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Ferry Optimistic About PSU Hoops

Amid an FBI investigation and turmoil laid at the feet of big time shoe companies accused of funneling money to high level basketball recruits, NCAA Division One basketball programs officially began practice for the upcoming season this week. Yes, that is a bit earlier than it used to be, but it seems these days almost

Amid an FBI investigation and turmoil laid at the feet of big time shoe companies accused of funneling money to high level basketball recruits, NCAA Division One basketball programs officially began practice for the upcoming season this week. Yes, that is a bit earlier than it used to be, but it seems these days almost anything pertaining to NCAA rules is subject to change.

The new NCAA rule allows practice to begin 42 days, rather than the previous 40 days, before the first game of the regular season. It was done to accommodate Midnight Madness events planned around the opening of men’s basketball practice at many schools. With the former 40-day rule, the first day for practice would fall on a Sunday, which is not conducive to Midnight Madness events. Instituting a 42-day window allows for the first practice to be held on a Friday. (Can you see the tail wagging the dog?)

Down the road in State College Pat Chambers welcomes a new assistant coach, Jim Ferry, to the Nittany Lions brain trust. A former head coach at Duquesne and LIU Brooklyn, where his teams set school scoring records, Ferry brings an offensive-minded approach to his new position. In town for a recent PSU Booster Club meeting, he responded to questions as to why he chose Penn State.

“It is a unique situation for me. I’ve been a head coach for nineteen years and have had the opportunity to sit out for a couple of seasons. I’ve had other opportunities to get back into coaching but when this offer presented itself I thought it was very special. My family and I have connection to Penn State. My oldest daughter graduated from Penn State in 2015 and my younger daughter is now a sophomore here. I’ve had a relationship with Pat Chambers for a long time in the profession as both competitors and friends. So I have a feel for what Pat has done here at Penn State, his philosophies, the culture he is developing and his goals for the program. So the opportunity to come into a situation like this and a program and University I have great respect for, is just a great opportunity for me.

“Every assistant coach has a specific role to play, especially in a conference like the Big Ten. In addition to player development, recruiting, and academics, they brought me in to help with the offensive side of the ball. Penn State was a young team last year, and most of the players are returning. We are a talented team and playing at a faster tempo is a phase of the game we would like to strengthen. My teams in the past have played at a faster tempo, we share the ball, we score the ball and these are areas we are going to look to build on. Penn State does play at a good tempo. We’re not coming in to change everything — not at all. There are some things we can do a bit differently, but the ideas Coach Chambers and I share together might be able to help us a little bit.

“Coach Chambers has improved the talent level drastically since he arrived here. He has been able to get into Philadelphia and the DC area to get some top 100 recruits. When you look back on the history of Penn State, that hasn’t happened very often. He comes into a youngster’s home and tells the truth and cares about the kids and their development. He does it the right way and that is what drew me here. Penn State is a special place. On the basketball side of it, some people just don’t know it. He has done a great job of getting the right people on campus and getting the right kids to commit to the program.

“When I am recruiting I get to talk to them more as a parent of a Penn State graduate and a Penn State student. So I’m able to tell them what sold me on the University. Some people knock our location as it pertains to basketball recruiting. But I think the location is great. It is centrally located to some of the bigger population areas on the east coast and it is appropriately named — Happy Valley. When you come over those hills and onto the campus you just get a tingling feeling about yourself.

“Then you can talk about the academic reputation of the University. It is one of the top 25 Universities combining both academics and athletics in the country. It’s one of the top five schools regarding alumni and hiring of graduates. Those are the kinds of things that drew me here as a parent. Now that I am here, I’ve been tremendously impressed with the people who work here. That is really special. I’ve been in college athletics for a long time and it’s not like that everywhere. You just get that special feeling at a place like this.

“I would put the Big Ten Conference up there as the number one or two conference in America. Big Ten athletics, Big Ten basketball, the coaching legends are here, the schools, the national championships, the reputation, the facilities — it ranks right up there at the top. For basketball it is just top-flight competition every night. The conference schedule is demanding and the national exposure the league gets affords players opportunities that they can’t get many other places.

“I think coach Chambers and his staff has done a very good job of upgrading the basketball atmosphere over the last couple of years. It is climbing. We already have more season tickets sold than in previous years. I think people see the passion and excitement that coach Chambers has brought to Penn State basketball. He has done a great job in getting out in the community and across the state. I’ve been around him for a long time and there aren’t many people that have the passion that Pat has every single day. He comes in the office and the energy level is always there. It is taking hold. I know nationally, on the basketball side of it, the program has major momentum right now. I think as people see this they will start to jump on board because we are climbing and it is coming. If people come out to see us play for one game, I think they will want to come back for four or five games. I think that is how you build it.”

The Bryce Jordan Center is both figuratively and geographically in the shadow of Beaver Stadium. Here’s hoping Jim Ferry’s outlook becomes basketball reality.

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