If Penn State is to make a jump this year, it’ll be in big part due to Shep Garner’s play. Garner, one of the first commitments from the Philadelphia area, comes into a third season that has not only the depth but the talent to compete with the Big Ten.
Garner saw time as a freshman behind D.J. Newbill, which allowed him to ease into the college game without having to do too much from the start. He showed, however, that he was more than ready for the college game, and would be a force to be reckoned with as he gained experience in college.
Garner was second in scoring last season, averaging 14.8 points per game on a 47.8 eFG% rate. He was also first in 3-point percentage on the team at 36.6% (Devin Foster had a higher percentage, but only attempted 23 shots), which is not that good in the grand scheme of things, and is a testament to Penn State’s overall shooting ability last season. He also led the team in assists with 109 (good for a 22.2 assist rate) and steals, so expect him to continue being a disruptive force on the court.
Garner, due to the lack of point guard depth last season, spent a lot of time on the floor bringing the ball over. The 35.2 minutes per game he played last season (87% of minutes) were the most of the team, with Brandon Taylor coming in second at 32.3. No other player averaged over 30 minutes per game last season.
This Season’s Role
For the past two seasons, Garner was able to sit back and let older players take the leadership role on the team. This season’s team is all his. Shep will be expected to provide the same leadership guys like Brandon Taylor and D.J. Newbill provided before him, by making sure that Penn State’s new crop of talented freshmen adjust to the college game, and do so quickly. Garner is a guy who wears his emotions on his sleeve (as evidenced by the few moments we saw him choke up after losses, including in the Big Ten tournament), so expect him to be the kind of outspoken leader that provides a spark when the team needs it.
On the other side, Garner will be able to benefit from having a team with adequate depth at the guard position. This will allow Shep to spend more time off the ball, which will naturally help with his shooting. Not to mention, he’ll remain fresh by not having to spend as much time on the floor. That will prove useful at the end of games, when there were times you could see the fatigue taking over, and leading to some sloppy play. Chambers could opt to run the offense the way he did in 2013, where both Tim Frazier and D.J. Newbill brought the ball over, which allowed for different formations and lineups.
Garner is one of the more underrated Big Ten players coming into this season. With guys like Melo Trimble, Nigel Hayes, and Peter Jok taking the headlines, Garner seems to be flying under the radar a bit. Don’t be surprised, however, if Garner ends up an all-conference player by the end of the season. As with other guards under Chambers, there’s a good chance that he breaks out this season and ends up having a monster year. I, for one, can’t wait to see it.