With the dawn of the new school year just around the corner - or already underway in some cases - Penn State’s three verbal basketball commitments have been through a long summer of tests.
Geno Thorpe will play in Florida for his senior season of high school.
Class of 2013 guard Geno Thorpe and center Julian Moore, in addition to 2014 guard Isaiah Washington all hail from the Keystone State. All three have had different experiences thus far, but each unique path will serve as a fulcrum for success going forward.
Thorpe, the first underclassman commitment for Patrick Chambers back in November of 2011, had a disjointed summer, to say the least. Starting off with the King James All Stars on the Nike EYBL circuit, Thorpe ceased playing with the club after just one tournament. The 6-foot-3, 180-pounder was invited to and attended the Pangos All-American Camp in June, performing well. Thorpe finished 12th in total scoring (45 points), 15th in scoring average (11.3 PPG), and ninth in field goal percentage (77.3%) out of the 100 or so players invited and earned a spot in the Top 60 all-star game.
The senior guard sprained his ankle on the eve of the Penn State Advanced Skills Camp, but still attended the two-day camp for moral support. The Pittsburgh native rehabbed in time to play with then-classmate Brandon Austin and Team Philly in Las Vegas.
“The injury was real tough on me. I missed a couple of camps. When it happened I didn’t know how I was going to recover from it,” admitted Thorpe, who basically took the whole month of July off to try and recover. “I only came back for Vegas, tried to get my feet again. It was tough, but I had a good recovery and I feel 100 percent now.”
Since then, Thorpe has moved down to Florida, where he will spend his senior year, a move that was mostly fueled by personal reasons.
“The main deciding factor was being closer to my dad, but coming to West Oaks was a plus,” said Thorpe, who played last season at Shaler High School. “The schedule we play, the new coach is an ex-pro, it was all connecting.
“We spoke with Coach Chambers and the whole staff when the idea was brought up, before we even made the move, I had to make sure they were okay with it.”
Already starting workouts after classes began on Monday, Thorpe has a game plan for the fall, which will include an official visit for a football game after taking the ACTs.
Moore has scrimmaged against fellow Penn State commit Isaiah Washington this summer.
“I’m just trying to get better,” he said. “Working on my defense and become a more complete point guard, trying to fill out my whole game.”
Entering the summer AAU season, Penn State had already received two verbal commitments for the class of 2013. The Nittany Lions exited the summer AAU period with the same number, despite some movement within the class.
Austin re-opened his recruitment on July 22, but it took just five days to restore the number to two, when Moore committed that Friday. The 6-foot-9, 215-pound big man was also in attendance at the Advanced Skills camp, but still didn’t attain the offer he was looking for.
After performing well at the Reebok Camp in Philly the following week, Moore finally received an offer from Penn State less than two weeks before he ultimately committed.
“Summer has been going pretty well. I took a break for a bit after committing, then got right back at it trying to get better,” Moore said. “I’ve been working alot on my strength, trying to get stronger, just been working hard in general.”
Maintaining contact with the coaching staff after taking the plunge, Moore knows what he has to do before stepping on campus in less than a year.
“I’m tightening up a few things in my game. The main thing Coach Chambers and the staff have stressed in terms of my improvement has been getting stronger,” said the long-armed senior. “The Big Ten is one of the best leagues in the country, playing against some of the biggest guys night in and night out, so being able to bang and fight through contact is one of the things they want me to do.”
Isaiah Washington has focused on improving his off hand during the summer.
Playing in the same AAU program as Washington, the two have remained in contact talking about their future together. The 2014 guard shed some insight on the elder ECE-NJABC member.
“We played together at practices and scrimmages and stuff. He’s a tenacious rebounder and runs the floor very well, really plays hard all the time,” said Washington of Moore. “We have been talking about how its going to be fun playing together, and the opportunity we have at Penn State.”
After catching the eye of the coaching staff back in January, Washington visited a few times before earning an offer in March, and didn’t take long to cash in on it, turning around and committing five days later.
Throughout the summer, Washington was running with the 16Us at ECE-NJABC, working on his own to supplement the AAU education.
“A lot of the focus has been on improving my handles with my left hand, getting it as close to my right as possible,” explained Washington. “I’ve been lifting too. (I’m) still at about 175 pounds.”
At 6-foot-3, Washington and his Williamsport Millionaires won their district, and despite a season-ending defeat in the second-round of the PIAA state tournament, the junior guard already has both eyes on the upcoming season.
“As soon as school starts, Coach (Allen) Taylor is going to have us doing a lot of conditioning stuff,” said Washington. “We’ll be on the track, doing obstacle courses, lifting after school, anything to get us in shape for the season.”
While it won’t be an official visit, Washington plans to be at a football game this fall as well when it fits into his schedule.
Despite the NCAA sanctions against Penn State’s football program, the basketball program is moving forward, in recruiting and on the court. Moore committed after the sanctions were levied on the University. Thorpe remains solid to Chambers and Co., planning to sign in the early period this fall, and to finish off the group, Washington showed maturity beyond his years last month when asked what his thoughts were following the fateful day.
"My relationship with Coach Chambers, the staff and team is too strong to back out because of anything like this,” said Washington back in July. “I'm committed to Penn State basketball for a reason."