"I think he's got the whole package and that he certainly has all the intangibles to be an all-conference type player [down the road]."
That is a statement Ed DeChellis once reportedly made about the last player he recruited that actually played for him at Penn State, Jon Graham. With today's news that Graham will be leaving the program after two full seasons of action under a coach whom he didn't sign up to play for, we know for sure that he won't be fulfilling his all-conference potential in Happy Valley.
Graham's time at Penn State wasn't so much enigmatic as it was perplexing. The end to his redshirt freshman season, in which he improved on his season averages in points, field goal percentage, and free throw rate during conference play, set the stage for a potentially (there's that word again) exciting 2012-13. But despite encouraging physical development reported by Pat Chambers himself this past offseason, his play never lived up to the hype; his minutes were almost non-existent towards the end of the season, taken away by a graduating junior on a team with nothing to play for other than pride.
Watching him play, it wasn't difficult to see what ailed him--he didn't quite have the basketball brain to match wits with his obvious physical gifts. Sure, there were occasional flashes of what ED saw in him--the ten-rebound game against a then-ranked NC State in Puerto Rico, leading the team in blocks in each of his two seasons--but nothing ever resembling a B1G-caliber big man ever materialized. Graham finished 2012-13 averaging 1.9 points and 2.7 rebounds per game--not exactly numbers you would like to see from a starting center on a team hoping to battle for an NCAA tournament bid in the nation's toughest conference.
Alas, these things happen in college basketball. One look at CBS's transfer list is all you need to confirm that these things don't always work out. Unfortunately, these things haven't worked out for six undergrads (Jermaine Marshall and Sasa Borovnjak excluded because they completed their degrees) under Chambers, though it's worth noting five of these six signed to play for DeChellis. Regardless of the circumstances surrounding these departures, it's less than encouraging to see it happen so frequently.
So we bid adieu to one of the more frustrating players to watch in recent Penn State basketball history. Obviously, we wish the best of luck to Jon. Whatever ED saw in you, we hope you find it in your next stop.
Ok, so where does this leave Penn State heading into 2013-14? Assuming the roster doesn't see any further departures (knock on wood), and assuming Marshall won't double back (or triple back, I've lost count) on his decision to leave the program, Chambers is looking at an upper-echelon backcourt and an unproven and shallow frontcourt. Donovon Jack is the team's only returning scholarship player taller than 6'8". Freshman Julian Moore needs to hit the weight room hard before his slender 6'10" frame sees the floor. Brandon Taylor has the ability to play down low, but between his foul troubles and penchant for the three pointer he remains a bit of a question mark. Ross Travis is an excellent rebounder, but is he capable of being the anchor in the fabled 'Nova four-guard lineup Chambers has been talking about (and finally has the perimeter personnel to run)?
Graham's departure and Jordan Dickerson's arrival makes that one available scholarship for the upcoming campaign. With the number of available grad transfers dwindling by the minute, it's conceivable the staff could dip into the JuCo market. The reported new Director of Player Development Ryan Devlin was hired away from College of Southern Idaho, so it appears Chambers is looking to dip his toes a little further into that talent pool. More likely, however, is that this spot goes unfilled for the upcoming season and saved for a swingman in the 2014 class, with top 100 prospects Terry Larrier and Mikal Bridges as the main targets.
Ok, got all that? Here's an updated scholarship matrix:
|1||G - Tim Frazier||G - DJ Newbill||F - Brandon Taylor||G - Geno Thorpe|
|2||G - Allen Roberts||G - John Johnson||F - Donovon Jack||C - Julian Moore|
|3||G - DJ Newbill||F - Ross Travis||G - Geno Thorpe||F - Payton Banks|
|4||G - John Johnson*||F - Brandon Taylor||C - Julian Moore||G - Graham Woodward|
|5||F - Ross Travis||F - Donovon Jack||F - Payton Banks||C - Jordan Dickerson|
|6||F - Brandon Taylor||G - Geno Thorpe||G - Graham Woodward||G - Isaiah Washington|
|7||F - Donovon Jack||C - Julian Moore||C - Jordan Dickerson||G - Shep Garner|
|8||G - Geno Thorpe||F - Payton Banks||G - Isaiah Washington||F - Michael Watkins|
|9||C - Julian Moore||G - Graham Woodward||G - Shep Garner|
|10||F - Payton Banks||C - Jordan Dickerson||F - Michael Watkins|
|11||G - Graham Woodward||G - Isaiah Washington|
|12||C - Jordan Dickerson**||G - Shep Garner|
* - eligible at conclusion of Fall 2013 semester
** - eligible at beginning of Fall 2014 semester
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