UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. (U-WIRE) -- Kevin Fellows slowly emerged from a tunnel and onto the Bryce Jordan Center floor, just as he had four years ago.
The 6-foot-10 center walked onto the court, took a quick survey of things and scratched his head.
Apparently, Penn State basketball hasn't changed all that much since 2000.
Though his current circumstances have him playing on the Big Ten Foreign Tour Team, in some ways life in the blue and white feels a lot like it did as a freshman.
"Ever since I've been here, we've said we've been young," Fellows said. "And I'd think if I got older, the team would get older. But every year we're young."
Suddenly, Fellows finds himself in the summer before his senior year with only one member of his recruiting class there to accompany him. At least eight of his teammates this upcoming season will be underclassmen, including foreign tour teammate Marlon Smith.
Not just a young team, but possibly the youngest in Fellows' relatively long tenure as a Nittany Lion.
Gone are classmates Jan Jagla and Darren Tielsch -- both left the program early.
Jamaal Tate is attempting a comeback and would be considered a senior, but he has been away from the game for more than a year and a half.
That leaves just Fellows and Jason McDougald as the most experienced players on the team.
And given that Fellows and redshirt freshman John Kelly are the only prototypical centers on the team, the big man from Idaho figures to grab more than the 5.9 minutes a game he saw last season, the lowest total of his career.
Penn State assistant coach Kurt Kanaskie said that the chance for Fellows to step up will be there, he just needs to be ready for it.
"I don't think that there's any doubt that he's going to have an opportunity to play," Kanaskie said. "I think it's important for him to be mentally and physically prepared for his senior year because we don't have a lot of big guys and he's a senior. He shoots the ball extremely well, he just needs to go out and play hard and play with confidence."
There certainly is a gaping hole to fill on the Lions baseline after Jagla left to play professionally, Robert Summers transferred and Ndu Egekeze graduated after last season ended.
With that in the front of his mind, Fellows then seconded Kanaskie's opinion.
"I was thinking the same thing," Fellows said.
"We lost a lot of guys, so I really don't have much of a choice. I'm expecting to contribute a lot this year."
Things looked to be going that way last year in the preseason, as Fellows played reasonably well in the Lions' exhibition opener, scoring 11 points and playing strong on the glass.
But even with a depleted roster, Fellows had trouble just getting on the court.
Fellows' time dipped from his first two seasons, partially because Summers was better suited to play DeChellis' style of offense.
Despite a lack of playing time, Fellows is described as having one of the strongest work ethics on the team by the coaching staff, one of the reasons they selected him for the tour team.
"Kevin has worked extremely hard since he has been here," Kanaskie said.
"He's very deserving of the opportunity to go."
As last season proved, however, a strong summer and preseason for Fellows won't necessarily guarantee a starting role or significant playing time.
"Every year here seems like it's going to be a surprise," Fellows said.
And this season isn't likely to be any different.
(C) 2004 Daily Collegian via U-WIRE.