With the announced departures of Matt Glover and Trey Lewis from the basketball program, suddenly things have become a bit uneasy in the land of Chamburgers. The backcourt, which was thought to be the strength of this team, suddenly only has four scholarship players for next season. Considering the promise some of the recent transfers have shown on the court, many are starting to wonder just what the heck is going on in the BJC. This program certainly has had its share of disappointing transfers over the years, so the skepticism and concern is understandable.
The reality is these situations are very common, especially under a new head coach. Ed DeChellis saw the early departure of six players he inherited from Jerry Dunn in his first year along. A more fair and recent comparison can be made with Iowa under Fran McCaffery. He was hired in April 2010 and saw four contributing players leave Iowa City for various reasons in his first year, including two returning starters in Aaron Fuller and Cully Payne. There are hundreds of other examples because this much roster turnover is very common under a new head coach.
After the whole Peter Alexis situation, whenever a player leaves now, everyone worries about a possible ‘carefrontation’. Some fans aren’t particularly thrilled with the term, or the idea of cutting scholarships athletes. However, there are rational explanations for all of these departures, and the spirits within the program are still high. It has been made abundantly clear that Chambers is building this program based on defense and rebounding. He expects maximum effort at all times, which can be demanding for players who weren't initially sold on him considering how intense and overbearing he can be. With how late in the game the coaching transition occurred last year, the current players didn't have much of a choice but to stick with the program this season. Chambers positivity and out-going personality made their decisions easier, but now that they've experienced his coaching style, it's not unexpected that some aren't buying it.
Bowman was a quick and quiet departure from the program last summer. He had gotten himself in trouble with Taran Buie over the season, and his grades were described as barely passing. He was in hot water with DeChellis, and it's likely Chambers didn't even bother to welcome him back. It was never really announced that he was leaving until he resurfaced at Midland College in Texas. If anyone was 'run off', Bowman was and no one even blinked.
Alexis, who never received much interest outside of PSU in high school, was never going to play here regardless of how hard he worked. Chambers was brutally honest with him about it, and therefore, Alexis found it in his best interests to have a playing career somewhere else. His body language in warm-ups (where he was always a vocal leader in drills) didn't suggest he had his scholarship pulled by Chambers. He wants to have a chance to play somewhere else, and I'm sure Chambers will help him find the right school.
Glover was more unexpected due to the fact that his attitude and effort was something the coaching staff loved. They were going to depend on him to be an emotional leader, and despite his offensive struggles, there was enough skills there to develop a great player. His transfer is of more 'natural causes' for lack of a better term because of an apparent need to be closer to home and his family in California. This was his first year living on the east coast, so the coaching change likely had little effect.
Lewis was the most interesting case because many, including myself, had such high hopes for the guy. He's a high-character kid that is a great representative of the university. However, from a basketball standpoint, this shouldn't have been as big of a surprise as it was. Lewis, who thrives on his natural scoring ability, found himself in Chambers’ doghouse at the start of the Big Ten season, because he was struggling to buy in to the coach’s all-out attitude on defense. He was replaced by Nick Colella, but then a lower back stress fracture further derailed his freshman year. Who knows how it would've played out if he hadn't suffered the injury.
Trey was originally recruited as the next Talor Battle by the previous staff, but it's clear by Chambers' recruiting that this was never going to be the case. With the arrival of DJ Newbill along with Tim Frazier and Jermaine Marshall, Lewis was going to be the fourth guard playing off the bench next year. Even though Frazier departs in 2013, talented guards Geno Thorpe and Brandon Austin will be joining the backcourt the following year. He was never going to be the focal point scorer that he's been his entire career. A mutual decision was reached that his game would be better off somewhere else.
As all the dust settles, the program is still in great shape. Chambers isn't deliberately cutting guys and players aren't badmouthing the coach or team on their way out. The starting lineup next year was going to be Jon Graham, Ross Travis, Marshall, Newbill, and Frazier anyway, but now the bench has become a bit of a concern. There are four scholarships available for next year, and I'd expect at least two of them to be filled in the coming months. Obviously the Sheldon Jeter saga is still in full swing (as Chambers visited him at his house yesterday), but Penn State is in need of guards, too.
The staff will have their hands full trying to find the right fit in a short amount of time. I'd expect a transfer or a Juco option to be a very real possibility for the backcourt as a stopgap between Frazier and Thorpe/Austin. Also, Nick Colella on the bench would be a great practice player/reserve for next year who would only be given a one-year scholarship. At this point, I'll be surprised if Colella doesn't get the opportunity unless the staff really has some tricks up their sleeve.
Other than Jeter, I don't think there's many prep players available that the staff would want for the long haul, but keep an eye on Josh Gray, who just asked for his release from Mississippi St after Stansbury's retirement, and Daiquan Walker, a 6'1" PG from Philadelphia who has ridiculous handles. PSU has shown mild interest in these guys in the past, but things have drastically changed. Buckle up for what's going to be a fun offseason. #doworkPat