Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)
Even with two local standouts on the court, it was a guard from across the state who had the largest cheering section at Philadelphia University on Sunday.
When Geno Thorpe name was introduced before the seniors game at the Mary Kline Classic, a group of about 30 dressed in blue and white stood up and cheered for the point guard. The soon-to-be Penn State guard got an even louder ovation than Philadelphia’s own Rysheed Jordan (headed to St. John’s) and Brandon Austin (Imhotep), something not usually seen in the City of Brotherly Love.
After taking home MVP honors for the victorious Black squad, the first thing he did was go over to his Nittany Lion supporters for photos, taking some time to talk to the group of students and alumni who came to see him play.
“I’m so happy they came,” Thorpe said. “It’s a great family, that’s why I committed there, and I’m just so happy they came to see me.”
Each time Thorpe touched the ball, the group cheered. When he scored, they erupted–and considering he dropped 20 points in a game filled with top-level talent, they all came away very happy with their decision to attend. Penn State might be known more as a football school than a basketball one, but that wasn’t so obvious at Philly U on Sunday.
“It was good, it was for a good cause,” said Eric Sion, a rising senior at PSU who helped organize the group after attending last season’s event. “At Penn State we’re big on philanthropy as well, so this goes for a good cause…we got a couple of Penn Staters who played last year and we got Geno Thorpe this year.”
That Nittany Nation came out on Sunday to see their point guard of the future wasn’t too much of a surprise to Thorpe. After all, he’d played up near his future just a few months after committing during his junior season, with similar results.
“We had a game up against State College (High School) last year, and I mean there was a ton of them there to see me,” Thorpe said. “I’m just happy they support me everywhere I go.”
It’s been quite a while since Thorpe committed to Penn State back in November 2011, choosing the Nittany Lions over Wisconsin and Pitt after head coach Pat Chambers called him at 6 AM to wish him a happy birthday. That call, from a coach who’d taken over the PSU job just five months prior, was enough to convince Thorpe that was the right choice even though his junior season of high school was barely beginning.
“It was a trust factor between me and Pat Chambers,” Thorpe said. “I felt most comfortable with him, and me and him had a great relationship. It’s just where i wanted to go. It was close to home, and it was the best decision for me and my family.”
This fall, he’ll be joining a backcourt that has equal parts talent and question marks for a team that went 10-21 overall (2-16 Big 10) last season. Fifth-year senior Tim Frazier, the team’s leading scorer in 2011-12 (18.8ppg), will be returning from a torn Achilles tendon he suffered last November. John Johnson, a Pitt transfer, averaged 4.2 ppg in his freshman season as a Panther and sat out the entire 2012-13 season due to NCAA transfer regulations. All three will be joining D.J. Newbill, a rising redshirt junior who averaged 16.3ppg in his first season as a Nittany Lion after leaving Southern Miss in 2011.
There was one defection, as starting junior guard Jermaine Marshall (15.3 ppg) decided to forgo his senior season and turn pro. Thorpe isn’t worried about the competition for minutes, even though Chambers has another point guard arriving in Edina (Minn.) guard Graham Woodward.
“I think it’s an opportunity for all the freshman guards coming in,” Thorpe said. “Jermaine decided to take his game to the next level so that just means we have to step up.
“D.J., Tim, now we got John Johnson, we’re going to have a pretty good backcourt.”
Thorpe heads up to Penn State on June 23; until then, he said, he’ll be working out and staying in shape to prepare for life in high-major basketball.