Jim Ferry hopes to help PSU hoops on offense

PSU assistant men's basketball coach Jim Ferry

Jim Ferry is fine with football comparisons.

In 2016, James Franklin brought in offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead to bolster the Nittany Lions’ offense in football. It brought a Big Ten title and 2-0 start to 2017.

In 2017, Pat Chambers brought in Ferry, a move that can bolster the Nittany Lions’ offense in basketball as they try to maximize an uptick in recruiting into at least the program’s first NCAA bid in Chambers’ now 7-season tenure.

“I walked in to what, 100,000 people against Ak­ron, and it’s going to be even bigger against Pittsburgh,” said Ferry last week before meeting with the Wil­liamsport Nittany Lion Booster Club. “Let’s have that en­ergy, that support, in basketball.”

Ferry came to Penn State this offseason after five seasons at Duquesne, where he went 60-97, but established himself before that at LIU-Brooklyn. He inherited a five-win team and left after the second of the school’s three straight NCAA tournament appearances out of the Northeast Conference. He went 150-149 there from 2003-12, and was 82-11 in three seasons at Division III Adelphi before that.

But most notable about his teams were their style — fast but efficient. LIU was in the top four nationally in points per game for Ferry’s two NCAA seasons, averaging 81.4 points per game in 2012, and Duquesne neared 80 points per game in 2016. LIU was also a top five school nationally in pace for those NCAA tournament years, with pace being measured as the average number of possessions per 40 minutes. Shooting percentage and assist totals were in the top 50.

Ferry has known Chambers a while and said he shares a similar outlook — Penn State was in the top third nationally in pace last season, but ranked just 212th nationally in scoring at 71.7 per game and 311th in shooting percentage at 41.5 percent.

Improving those numbers is the same as improving Penn State’s win total and program image, said Ferry, and that’s showing patience. Ferry noted his teams didn’t shoot a lot of threes, but went to the foul line a lot and too high percentage shots.

“We’re high scoring, with high assists,” said Ferry.

This will be done with a roster comprised of five sophomores and Shep Garner as the lone senior. The top two scorers last year, Tony Carr and La­mar Stevens, were freshmen. Ferry said he got to know them better during the team’s offseason exhibition tournament trip to the Bahamas.

“They’re young, they’re going to make mistakes and that’s my philosophy, too,” said Ferry, adding he just wants players who can pass, dribble and shoot like everyone else. “They’re going to learn quicker by playing and making mistakes. Pat does a great job with communicating with those guys every day.”

Ferry said he had other options coming off his Duquesne tenure, but his oldest daughter graduated Penn State and his younger one is a sophomore there. He thought being a Penn State parent before being a Penn State coach could help on the recruiting trail as the Nittany Lions continue to fight for northeastern talent with bigger-name basketball schools.

“Pat cares about doing it the right way, and when he and I talked it made sense,” said Ferry. “Pat’s not a used car salesman. He talks the truth and that’s what drew me to Penn State. It’s a special place and on the basketball side of it, people don’t always know it but when you get the right kids on campus, they want to commit.”