DES MOINES, Iowa — Moments after Penn State basketball lost 71-66 to Texas, Myles Dread stopped for a second at center court.
He still had two things left to do before he took off his navy uniform.
The first was to embrace coach Micah Shrewsberry, completing their two-year journey to the NCAA tournament.
The second was to salute the Penn State fans behind the benches.
“I want them to know I gave it everything I had,” Dread said. “I ran the clock dry and I had fun doing it; I wear this blue and white with pride. I’m so thankful for everything this university has ever given me, for the people I’ve met and the relationships I’ve built. These guys and Coach Shrews, I will never forget those memories.”
It’s going to be hard for Penn State fans to forget them, either. Dread nearly gave Penn State fans one more brilliant memory with four 3-pointers, but Texas proved just a bit better. Even so, this was a performance that Penn State could walk away from with pride.
“Obviously, this stings a little now and it’s going to continue to sting for a bit, but there’s a lot to be proud of from those 40 minutes and from all year,” Penn State guard Andrew Funk said. “I’m really proud of this group. I’m happy to have done it with them and I’m proud to be a part of it.”
The challenge now for Penn State comes in making sure this becomes the new standard for Nittany Lion basketball. Penn State hasn’t made consecutive NCAA tournaments since the 1950s, and no player since then has ever made more than one appearance in the event.
That’s not going to be good enough for Shrewsberry, who’s described himself as a very impatient man.
Two years was barely acceptable for him to wait to coach in the NCAA tournament, and he’s already anxious to get back.
“You want it to be sustainable,” he said. “We’re not going to be satisfied with this. We worked for it every single day, and there’s a lot that goes into it. You’ve got to have the right people, you’ve got to have the right mix of guys, you’ve got to have the right work ethic and then things can fall into place.
“That’s what we’re gearing up to do and that’s what we’re trying to do each and every year. These guys aren’t satisfied; the young guys aren’t satisfied with being here one time and setting a bunch of school records. We’re all competitors who want to win.”
The same is true of the departing seniors, who all spoke of bringing Penn State basketball to a better place than they found it. Penn State loses two true seniors and five senior-pluses, and all of them said they wanted this to be a beginning of a new era of Penn State basketball.
“It’s so cool because this was coach Shrews’ vision,” Mikey Henn said. “We all bought into coach Shrews’ vision a long time ago, and when you’re in a program that hasn’t been on the rise, you’ve got to work harder than other people do. We’ve worked our tails off to build this thing, and we’re excited about the future.
“We’ve got a lot of good, young kids and I’m sure they’ll recruit some grad transfers like they did this year. We just hope this segues into having similar types of success, if not greater success, in the years to come.”
Shrewsberry already has another top-30 class on the way to State College, and the Penn State’s returners made big strides as the season progressed. But thoughts Saturday night were in the moment.
As he exited the Penn State locker room, his face was heavy with emotion, mostly in gratitude to what the seniors had helped him build.
“Seth (Lundy) and Myles didn’t have to stay,” Shrewsberry said. “They chose the hard route. The way I talk about John (Harrar), I hold those guys in that esteemed category with John, because these guys took a chance on me and they didn’t have to.
Wherever they’re playing, whatever they’re doing, these are my guys forever.
“(Jalen) Pickett is the same. He chose to come here, and I had never coached a game before. He repaid that by letting me sit and watch the season he’s had. These guys have all been fantastic.”