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Tuesday, November 8, 2011
PSU's Pat Chambers: 'It's somber here'

By Dana O'Neil

Geno Thorpe, a Pittsburgh-area talent who was being recruited by the Panthers as well as Kansas State and Wisconsin, announced on Tuesday that he would attend Penn State.

It was a huge scoop for new coach Pat Chambers, one that typically would resonate loudly in basketball circles.

These, though, are not normal days at Penn State.

With the scandal swirling around the football program -- specifically the child molestation allegations against former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky -- basketball and pretty much everything else on campus has taken a backseat.

“It’s somber here, somber for a lot of reasons,’’ Chambers said.

His work at building a basketball program certainly seems trivial in light of the allegations, and more, what the eight victims reportedly suffered. But basketball season is here and Chambers has a job to do. The Nittany Lions open their season on Saturday against Hartford.

The team opted to tip off at 4:30, hoping to capitalize on the overflow of fans pouring out of Beaver Stadium following the football team’s noon game against Nebraska.

“You have to try and go about your business,’’ Chambers said. “What else can we do? We need to stay together through this, try to keep a positive attitude and have a foxhole mentality.’’

Chambers has called his team together for group meetings, attempting to answer their questions and assuage their concerns.

But the answers, he admits, aren’t easy to come by.

“The allegations, all of it is in the legal system so there’s not much I can say," he said. “But I can say, I’m a father so this obviously hits home. If it’s true, it’s disturbing, despicable, but there’s not much more I can say than that."

None of this is going away anytime soon. There is the lengthy legal questions facing both Sandusky and the two athletic administrators charged with failing to alert authorities. There will be the questions dogging Joe Paterno and the stigma attached to the university.

Certainly it will come up when Chambers hits the recruiting trail.

Even Thorpe, a high school junior, was asked about the scandal during his news conference.

“It’s sad to see, but at the same time it didn’t stop my decision,’’ he told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.