go or not. And I think he will be as long as he stays on the path he’s on right now.
“He hasn’t done anything live,” the coach added. “He’s done a lot of conditioning — changing his diet, lifting. We’re very cautious on our approach with Joe to make sure he’s going to be 100 percent by October. That’s the goal.”
Though this class arrived amid considerable hype, Chambers said none of it has gone to their heads.
“I love their willingness to be coached,” he explained. “When you get a highly ranked class like this, sometimes kids think they know everything. That’s not the way these kids are at all. They want to be coached, they want to be pushed, they want to be driven. They want what’s best for Penn State, which is terrific.”