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No Point Guard, No Cry: A Look At The Current Penn State Basketball Roster

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A great deal of uncertainty will remain for the next month, but the team has enough talent at this point to compete next season.

NCAA Basketball: Penn State at Wisconsin Mary Langenfeld-USA TODAY Sports

With the news that Rasir Bolton has entered the transfer portal, we take a quick glance at what the roster will look like next season. While it is still possible for Bolton to return, that scenario is unlikely according to David Jones at Pennlive.com.

Lamar Stevens and Mike Watkins are testing the waters at the professional level but have maintained the ability to return to the team next season. Their decisions will impact the roster drastically. Here are some of the dates that will give us information about the pair while they go through the process.

From April 26 to May 3 players will receive invitations to either the G League Elite Camp or the NBA Draft Combine. A total of 100 players will be invited. 60 players will attend the combine. Forty of the players that did not make the combine will have a shot to show their talents at the G League Elite Camp, which runs from May 12-14.

The NBA Draft Combine runs from May 15-19. Players must decide whether they will return to the NCAA by May 29. So the news on Watkins and Stevens will likely come within the next 30 days.

Right now there is 1 scholarship available for the 2019-2020 season, provided that Bolton does not return. Should Stevens or Watkins decide to leave, additional spots will be available for this coming season.

Let’s take a quick look at where the roster stands at this moment.

Front-court

Returning players- Mike Watkins (RSSR), Lamar Stevens (SR), John Harrar (JR), Trent Buttrick (JR), Kyle McCloskey (SO).

New Additions- Abdou Tsimbila (FR) 6’8 220-pounds. Patrick Kelly (FR) 6’8 205-pounds. Seth Lundy (FR) 6’6 225-pounds.

I included Lundy with the front-court players since he is more of a small forward than a true guard. Lundy’s body and skills will have him ready to step into a major role, if not a starting position, early in his career.

While there remains a great deal of uncertainty surrounding the decisions to come by Mike Watkins and Lamar Stevens, until one or both of them leave, the Lions have a solid group of forwards next season. Stevens and Watkins will gobble up minutes, Harrar showed that he can be a legitimate starting Big Ten forward.

Trent Buttrick played well before an injury hampered him mid-season. Buttrick has the ability to defend the perimeter and also showed that he has the body to provide minutes at power forward and center.

I included Kyle McCloskey as a back-court player because the 6’5 walk-on showed flashes of being able to defend the small forward position last season. While McCloskey was a point guard in high school, and can handle the ball around the perimeter when needed, his big body will provide depth.

Lundy is expected to play immediately but fellow incoming freshman Patrick Kelly is more similar to Buttrick in that he may not give the team much productivity during his first season. The largest variable, both literally and figuratively, will be Abdou Tsimbila.

Tsimbila is touted as a low-post defender and his weight of 220 pounds to go along with a 6’8 frame will give him a shot to get on the floor with regularity next season. Tsimbila is roughly the size of Trent Buttrick, while two years younger. He has the chance to gain weight and technique, and to become a starter later in his career. The question is how ready he will be this season. Should Stevens and Watkins return, Tsimbila will slide into a perfect supporting role. Should they not return, he will be in the rotation unless the Lions can attract a transfer with immediate eligibility, or a new recruit for the 2019 class.

Back-court

Returning players- Jamari Wheeler (JR), Myles Dread (SO), Myreon Jones (SO), Daniil Kasatkin (SO).

New addition- Izaiah Brockington (SO) 6’5 200-pounds.

The Lions lost Josh Reaves to graduation and appear to be losing Bolton to transfer. That will leave a void in the ball-handling side of things. Brockington, a transfer from St. Bonaventure, with NCAA tournament experience as a freshman, will help lesson the blow of losing Josh Reaves.

Brockington and Lundy each will occupy spots on the floor that Reaves has for the past few years. While it will be impossible to replace the defense provided by Reaves, Brockington is an amazing athlete and has been praised for his defense all year while practicing with the team.

The one knock on Reaves’ game, his ability to handle the ball, will provide an area for an upgrade among the guard/small forward group. Brockington showed good handles as a freshman and his 3-point shooting percentage (41.5%) was better than any of the three freshmen that the Lions had last season.

This is what Pat Chambers had to say about Brockington. “He’s just as, if not more, athletic than Josh. I really like what Izaiah brings to practice. He’s shooting the ball well from three. He’s driving the ball hard. He’s a dunking machine. Izaiah gives us something that I don’t know if we truly had last year, somebody who can really score in a short shot clock, maybe off the bounce, get his own shot when we need him.”

Lundy is expected to join the team for the second summer semester. His frame as a freshman will allow him to make an immediate impact. Should Stevens decide to move on, Lundy will be counted on to replace some of that production inside the arc. With Stevens back, much like Tsimbila with Watkins, Lundy will be in a perfect spot, able to enter the fold at a comfortable pace.

Quick Thoughts

The team has one scholarship available for the 2019-20 season with Rasir Bolton likely to transfer. Bolton was one of the three primary players expected to provide ball-handling services for the Lions. While a traditional point guard is not as important in Pat Chambers’ offense, every team needs 2 or 3 players that can handle the ball under duress.

Last year Jamari Wheeler showed that he was able to handle the ball under the toughest of circumstances. Bolton and fellow freshman Myreon Jones had moments of recklessness, as do many first-year players, but Jones should be a reliable option to help replace Bolton’s abilities. While Myles Dread and Izaiah Brockington are not point-guards, they each can handle the ball well enough to take pressure off when needed.

Once in the half-court set, the Lions should have no problem handling the ball. Stevens, Harrar, and Buttrick have above-average catching and passing abilities for their size. Brockington and Lundy should be a slight upgrade over Reaves’ ball handling.

It appears that the team could use one player, not necessarily one that will be able to start, but rather provide 4-8 minutes per game as a ball-handling guard. We will see if Chambers is able to bring in such a player in the coming months. Were Stevens or Watkins to leave, the team would have to at least replace their bodies with similar players, somehow, through either the transfer group or a 2019 recruit.

Times Are Changing

It’s hard to believe that this performance by Bob Marley is forty years old, but there is something in there for all Penn State fans to enjoy. If you have anxiety about the team, just fast-forward to the four-minute mark and repeat Everything is going to be alright a few dozen times, that should help.

The song lyric in Marley’s Jamaican Patois is “No woman, nuh cry,” which translated means “No woman, don’t cry.” It is the premise of the song, a person leaving but consoling their loved one. The idea of players entering the transfer portal with the option to return to their school is reminiscent of this sentiment.

“My (basketball skill) is my only carriage, so I’ve got to push on through. But while I’m gone, everything is going to be alright.”

It is a new era for college basketball. The ease with which a player can transfer is increasing. There will be times, as has happened with the Penn State football team, that a player will enter the transfer portal and then return to the team. The players and coaches have to make the adjustment but so, too, do the fans. While it is sad to see a player such as Rasir Bolton leave after one season, the team has brought in another player, Izaiah Brockington, that has transferred in with three years of eligibility remaining. You win some, you lose some.

Having two players on the team at the same time with eligibility remaining and also a chance to leave early for the professional ranks is new territory for the Lions. It has long been speculated that Mike Watkins would leave the program before his eligibility ran out, but to this point, that has not happened. Both Watkins and Lamar Stevens are testing the waters at the pro level while maintaining their ability to return to the Lions next season.

When you look at the Penn State roster, any would-be deficiency next season would be caused more by players leaving early for the pros than any other reason. A team featuring Tony Carr, Lamar Stevens, and Mike Watkins would fare pretty well next season in Happy Valley.

Losing players early sometimes comes with the success of recruiting players that are talented enough to play professionally. Were Penn State to lose three players in two years that way, it would be both an indication of success for the program and also a difficult hurdle to overcome.

As fans it can be unsettling, losing a player such as Bolton and not knowing whether two of the best forwards in recent program history will return. We that have followed and enjoyed Penn State basketball for a while are conditioned to making the best out of the situation.

Regardless of the makeup of the team next year, fans will enjoy their effort and support them. The Bryce Jordan Center was built on the side of a hill; we are accustomed to an uphill battle, arriving at the games with our calves on fire from the climb. So what if the object of our admiration has a few warts, we can still love it, right?

Just because you are happy it does not mean that the day is perfect but that you have looked beyond its imperfections.”-Bob Marley