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Prugar: Mike Rhoades Building Penn State Basketball the Right Way

Photo by Penn State Athletics: Mike Rhoades

Rome certainly was not built in a day and neither has the Penn State basketball program, but one thing is for certain after an 87-83 upset win over No. 11 Wisconsin Tuesday night, head coach Mike Rhoades is building it the right way.

Rhoades inherited a program with quite a few missing pieces, but one by one, Rhoades put those pieces together to form this iteration of the Nittany Lions.

There’ve been good (Penn State’s win over No. 11 Wisconsin ), horrifically bad (loss to Michigan State), ugly (see Purdue over the past weekend) and cripplingly heartbreaking (the loss to Northwestern last week) moments throughout Rhoades’ first campaign with Penn State.

Those growing pains can and will happen throughout the rest of the year, but Rhoades is building his program the right way.
It’s a system predicated on defense played the way a gnat finds something sweet in the summer. Defensively, the Nittany Lions are annoying, in your face and tougher than a holiday at your in-laws.

That will play on every team and it works well for Rhoades and his crew.
Offensively, Rhoades has Kanye Clary who decided to remain at Penn State when that wasn’t the popular option after Micah Shrewsberry headed to the Midwest.

He also has Ace Baldwin, Jr. who he brought with him from Virginia Commonwealth and he’s played excellent two-way basketball for the Nittany Lions.

Building and maintaining a program goes far beyond what goes on between the lines on the court. It’s getting fans in the seats and getting those fans to buy in. It’s something Rhoades has done a phenomenal job at doing for a program that has tasted success a few times the last few seasons only for the carpet to be pulled from under them in 2020 with COVID and Shrewsberry bolting after a tournament run.

Rhoades is in it for the long haul and has shown that he’s invested in the product both on and off the court at the Bryce Jordan Center. The BJC is an arena that is far from a difficult place to play but can provide an electric atmosphere when the curtains are pulled back.

Take this from Rhoades as an example of how he feels about the program.

Creating something special for the students and fans is an awesome way to build an atmosphere at the BJC and provide an opportunity for fans to feel as though they mean something is something the Penn State hasn’t done since their days in Rec Hall.

Having an atmosphere can only be done if there are actual fans in the stands, and for Penn State’s win over No. 11 Wisconsin, there were.

There will be more wins for Rhoades and Penn State, but one thing is for sure, he’s building his program the right way and the early returns are promising.

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