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Impact Plays: Centers, Guards, Defense

Oh, my bad. Did you think that this was a football article? It’s not bait and switch. It’s bait and bait. Plus, that’s a picture of the BJC in February. Clearly not Beaver Stadium.

NCAA Basketball: Maryland at Penn State Matthew O’Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Penn State football has its second bye week and with 8 wins in hand, it is a great time for the team and its fans to recharge their batteries. So we thought that we would take a look at two Penn State programs that are on the rise and at the start of their season.

The hockey team is currently ranked within the field of 16 that will eventually play in the NCAA Tournament and was picked by the coaches to win the Big Ten. There is a great deal of hockey to be played between now and the end of March but the program has never been healthier and loaded with more talent. It is poised to have a dominating season.

The Penn State basketball program is ranked 43rd in the KenPom rankings to start the season, which is a good indicator that the respected computer model expects good things from Pat Chambers’ squad. That ranking puts the team in the hunt for the NCAA Tournament. There have been multiple national media outlets that have predicted that the Lions will make the tournament this season. It should be fun to watch as the season unfolds.

We got a chance to take a look at some of the new players on the basketball roster during an exhibition game versus Delaware on Sunday.

Izaiah Brockington

Brockington sat out last season after transferring from St. Bonaventure. The team raved about his defense in practice and we saw on film that his jumping ability is unique. On Sunday we saw him in action with the other pieces of the Penn State team.

I wanted to show this play from the game not only because it displays some of Brockington’s talent, but also, it was a rare 3 point attempt by John Harrar. Watch on the opposite wing of the floor while Jamari Wheeler was working the ball to Harrar. Brockington was waiting on the wing for the shot to go up, and when it did, he crashed the rim.

The play will remind a lot of fans of Josh Reaves. Brockington, along with Seth Lundy, will get many of the minutes left vacant by the graduation of Reaves. Brockington did not make the basket but he was fouled and went to the line instead. We all know that Delaware is not the toughest foe that the Lions will face this year, but just watching the movement of Brockington is impressive. It will be very hard to box him out when he starts his move at the 3 point line and you already have Watkins and Stevens to worry about.

In real time he seemed to hover at the top of his jump as the other players succumbed to the forces gravity. Brockington is said to be the best athlete on the team now that Reaves is gone and he looked the part on Sunday. On the next trip down the floor, he stole the ball and led a 2 on 1 break the other way.

Seth Lundy

Like Brockington, Lundy is set to help fill the vacancy left by Reaves. Lundy showed that he feels perfectly comfortable shooting 3 point shots, handling the ball, and performing the tasks normally associated with a 3rd guard, which is the spot that Reaves occupied for the past few years.

However, unlike Reaves or Brockington, Lundy has low-post skills and likes to use them. He is an inch taller than Reaves and weighs roughly the same. With a few more years of Big Ten-level nutrition and workouts, he should add more strength and a little weight.

He already has the game to play in the paint, which is a new dimension for the 3rd guard in Chambers’ offense. Maybe it’s because Lundy really isn’t a guard. He’s listed as a forward in the media guide. Yet he was playing the tip of the triangle on the press, with Wheeler and Dread at half court. Could it be? Is he a small forward?

It has been a long time since Penn State has had a player that has a true small forward skill set, and Lundy is just that. Understanding that playing Delaware is not the same challenge as Michigan State, take a look at his moves.

Lundy will not be asked to work inside against the other team’s center or when he has a disadvantage. When he is guarded by a smaller player or can get the ball near the foul line, he is big enough and talented enough to finish the play.

We saw a lot on Sunday of Lamar Stevens, John Harrar, Trent Buttrick, and Lundy all working the high post while facilitating the passing game. That is something that will be a staple of the offense this year, with the talent that the team has at the forward positions.

Harrar and Buttrick each have exceptional passing skills for their size. Stevens and Lundy can threaten to pass or score once they get the ball in the paint. The play above shows Buttrick’s nice hands in taking the pass from Myreon Jones and getting it right off to Lundy, on time and in a position to score once he got it.

Buttrick and Jones passed the ball around the perimeter, working the ball to Lundy again later in the game. For a freshman playing his first game Lundy looked very comfortable in the paint.

Pat Chambers now has the personnel to play 3 true guards at once with a combination of Wheeler, Jones, Myles Dread and Curtis Jones Jr. at his disposal. He can also play two guards with a player similar to Reaves, a combo guard, slasher, defensive specialist in Brockington. And when Lundy is in the game, the team will have a small forward skill set to work with. Figuring that Mike Watkins, Lamar Stevens, Harrar and Buttrick will occupy the two forward positions most of the time, the 3rd guard spot will be where the supporting players will get their chance to contribute.

Patrick Kelly

Kelly is listed at 6-foot-7 and 201 pounds. He is thought to be a guy that is going to need a year to add strength to adjust to the Big Ten game. That is what he looked like on Sunday, but he also flashed some skills that were nice to see.

Watch Kelly (14) as he set a screen for Seth Lundy, then popped back out for the 3 point shot. Not only was it a great screen, but he was set and ready, and also not afraid, to sink his first basket at Penn State. Jamari Wheeler and Myreon Jones did a nice job of working the ball to Kelly. Jones made the extra pass, something that he will be asked to do while sharing the role of point guard more often this season.

We may not see too much of Kelly this season due to the depth that the team has, but his skills were on display. He looks like a player that will have to work hard to be able to defend power forwards, but with some added weight and strength he may be able to do that. If he can, then his outside skills will make it very hard for the opposing teams’ big men to chase him around.

Hockey Valley

The Penn State hockey team took care of Robert Morris on Friday night, moving to 4-1 on the season. Captain Brandon Biro finished the play but watch the puck movement before the goal. There are so many veterans on this team, which has the most upperclassmen in the country, that they can be impossible to defend at times.

The Lions have numerous volume scorers and have led the nation in scoring in recent years. The question has been whether it can play a balanced enough style to hang with the top teams in the country.

The Penn State defense and goalie Peyton Jones played well on Friday night to keep Robert Morris to just one goal scored. Late in the game, with the Lions trying to hold the thin one goal lead, Jones made a save on what would have been the tying goal.

Penn State has shown that it is focused on playing better team defense and so far this season it has paid off. With a senior goalie in net, that could get hot at any time, the Lions simply need to give him the support necessary.

There have been times in the past that the team has left Jones hung out to dry with odd man rushes and breakaways. So far this season we have seen much less of that, which could be a sign that not only are the players on the team maturing, but the playing style of Guy Gadowsky’s program is as well.

The Lions host Wisconsin on Thursday and Friday this week. The match-up features two of the teams expected to compete for the Big Ten Championship and both games will be televised on the Big Ten Network.