Back in November prior to the season, I had asked can Donovon Jack stop fouling? The rising junior had an up-and-down sophomore campaign, but it seemed like he could further his development if he was able to reign in his out-of-control fouling habits. When he was on the floor and not hampered by foul trouble, Donovon posed a decent threat for the Lions offense, averaging 8.1 PPG and 5.2 RPG. It seemed if PSU could mask Donovon's physical weaknesses, he could provide a decent scoring boost in the post.
Sadly we found out that Donovon indeed could not stop fouling in 2015 and the Lions weren't able to find a solution for the Reading native. He remains physically overmatched in the paint against fellow Big Ten big men and with Jordan Dickerson improving and Julian Moore starting to emerge, Donovon's impact became less and less as the season wore on.
Donovon's numbers went down nearly across the board from his sophomore to his junior season. He had started 27 games as a sophomore and averaged 19.8 MPG, but after starting the first 7 games of 2015, he only logged 5 more starts the rest of the season and averaged only 8.1 MPG over the last 11 games. With lesser minutes, obviously Donovon's scoring and rebounding decreased, but so did his efficiency (112.4 ORTG as a sophomore). Not a good sign for a guy who only attempted half the number of shots he did in 2014.
The Shot Chart
For comparison. below is Donovon's 2013-2014 shot chart.
Not a promising illustration. With Tim Frazier gone, so did Donovon's pick-and-pop opportunities in 2014-2015. Otherwise, Donovon's shooting numbers were just a little bit worse all-around than his previous campaign.
Jack still is the most skilled big man the Lions possess (depending on how you categorize Brandon Taylor). That may not say much for the others, but he can catch and convert in the right spots. He also shot much better in his limited attempts at the foul line, improving his 59% free throw percentage to 75%. On defense, he continues to be a capable shot-blocker, but that just always seems negated by the number of fouls he commits.
Donovon's biggest issue on the court continues to be his sheer lack of size down low. Listed at 6'9" 210 pounds, Jack is nowhere near strong enough to guard opposing 5's consistently and effectively in the Big Ten. His fouling rates give clear indications of this weakness. Donovon committed 8.7 fouls per 40 minutes of play this past year, a disappointing increase from his 6.7 rate posted in 2014. It's difficult to find your game if you're often taking yourself out of it.
It's hard to pick best performances for role players. Typically their impact does not sway the outcome of games, so do you just select by sheer numbers? In Donovon's case, he had two pretty good games against Michigan (21 min, 9 pts, 0 PF) and Indiana (14 min, 10 pts, 3 PF), but it's no surprise those came against two clubs that struggled inside all year (and they were still disappointing losses for the team). His biggest impact in a win came against Minnesota, where he was able to block 4 shots and score 6 points in the Lions' 63-58 win in the BJC. We'll go with that one.
Heading into his senior campaign, Donovon's going to have to carve his own role to stay in the rotation. With Mike Watkins arriving and no other departures from last year's frontcourt, playing time will be more difficult despite his seniority, if he continues to be good for a foul every 5 minutes of action. The Lions have big issues as a team in that department and Donovon only compounds the problem when he's been relied on in a bigger capacity.
Final Grade: C
Attaching a subjective letter grade to a college player's season is not my thing, but we'll go with a C. He did not improve on 2013-2014 and was the most disappointing player in Penn State's struggling frontcourt. Some may say that's worthy of a worse grade, but not me. Too bad.