Because of how weird this year has been in all sports, the NCAA has decided to grant an extra year of eligibility to everyone who competes in a sport for the 2020-21 season (and for those who, unfortunately, did not compete due to their sport season being canceled). Basketball is one such sport, where seniors could opt to come back in the 2021-22 season if they so desire.
The interesting part about this eligibility ruling is that it doesn’t only apply to seniors. Anyone who is currently on a roster can choose to play this season and not lose a year of eligibility, effectively giving entire rosters a free redshirt year. About a month and a half ago, that meant an overcrowded room for Penn State. While the seniors wouldn’t count for the scholarship limit were they to return next year, anyone else who chose to take advantage of the freebie would be counted for the subsequent recruiting cycles.
For guys like Jamari Wheeler and John Harrar, this might not be such a bad idea. Having an extra year of development can only help their causes, as they showed signs of improvement down the stretch last season in areas where they were severely lacking. Wheeler started to develop a three-point shot, while Harrar was expanding on his offense overall. Underclassmen like Myreon Jones and Myles Dread, as well as Izaiah Brockington might not need an extra year, as they all have at least two left as is it.
With three incoming freshmen in the 2021 recruiting class, the Nittany Lions would then be over scholarship capacity for every underclassman who took advantage of this eligibility waiver. The past month and a half, of course, have changed things considerably for the team.
Having lost the entire 2021 recruiting class due to Pat Chambers’ departure, the Nittany Lions find themselves exactly at 13 scholarships. If everyone in the roster took advantage of this opportunity, that would remain the case for next season too. Penn State would then, effectively, be delaying its 3-man recruiting class by a year, and would take advantage of having the same experienced roster for two years in a row.
The question of course is whether anyone on the team would want to do that. Not knowing who their head coach will be plays a big role in this decision, and if Jim Ferry isn’t made the permanent coach at season’s end, there’s no guarantee that the next one would even want everyone in this roster to come back. But assuming they do, there’s an opportunity for whoever that coach ends up being to turn a negative into a positive. They could keep the current roster intact, take an experienced team into the 2021-22 season, and work towards recruiting the 2022 class without missing a beat.
But of course, all of this is speculation.