Basketball Story Lines: The Frontcourt

To continue with our Friday hooptravaganza, I'm here to take a look at everyone's favorite athletes, the Penn State Big Men! It's time to see if these newbies can live up to the great standards set forth by Kevin Fellows, Jason McDougald, and Scott Witkowsky. 

In all seriousness, PSU's frontcourt has always been the weaker half of this program year-in and year-out. It's not likely to change any time soon, but here's a look at the biggest storylines to follow heading into the season:

  • Injury Prone - The 'veterans' of this group have all taken medical redshirts. Billy Oliver looks to be as healthy as he ever has been, but no one knows if those headaches will return. Sasa Borovnjak is at 100% physically with his rehabbed ACL, but he's got a ways to go before he's there mentally. Jon Graham hopefully has outgrown his growing pains in his knees. Then we have newcomer Ross Travis whose senior year of high school marked his first full basketball season without any injury setbacks. It will be a shocker if all of these guys make it through the year unscathed.
  • New Style - Chambers is bringing his new 4-guard philosophy to the floor. I think people automatically assume that four guards will be on the floor at all times. That won't be the case, but with the new system, what will the forwards be depended upon? Will Chambers' adapt to his personnel until he brings in his own bigs, or does he feel he can adapt the personnel to his system? From what we've heard, his system entails his bigs having perimeter skills, which would suit Billy Oliver and Ross Travis more than anyone else. 
  • Can Dolla Dolla Billz Make It Rain? - Billy Oliver clearly struggled shooting the basketball last season (25% from 3 to be exact). He wasn't able to translate his confidence in practice to games, because he certainly has a shooter's form. This will be a key issue from the start of the year that hopefully becomes moot by the end. Chambers' new positive attitude could help Billy's confidence. There already have been positive reports from the scrimmage against Temple. We're going to need him to be a legit threat from behind the arc to take our offense to another level. 
  • Twin Towers  - What can we expect out of the two true freshman bigs, Peter Alexis and Pat Ackerman? As of now, Chambers' says nobody is redshirting. It's hard to find playing time for these guys right now, but that could change quickly with a few injuries. If that happens, there hasn't been anything suggesting they are ready for this level. But they are hard workers and Chambers' could be willing to reward their work ethic with some playing time. 
  • Sasa or Jon? - Ed DeChellis labelled Jon Graham as a potential all-conference player, but so far he hasn't stood out in practice. In fact, Sasa was the guy to draw some high praise from Chambers on media day. "Sasa is as skilled as any guy I've coached" was the exact quote. To be clear, that sounds like a testament to Sasa's craftiness and basketball IQ, not so much raw talent. Both of these guys have potential and will play, but can one of them separate themselves and sneak into the starting lineup?
  • Lineups - Most of these guys are still green and we've only seen glimpses of their games. So as of now, I don't think anyone has a grasp of who's going to play well with who, even the coaches. I would guess two forwards will be on the floor most of time, with Ross and Billy getting most of the time at the 4. But can those two play the 4/5 together? Can Jon and Sasa play the 4/5 together? Ross Travis won't be a 5, but I can see all of the other forwards finding time there at some point. Hopefully this rotation will be solved by the time the Big Ten season comes around. 
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