Penn State men’s basketball: Micah Shrewsberry develops culture at PSU
Micah Shrewsberry picked up his mug for a drink at the Bryce Jordan Center with a smile on his face.
“It’s a bad memory,” he told the Center Daily Times, a smile still evident.
“They dominated us.
On February 11, 2020, Penn State men’s basketball center John Harrar dove for the ball – as he always does – and slipped towards the baseline in a game against Purdue, where Shrewsberry was the associate head coach in the game his team lost 88-76. The moment was an encapsulation of who Harrar is as a player.
With the Nittany Lions ahead 77-60 and a win over the Boilermakers well in hand, Harrar skidded on the floor trying to keep a loose ball from going out of bounds.
Fast forward a little over a year and Shrewsberry was no longer an enemy of Harrar. Rather, he was trying to convince him to play for him after the former took over as Penn State men’s basketball coach.
Now, seven months into Shrewsberry’s tenure, he and Harrar are two of the pillars of the culture the new head coach plans to build with a roster of seven newcomers to accompany a whole new coaching staff.
By the time Shrewsberry arrived at State College to take over as Penn State’s men’s basketball coach, seven of the 13 scholarship players in the 2020-21 season had entered the transfer portal. Top scorer Myreon Jones and second-best scorer Izaiah Brockington were part of that squad – both eventually starting – but neither was the player Shrewsberry needed to keep.
This title belonged to Harrar. He was the team’s top rebounder and fourth-best scorer, but more importantly, he was the team’s heartbeat. Keeping him would mean keeping Penn State’s emotional leader.
“I was fortunate enough to train against him, so he automatically had my respect long before I was here,” said Shrewsberry. “Then you have the chance to meet him, then you have the chance to talk to him and get to know him. You kind of get a feel for who he is as a person, what he’s done here as a student-athlete, but (also) what he’s done here as a friend, as Penn Stater. He’s a guy who’s a stone’s throw from Penn State.
Shrewsberry was able to keep the senior center, as well as junior Seth Lundy, who also entered the portal, from a group of six stock players who have chosen to return and play for the new Penn State head coach.
The novelty of the staff does not only concern the staff working with players they have never coached before. It is also about learning to work together when the majority of the staff have never joined forces in their career.
“There are days when I do a lot of teaching,” Shrewsberry said. “… This teaching begins before the practice begins. Meet our staff and have more staff meetings and talk about how we want to teach things, techniques that we want to do. Basketball is taught in different ways. … They’re trying to get a feel for how I want to do things, how I want to train them. We have experienced coaches, they just didn’t do it the same way I did or use the same terminology.
Even before Shrewsberry had assembled this staff, he was working to bring Harrar back into the fold. The senior center had many options when it entered the portal – and admitted it didn’t know how to respond when asked how close it was to leaving – but his decision to return had much to do with the community he had fallen in love with. with and the first impression of the new coach.
Harrar was able to hang out with Penn State coaches while he was in the portal, and that ultimately played a major role in convincing him to end his career where he started.
“When I was in the portal, I was always able to see Coach Shrews in person,” Harrar told CDT. “I was able to meet him and rub shoulders with his team. It was good energy, it was good people. He said he would take care of me and he held on. He’s just a great guy.
Harrar and Myles Dread are the only seniors on the list who have spent their entire careers at Penn State, so it makes sense that the two have helped transition from the old diet to the cultivation of the new one.
Both had a strong relationship with former head coach Pat Chambers, who resigned just over a year ago following an internal investigation by the university, but both were also more than willing to give new staff a chance and help build from scratch with five new stock players added to the roster for the coming season.
“Adaptability is something that has always been important to me,” Dread told CDT. “… I’m excited. I think you look at everything with an open mind and just found a new group of people to go to war with. Glad to have found this group, all of them. I am extremely proud to call them my teammates and I am delighted to go to war with them.
While the support of the two roster veterans is important, it’s still up to Shrewsberry and his team to make things work. The Division I first head coach knows he’ll need to set the tone, but he also already has a vision of what it takes to build.
“I think the first part is you have to have a plan for how you’re doing it,” he said. “You have to have a general idea of what you want it to be or what you want it to look like. … Then you have to get the buy-in from your players to go in that direction. It must make sense to them. “
Cultures don’t form overnight and they sure don’t form when a third of the players are new faces for everyone involved.
These new faces include four seniors, three of whom could play a major role for the Nittany Lions. It could help the team build what they want to be, although many of those players won’t be on the program long enough to really see it hit its stride. Nonetheless, it may be a start – a start that will continue into next season when the squad’s returning players can indoctrinate the squad’s five signatories into the 2022 class in culture.
This group will be the first that could have a full Shrewsberry career as a head coach and the culture it conveys will have a say in how the program is viewed.
For now, it’s up to veterans like Harrar and Dread to help the head coach set the tone and ensure that while faces may change next year, the norm doesn’t change.
Shrewsberry knows the importance of these players and knows how much that meant Harrar never left.
“He is a creator of programs. He’s a culture changer, ”Shrewsberry said. “… He’s going to help us long after he’s gone. His name will be synonymous with this place. I’ll make sure because of who he is. There’s a movie that will be shown to players long after this one where he dives on loose balls, fights for offensive rebounds, sprints as hard as he can on the ground to return to transition defense. It will stay forever. I’ll make sure he’s a guy who will always be remembered because of this.
Harrar’s name will always be synonymous with the program. His efforts, the way he behaves and his adaptability will forever connect him to Penn State men’s basketball and his tenure on campus.
Hopefully for Shrewsberry, it will also be synonymous with the culture he built and the coach that shattered the NCAA tournament team’s absence for a decade.