Men's Basketball Looking Up - Fall 2002 Ivy Leaf Magazine

Ivy Leaf - Fall 2002

Men's Basketball Looking Up

A new era in men's basketball began on Friday, July 12, when Athletics Director Fredina Ingold introduced 13-year veteran of the NBA Armon Gilliam as Penn State Atloona's new men's basketball coach.

Gilliam brings a wealth of basketball experience to Penn State Altoona's program. A Pittsburgh native, Gilliam played high school ball for Bethel Park, before embarking on his college career.

While playing for Coach Jerry Tarkanian at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV), the Runnin' Rebels held number one rankings in three consecutive seasons and made it to the Final Four in 1987. In 1987, Gilliam was named to the Division I All-American team and was a finalist for the John Wooden Award.

In 1998, UNLV inducted Gilliam into its sports hall of fame. While at UNLV, Gilliam's success was not limited to the basketball court. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in communications and a minor in ethnic studies and made the dean's list two years in the process. Gilliam also was awarded the Academic Achievement Award in 1985 and was named Black Student-Athlete of the Year in 1986.

As the second pick in the 1987 NBA draft, Gilliam was selected by the Phoenix Suns and began his illustrious NBA career. During his 13 years in the NBA, Gilliam played for the Phoenix Suns, Charlotte Hornets, Philadelphia '76er's, New Jersey Nets, Milwaukee Bucks, and Utah Jazz, where he finished his NBA years. Gilliam was named to the All-Rookie team in 1988, Most Valuable Player for the New Jersey Nets in three seasons, and was honored for scoring 10,000 points in his NBA career.

Now Gilliam has decided to take his basketball career to another level. "As I make the step from the court to the coach's box, it becomes increasingly important to pass on a good legacy to the next generation of athletes," says Gilliam. Gilliam spent one year as head coach at Penn State McKeesport, which plays at the junior college level. Now he takes his coaching experience into the NCAA Division III ranks, but plans to continue the same philosophy in his job.

"College basketball is much more than a game to me. It is an opportunity for young student-athletes to learn valuable lessons on the court and in the classroom that will help them reach their goals in life. Earning a college degree will enable the student-athlete to secure a respectable job. Learning teamwork will prepare a young man for a future career that is certain to require a team mentality. The student-athlete will also learn discipline, unselfishness, dedication, commitment, sacrifice, a good work ethic, and excellence in the basketball program under my leadership. Developing these characteristics while earning their degrees will enable student-athletes to enjoy a higher quality of life when their college basketball career has ended."

Gilliam knows he was behind in the recruiting process for the 2002-2003 season but has worked diligently over the late part of the summer to bring in some players to help the program. Gilliam also wants to increase the recruiting in the local area. "I know there's a lot of talent in this area. One of the problems they've had in the past is getting talent from the area, and for the program to really do well we have to have players in the area supporting the program."

There is feeling of excitement building around the men's basketball program with this appointment. With only a month of recruiting, no one expects Gilliam to produce a championship in the first season. However, there is a clear feeling in the air that a turnaround in the team's performance is on the horizon. Dr. William Cale, CEO and Dean of Penn State Altoona, stated, "We needed to find that one person who shares our commitment to academic success, who will represent Penn State Altoona in an exemplary manner, and who will mold the character of these young student-athletes into outstanding citizens. We have found that coach in Armon Gilliam."

The 2002-2003 Lions Basketball team open their season at the Juniata College tournament in Huntingdon, PA, over the weekend of November 23 and 24. The Lions open their home schedule as they host Juniata College on November 26 at 7:00 pm in the Adler Gym.