In late March, right as many schools were enjoying the thrills of the NCAA Tournament, our own Nittany Lion basketballers appeared to be right on the edge of mediocrity and oblivion with the departures of Chris Babb and Bill Edwards via transfer and Andrew Ott and Adam Highberger's early graduations.
Babb's departure meant replacing Penn State's best pure perimeter shooter. The loss of Edwards and Ott represented a depletion of any depth Penn State had previously accrued in the front court.
Ed Dechellis was going to have to replace all of these players in the late signing period, with many of the best players in the country already signed and committed to schools for 2010-2011. So far, he's filled two of the three scholarships available with 6'2" shooting guard Tre Bowman out of York and 6'8" power forward/tweener type Jonathan Graham from the Baltimore area.
At the risk of being labeled "OMG APOLOGIST!" I must say I'm pretty optimistic about the talent ED has added in the last couple of months. So let's get to it.
DeChellis first landed Bowman in late March. Since then, you may have seen the following highlight video around the internets, but if you haven't yet, enjoy. (Sound track is NSFW, so watch it on mute)
The first thing that jumps out at me is how well Bowman appears to run the floor. That's something we didn't see a whole lot of from Babb, although to be fair, there's no indication that Penn State will use Bowman to push the pace, especially early on.
Bowman appears to be a pretty balanced guy. His ESPN.com profile says...
Bowman is a versatile player who does a number of things well but isn't great in any particular area. He's a good shooter with his feet set, shows good athleticism slashing to the basket and finishing, and is solid defensively.
That "solid defensively" is probably a sigh of relief to those who grew tired of Babb's on-ball guarding abilities. It'll also be nice to have a guard beyond Talor Battle and possibly Buie willing to attack the basket, something neither Cammeron Woodyard or Babb appeared all that thrilled to do.
With Buie and Tim Frazier likely the front runners to take over the two spot for Babb, Bowman will compete with Woodyard for top guard duty off the bench. We might not see all too much of him early, but situationally, he gives the staff some tools to work with depending upon what's going on in the game.
Graham became a Nittany Lion Thursday. Commenter tgrot gave the scoop in the comments:
I’m a freshman at Maryland and I went to the same high school as Jon (and Juan Dixon, for that matter), so I’d figure I’d share some of what I know. First off, he is as great of a kid and teammate as you will find. There are no character issues there. He is a relentless worker and never takes a play off. About his abilities, he was as good of a low-block scorer as anyone in Baltimore his last 2 years of high school. He has good post-up moves and is able to back down players and finish under the rim.
Towards his senior year he started to somewhat develop an outside shot (although thats not what his role should be in college). I think he started to do that because he realized he isn’t nearly physically stong enough to be a big-time center. But with that experience shooting from the perimeter comes more range and he is not limited to dunks and layups. His rebounding/hands are also excellent. Hardly do balls ever leave his hands from passes and rebounds. If he gets his hands on it, its his rebound.
I guess the only negative is his physical size. He is a tweener for sure. Has the height/stature of a small forward but has always been the big man on his team, so his game tends to be more like a power forward. 6’8’’ is a good size for a 4, he just needs to bulk up some to become a legitimate post threat in the Big Ten. A player I would compare him too is fellow Baltimore Catholic League alum and UMD player Dino Gregory. He is 6’7", but played big man in high school. He was a junior this past season and really became a solid college player. He came in as a lanky tweener like Jon, but has bulked up became our best rebounder off the bench and was even able to take 2-3 15 footers a game, and make them.
What you can expect from Jon for the first 2 years or so is a few points here and there, but more likely to grab some key rebounds, play very good defense, and hopefully polish his mid-range/outside jumper to become a pretty good player in the Big Ten. You guys got a player that was underrated in my (albeit somewhat biased) opinion. He isn’t Derrick Favors, but he will be a better than advertised 4 year player who will represent Penn State as well as any student-athlete can.
Not a whole lot of video highlights on Graham, although you can find some highlights of his team here and in a few other places where he shows up sporadically (#25).
It's hard to know just what role Graham will fill once he gets on campus. He could see himself trapped behind Penn State's senior front court of Jeff Brooks, David Jackson, and Andrew Jones as well as sophomore Sasa Borovnjak and others. He could also play his way into Edwards' old 3/4 bench role or even a starting spot if any of the upperclassmen falter at points as they did last season.
No matter what, though, he gives the Lions a long body where they desperately needed one for depth in the short term and a measure of stability in the front court in the long term.
Overall, I'd say despite the obvious obstacles the staff faced in replacing so many players late in the recruiting cycle, the coaches did a nice job with this patchwork class. Both of these players appear to be guys who can contribute off the bench right away, and grown into bigger roles along side Taran Buie once Battle and Co. have graduated.
Also, I think it's important to note the obvious emphasis on the future with this class. With many saying 2010-2011 could be DeChellis' make or break season, it's be easy for him to perhaps go after some more polished junior college players more capable of saving his job, but he hasn't to this point. He's added players that have to potential to be contributors down the road, and given his situation, I'd say that's kind of commendable.
We'll keep you posted on what, if anything, happens with the last remaining scholarship. Here's hoping it's a big guy.