Nazeer Bostick’s freshman season reminds me a bit of Josh Reaves’ with fewer highlight reel dunks. Shining in moments, and showing he has the athletic ability to match most Big Ten players, Bostick also struggled to contribute regularly on the offensive side of the ball mired by poor decision-making. Bostick’s ability to fill several columns on the box score and to harass opposing players with his defensive skills made it difficult to keep him off the court despite his offensive struggles. Like Reaves heading into his sophomore season, Bostick needs to become a better all-around player to earn a more prominent role and help Penn State reach the postseason.
What He Did Last Year
Unlike some of his teammates, Nazeer Bostick played like a true freshman last year in an up-and-down season. His best performance came in Penn State’s victory over Maryland, making a few crucial plays in the closing minutes of the game. Despite only scoring four points, Bostick had two rebounds and a block that helped preserve the lead for the Nittany Lions. Following the upset win it appeared that Bostick would break into the rotation as a utility player coming off the bench.
While he was used sparingly throughout the season prior to the Maryland game, he put together three straight games with over 10 minutes played coming out of it. His offensive game remained a liability, but Bostick’s ability to rebound, block, and steal the ball earned him those minutes in the second half of conference play. Unfortunately a fractured hand kept him out of the final five games of the season including the Big Ten tournament.
In limited playing time, Bostick showed an ability to contribute in a variety of ways. His performance against Maryland proved that his coaches and teammates were accurate in describing him as a player capable of making game-changing plays in big moments. Reminiscent of Josh Reaves early on, Bostick struggled to find his stroke from beyond the arc, shooting 0-for-9 last year, and had a tendency to play out of control and turn the ball over. If Bostick and this team are to take the next step this year he’ll have to find a way to limit mistakes and contribute more reliably on offense.
What to Expect This Year
Bostick’s role should continue to increase heading into his sophomore season. With the departures of Terrence Samuel and Payton Banks from the program, Nazeer will be relied upon to contribute meaningful minutes off the bench. His versatility means that he won’t necessarily have to score more points to earn playing time, as his ability to create steals and crash the boards is unique among Pat Chambers’ cast of supporting players heading into the season. Still, if Penn State plans to make the postseason, they’ll need Bostick to prove that he can step into an expanded role.
Arguably the biggest question heading into the season is where the bench points will come from. With a career high of seven points coming against Grand Canyon early last season, there is reason to doubt that Bostick will be the one to provide an offensive boost when the starters aren’t on the court. In a very limited sample, he did shoot 5-for-5 from the free throw line, and may benefit from driving the lane and drawing contact to help get into more of an offensive rhythm this year. Averaging somewhere between five to 10 points per game isn’t going to win him any postseason honors, but it should be enough to keep him on the court for longer periods of time given his ability to contribute in other areas of the game.
Of the three true freshmen heading into last year, Bostick would have benefited the most from a redshirt season. He was what you might call raw. This year the opportunity for an expanded role is wide open, and if there is one thing we learned about Nazeer last year, it’s that he is not going to be intimidated by that opportunity. Earning the nickname “Horse” in high school for his ability to carry the team down the stretch, Bostick has the do-it-all ability to become a key role player for the Nittany Lions in the 2017-18 season.