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More to give: How a mantra laid the foundation and pushed Penn State to the NCAA Tournament

Myles Dread walked off the court as a college basketball player for the final time Saturday night in Wells Fargo Arena, heading down the tunnel toward his team’s locker room.

It all seemed to hit Dread at that moment. The rush of emotions crashed over him after five years as a Penn State Nittany Lion came to a sudden halt following the team’s second round loss to Texas in the NCAA Tournament.

Then, so did he.

Dread crouched close to the ground, tears filling his eyes as head coach Micah Shrewsberry put an arm around him to console him.

“I’m just happy to have been here,” Dread said in the postgame locker room as tears once again filled his reddening eyes.

“For the people who took a chance on me. The old coaching staff. ... And then the new staff, taking me in. And allowing me to stay, one, then building me to be the player and the man that I am today. I guess I was just taking it all in.”

Yes, there is pain in those moments. But eventually it will subside. And then Dread will be able to understand what he’s done.

He and the rest of the Nittany Lion seniors gave its fans a season to remember, no matter how it ended. And in turn, they will be remembered forever.

Penn State Nittany Lions guard Jalen Pickett (22) controls the ball against Texas Longhorns guard Marcus Carr (5) during the second half of Saturday’s game at Wells Fargo Arena.
Penn State Nittany Lions guard Jalen Pickett (22) controls the ball against Texas Longhorns guard Marcus Carr (5) during the second half of Saturday’s game at Wells Fargo Arena.

Ask associate head coach Adam Fisher, who graduated from Penn State, spent time working with the program as he climbed the ranks, and returned home in his current position two years ago.

“Simple two words,” Fisher told the Centre Daily Times about what he told Lundy and Dread. “Thank you. So grateful for those guys. This is their program. It’s their university. I want them to come back, bring their families, be proud of Penn State the way so many former Penn State players are so proud of how we played this season. I want them to feel that.”

Lundy and Dread are a special case. That’s not to take away from Cam Wynter, Jalen Pickett, Andrew Funk and Mikey Henn, the other seniors on the team. They poured everything they had into the program in the time they were with it.

But Penn State is the only college Lundy and Dread know. The latter began his career in 2018 and was a key player in all five seasons. He rarely left the rotation, frequently making an impact as a shooter and by hitting some of the biggest shots the team had over that half decade. The former began in 2019. He was heaped with expectations after playing the same position and coming from the same school as Lamar Stevens.

Penn State Nittany Lions guard Seth Lundy (1) controls the ball against Texas A&M Aggies guard Dexter Dennis (0) during the first half of Thursday’s game at Wells Fargo Arena.
Penn State Nittany Lions guard Seth Lundy (1) controls the ball against Texas A&M Aggies guard Dexter Dennis (0) during the first half of Thursday’s game at Wells Fargo Arena.

He searched for his role on the team but eventually landed in the transfer portal in 2021 after Shrewsberry was hired. Soon enough he exited, buying into the vision of his new coach. It paid off, with his newfound role as a shooter and high-level defender propelling him to Big Ten honorable mention and potentially an NBA career.

Their impacts will carry on to what comes next.

“It hurts that we couldn’t get as far as we wanted,” freshman Evan Mahaffey told the CDT. “Knowing what these guys gave, day in and day out, I wish we could have just finished it a little bit sweeter. These guys worked their butt off. ... I’m feeling very driven to know this is what it feels like to lose at this point. I don’t want to feel that. I want to work to make sure that we can get back here. Whatever I can do.”

Funk, Wynter and Henn built their connections in a shorter span. All three came in for one season with the first two taking on massive roles and Henn working his way in and out of the rotation depending on what the team needed.

The weight of stepping up a level to Big Ten basketball can be enormous. Funk has frequently mentioned the worry of feeling like a one-year rental. He knew he might not have the connection he did to Bucknell.

A little under a year later, he knows he worried for nothing.

“I had my doubts coming in as a one year transfer,” Funk told the CDT. “You can be viewed as a one year rental by a lot of people. If it works out great, but if not it’s just one year. The way that Coach Shrewsberry and his whole staff welcomed me, the way the guys in this locker room welcomed me. The wars that we went through together, how hard we worked, I had a great, great year that I’m gonna be super proud of.”

Penn State Nittany Lions guard Andrew Funk (10) shoots the ball against the Texas A&M Aggies during the first half of Thursday’s game at Wells Fargo Arena.
Penn State Nittany Lions guard Andrew Funk (10) shoots the ball against the Texas A&M Aggies during the first half of Thursday’s game at Wells Fargo Arena.

There are plenty of other Nittany Lions who contributed to what this year was, including a freshman class that contributed throughout the season, but it will always be the group of seniors who are remembered for what the season became.

The impact doesn’t have to end there, either. In fact, it likely won’t.

Both Mahaffey and Kanye Clary, two of the freshmen who contributed most, want to carry on what was built by the group of veterans. They both saw what they did — especially Dread and Lundy — and want to build off it.

“All the freshmen came in, we believed we were going to make it to the tournament,” Mahaffey said. “And one day win a national championship here. And that’s the biggest thing. We all came here, we deeply believe in Coach Shrews and everything he’s building here.”

Even in defeat and with the weight of emotion bearing down on them, there was an energy about both freshmen in the postgame locker room. Mahaffey seemed ready to go, as if there was more basketball to be played this year and he wanted to make an even greater impact. Clary felt for the seniors, but matched his classmate, wanting what comes next and to prove this is not the ceiling or the end for this program.

He sat at his locker, headphones on, listening to a message from his grandmother about how proud she was.

What she felt for him, he felt for the group and what they have to give.

“It makes me want to do something special at Penn State, man,” Clary told the CDT. “Not even for myself. Just leave a legacy for a school that hasn’t been predominantly a basketball school, as people say. I think with the foundation that Myles and Seth have built over the four or five years is something I definitely am looking forward to continuing.”

There will be, to use a pet phrase of this group, more to give for Mahaffey, Clary and the rest of the freshmen.

But on some level Saturday night was not about them. They will have their moments. They will give more.

That is not the case for the seniors. It is indisputable that this is one of the best Penn State teams in program history, featuring one of the best players it has ever seen in Pickett. That phrase they all adopted — about having more to give — carried them until the bitter end.

And as they walked off the court, they felt the pain of defeat.

But deep down they have to know they did everything they could.

Every minute of time, every ounce of effort, every piece of emotion.

There was no more to give.