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Penn State Basketball Preview Part II: Newcomers

Competition for the fifth starting position has been fierce - meet the contenders.

Basketball: Spalding Hoophall Classic Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

A 2018 recruiting class of five guards affords Pat Chambers a lot of options.

This past class is as deep as any that Chambers has put together, even though they didn’t receive the same level of hype as the Carr-Stevens-Bostick class.

Fortunately for the players and the coaching staff, this class doesn’t have to carry the load like Carr and Stevens were asked to from day one. If one freshman struggles, Pat can go to the bench and look to others to step up. What the team needs this year is a consistent complement to the existing veteran core. Whether that consistency comes from one freshman or four is not so important.

With four of the five spots in the current starting lineup decided (Wheeler, Reaves, Stevens, Harrar), there has been fierce competition among the freshman for that fifth spot. Chambers has spoken highly of them all, especially their shooting ability, but there are some early favorites to lead the class in playing time early on.

G Myles Dread - FR

6-foot-4, 215 pounds | Gonzaga HS, D.C.

Dread was the first member of the 2018 class for Pat Chambers, committing to the team over two years ago. Dread’s accolades and success on the court speak more to his abilities than a meager offer sheet. He was named the 2017-18 Gatorade Player of the Year in Washington D.C. Penn State was one of the first teams to recruit the talented guard and a close connection with rising senior Josh Reaves did not hurt their chances. As a senior, Dread averaged 13.8 points per game, 4.6 rebounds and 3.7 assists. More than those numbers, his 42.9 percent clip from 3-point range should help quell concerns over the departure of Shep Garner and Tony Carr.

The coaching staff has spoken highly of Dread since he arrived on campus and it confidence was rewarded in the exhibition game against West Virginia on Saturday. In 32 minutes of play, Dread shot 7 of 12 from the field and 5 of 10 from 3-point range. He added two assists and three steals to his 23 points, while committing just three turnovers. Dread also went 4 for 4 from the free-throw line. His shooting ability receives the greatest attention, but Dread is a versatile player who takes pride in his defensive abilities as well. Against the Mountaineers he showed enough size to help defend against forwards in the paint, and enough athleticism to defend guards in transition. His versatility will be key during Mike Watkins absence as Chambers experiments with different lineups.

Dread is the front-runner to earn the starting spot for Friday’s season opener. His ability to score (seemingly at will) is badly needed on a team that is without three of its top five scorers from last year.

G Rasir Bolton - FR

6-foot-2, 180 pounds | Massanutten Military Academy, Woodstock, VA

Rasir is another underrated recruit, in my opinion, who will be featured prominently in Penn State’s lineup throughout the year. His offer sheet is a bit more impressive with offers from Clemson, Pittsburgh and Virginia Tech. While Dread’s shooting ability has been touted the most, Bolton is no slouch from beyond the arc. In high school he played off the ball, relying on his accuracy from deep to stretch the floor and create for his teammates. His scouting profile suggests he has some work to do to develop the court vision and handles to take over point guard duties full-time, but with Jamari Wheeler currently in that role, Bolton won’t be asked to fill that role for extended periods during his freshman season.

Against “Press” Virginia, Bolton played 31 minutes and committed 0 turnovers suggesting that his ball-handling skills may be a bit further along than his recruiting profile states. He added 15 points, shooting 4 for 9 from the field, 1 for 3 from deep, and 6 for 9 (ED note: Nice) from the free-throw line. Bolton proved the ability to create his own shot and create for others. He passes the ball well, and was deliberate with his choices, often deciding where the ball was going before he had it in his hands. With Tony Carr and Shep Garner no longer on the team, one of my questions entering the season was who would be the pressure relief valve on offense as the shot clock expires. While that can’t be judged from one exhibition game, Bolton did show a willingness to take a deep three as the clock winds down and even managed to bank one in.

Bolton is not quite as Big Ten ready as Dread, but he’s the second-closest. He has the ability to develop into a more offensive-minded point guard to complement Jamari Wheeler’s defensive motor. Alongside Dread, we could be looking at a very productive backcourt sooner than one might have expected after losing Carr and Garner.

G Myreon Jones FR

6-foot-3, 170 pounds | Lincoln Academy, Suwanee, GA

Myreon Jones was a late addition to the 2018 recruiting class. After Tubby Smith got fired in the spring, MJ de-committed from the University of Memphis, and Pat Chambers came calling. Jones was one of the top guards in his home state of Alabama prior to transferring to Lincoln Academy in Georgia for his senior year. In addition to his on-court abilities, MJ is noted for his success in the classroom. He carried a 4.4 GPA into his senior year and was in line to be his class’s valedictorian before transferring.

Chambers stated on media day that during the Spring the coaching staff was looking to add either a graduate transfer, or a true freshman who could play right away once they knew Tony Carr would not be returning for this season. When Jones re-opened his recruitment, Chambers and Co. showed little hesitation, and landed a prospect rated as high as 89th nationally by 247Sports (his composite ranking was 180th). For those keeping track, that would be the highest-rated recruit since Carr signed.

Myreon earned the nickname “Buckets” among his teammates due to his ability to score from just about anywhere. While a recruiting class of four guards might seem at first to be one-dimensional, Myreon is another new addition who brings a versatile skill-set that will allow Chambers to play him at multiple positions. In ten minutes of action against WVU, Myreon shot 1 of 5 from the field, and 1 of 2 from the free-throw line while committing one turnover. Based on that it would appear he is slightly lower in the rotation to begin the season, but I don’t expect his role (or that of the other freshman) to remain static. In early non-conference games against North Florida and Jacksonville State, I expect we’ll see a fair amount of MJ mixed in with Dread and Bolton.

G Daniil Kasatkin FR

6-foot-7, 215 pounds | Mountain Mission School, Grundy, VA

Unlike the plug-and-play freshman above, Kasatkin is a bit more of a developmental player. The Vichuga, Russia native, Kasatkin or “DK” is a likely redshirt candidate for this season as he continues to adjust to American-style basketball. At 6-foot-7, Kasatkin has little issue getting open looks beyond the arc, but he needs to develop into a better all-around player before Chambers gives him significant in-game minutes. Specifically, during media day, Chambers mentioned DK must get better at rebounding and on the defensive end.

Kasatkin averaged 14.2 points and 4 rebounds per game, while shooting 40 percent from 3-point range during his senior season at the Mountain Mission School in Grundy. He was the offensive leader for his team, and excelled in the classroom as well. Adjusting to Big Ten-caliber opponents will be tough. Unlike other incoming freshman who played in extremely competitive leagues and AAU circuits, Kasatkin was more of a big fish in a small pond. By all accounts he’s adjusted to life at Penn State just fine. Both Reaves and Chambers commented on his personality: quiet, but with a dry sense of humor. More importantly, Reaves attested to DK’s willingness to learn and ask questions, which is encouraging for his long-term development.

G Izaiah Brockington SO

6-foot-4, 195 pounds | Archbishop Ryan, Philadelphia

Brockington is even less likely to see the court this year than Kasatkin due to his transfer status. There is a small chance that the team could appeal to the NCAA and shorten the period he must sit out, but I wouldn’t count on it. Still, Brockington is worth a mention here for what he will add to team practices throughout the season.

Coming out of the Philadelphia Catholic League, Brockington committed to St. Bonaventure where he spent his freshman season before transferring to Penn State. As a senior for Archbishop Ryan, Brockington averaged 18.6 points per game, on a team that went to the PCL semifinals in 2017. His defensive skills and athleticism have received a lot of praise from the coaches and players, leaving Pat struggling not to compare him to Josh Reaves.

As a freshman for the Bonnie’s Brockington played in 34 games and contributed 4.3 points, 1.2 rebounds and 0.9 assists per game. He also shot 41.5 percent from 3-point range. He did all of this as a freshman despite a crowded back court on a team that made it to the second-round of the NCAA Tournament. Sitting out this year, Brockington will enter the 2019-20 season with three years of eligibility remaining. In the meantime, he’ll be an asset during practices, as his fresh legs and defensive prowess will make life difficult for Penn State’s starting rotation. Brockington will have an indirect effect on the team’s development this year, before he gets to show the fans what he is capable next season.