Donovon Jack was yet another unknown commodity heading into last season. The sophomore center played in just 17 games as a freshman before suffering a season-ending foot injury, denying him the ability to develop and gain experience in the Big Ten. What we could surmise from those 17 games was that Jack had the skill required to contribute at the high-major level, but his lack of upper-body strength would keep him from seeing more than supplementary minutes against the Big Ten's best centers.
That evaluation still holds true to an extent. Jack had nights, especially in non-conference play, when he looked like he could be the third scorer Penn State was often seeking. Of course, that was depending if he could stay out of foul trouble - Jack averaged 6.7 fouls per 40 minutes, which would be a team high were it not for Jordan Dickerson's penchant for being in the way of opponents.
There's quite a bit to digest here. First and foremost, it's worth pointing out that Jack was the most efficient offensive player on the team, and it wasn't even close for much of the season. His ORtg fell quite a bit over the last two months of the season, mainly because his three-point shooting dropped off considerably, so it says a lot about what he was doing prior to his hitting of the B1G freshman wall (remember, this was his first dip into conference waters).
Jack did make some improvements in the conference slate, both in converting near the basket and hitting the offensive glass, though his overall rebounding numbers leave something to be desired for a center. His shot-blocking numbers certainly made amends for that, though. Jack blocked 9.2% of opponents' shots while he was on the floor, a figure that ranks 47th nationally and 18th best among all players 6'9" or shorter (shut up this is cool and interesting and relevant I think).
Most of the good came in the non-conference portion of the schedule, when he was hitting threes at what seemed like a 40% clip and blocking shots left and right - essentially, he's everything you'd want in a "stretch-five" at his best. When his outside shot wasn't falling (you knew right away - it seemed like he took the opening shot in almost every game), he abandoned the three in favor of posting up, especially as the year wore on. Little tweaks like that are what you want to see from a young player, and it's why there's reason for optimism with Jack in 2014-15.
Actually playing in the game is a good thing, and unfortunately for Donovon his foul issues prevented him from doing that a lot last year. He averaged just under 20 minutes per game and played less than 15 minutes on eight occasions. That was less of a problem after Dickerson became eligible but it still needs to be addressed for next season, obviously. There's also the issue of the three-point shooting - Jack went 2-5 from deep in the loss at Purdue and hit just two more to finish out the year (2-27). He also got absolutely sonned by opposing centers (mostly Adreian Payne) far too often, so another offseason in the weight room is just what the doctor ordered.
vs. Marshall - 27 mins, 18 pts, 8-12 FG, 1-2 3pt, 7 reb, 7 blk, 2 ast, 1 TO
If you would've asked me to name Jack's best game off the top of my head, I would've went with his 18-point effort against La Salle in which he torched the Explorers for four triples. But when then I looked at his game log, and holy crap how did I forget this game? Seven blocks! Granted, Marshall wasn't very good last year, even if we are in the probably fruitless process of trying to land their departed point guard, but still - seven blocks!
With five big men on the roster (Jack, Taylor, Travis, Dickerson, Moore) to fill two positions, I don't know that we'll see a major minutes increase for Donovon in his junior season. Working on his upper body strength has to be a priority this offseason, and if he can get to a playing weight around 225-230lbs (played at a listed 210lbs last year) than he should have an easier time in post defense, provided he doesn't lose any bounce as a result.
Final Grade: B
Jack probably has more potential than any of the four bigs that'll be upperclassmen next season, and a full offseason will benefit him greatly. The Nittany Lions have a player here, no doubt about it - it's now just a matter of getting him physically prepared for the rigors of the Big Ten.