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Reload, Not Rebuild: A Look At Penn State’s Future Roster

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There is reason to believe that the floor has been raised for the program.

NCAA Basketball: Penn State at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Penn State is having a tremendous amount of success on the basketball court and while more than a month of this season remains, we’re going to take a look at what to expect in the future. Pat Chambers hasn’t scrambled together odd parts to get the program to where it is today, he built it from the ground up. It took a very long time but now the roster is set to have success in the years to come.

With Lamar Stevens and Mike Watkins soon to end their time with the Lions along with transfer Curtis Jones, many fans are wondering what is coming down the pipeline to replace their productivity. The good news is that in the era of players entering the transfer portal, it does not seem to be a year that Penn State will lose a productive player to transfer.

We will have to wait and see how everything plays out once the season is over, there can always be surprises, but compared to last season, this year seems much more predictable.

Breakdown

There are 13 scholarships available to Pat Chambers and this year he only used 11 initially. Abdou Tsimbila was delayed in joining the team and will do so next year, that left a hole on the roster that was unexpected. In December it was confirmed that Kyle McCloskey was awarded a scholarship for this year, bringing the tally to 12 for this squad, but it is unlikely that it will carry through to the future.

As it stands right now, with the Lions losing 3 players and gaining 5, either a player will have to transfer out to make room or McCloskey will be back as a walk-on if he returns. There is no reason to believe at this point that he will not return.

Incoming Players

Click on the player’s name for a more in-depth breakdown of their skills.

Abdou Tsimbila- (6’8” Center) Initially expected to join the Lions this year, Tsimbila’s arrival was pushed back a year. He may have sat out with a redshirt anyway, and it doesn’t appear that the Lions are missing him right now. He will likely be the 3rd center in the rotation behind Harrar and fellow incoming center Valdir Manuel next season.

DJ Gordon (6’5” SG) A tall guard, Gordon was set to commit to his hometown Pitt Panthers until he chose the Lions. His composite ranking is in the same area as was Mike Watkins’ when he arrived in State College. He has a chance to be a great player for Pat Chambers.

Dallion Johnson (6’2” SG) Johnson is a shot-maker out of the state of Massachusetts and his game is a lot like Myreon Jones’. He has a polished scoring touch and should be ready to play some of the minutes vacated by Curtis Jones.

Caleb Dorsey (6’7” SF) Dorsey has a skill set somewhere between Seth Lundy and Lamar Stevens. He’s an athletic guy with a soft touch and will play closer to the hoop than Lundy but will provide similar versatility. His little brother Gabe is a class of 2021 recruit that remains uncommitted at this point but Georgetown, VCU and the Lions have shown interest.

Valdir Manuel (6’10” C) At 220 pounds he is not the bruiser that we are used to in a center, after watching Mike Watkins and John Harrar in recent seasons. Manuel has an outside offensive presence, hitting 3-point shots well enough to be able to stretch the floor. Manuel and Harrar will give Chambers a versatile set of bigs to deploy strategically as their skills are needed.

Next Season

When looking at the recruiting rankings for the incoming players, the numbers fall right in line with other guys that have had success for Pat Chambers. Most of the players coming in have rankings in the high 80’s or better, similar to players such as Seth Lundy, Rasir Bolton, Tim Frazier and others that have played in State College.

Before Chambers was getting respect for his recruiting abilities and now his ability to win on the court, he was acknowledged as being one of the best coaches in the country at developing talent. It seemed an empty blessing considering it hadn’t translated to success on the court until the past few years. Now it is the key factor to remember when thinking about the future of the team.

The players coming in next year will be equipped to fill the holes in the roster left by the departing players. Seth Lundy will play a big part in replacing the production lost with Lamar Stevens, but as when a player is injured or in foul trouble, it is not up to Lundy to become Lamar Stevens. Lundy will play his own game and as we have seen, he is solid both inside and on the perimeter. He should only get better.

Valdir Manuel is a different type of player than Mike Watkins but he has dominated at the junior college level. Manuel is rated as the No. 1 junior college center and the 8th prospect overall by 247sports. The low post may not look the same as it does this year, but it should not be a weakness.

Replacing Curtis Jones will be done by committee and with no disrespect to Jones, it should be easy to do. Jones has had a great season and without his scoring heroics, the team would not be where it is, likely having lost a couple of extra games along the way. We won’t know how the players will perform but we do know that they have the skill set to step in immediately, as Myles Dread and Rasir Bolton did a season ago.

Unlike when Dread and Bolton were true freshmen and pushed into playing 30 minutes per game, the incoming guards will have a senior and three juniors ahead on them on the depth chart. Dallion Johnson and DJ Gordon will get playing time by earning it, not out of necessity. It is expected that both will play, but until they get going, it’s hard to say which will be more productive.

The team will be missing some star power next year, that is for sure. Mike Watkins and Lamar Stevens have been a part of the program as it has risen out of the dark ages. We have seen the team play well without Stevens this year, as it did this week against Purdue when he was on the bench for much of the first half. It has replaced Watkins’ production this season when his game was off. That was without the aid of five additional players, which Pat Chambers will have a year from now.

There is no need to fear a major drop-off next season for the team. The Big Ten is a tough conference, so it won’t be easy, but the cupboard is far from empty. How many wins the team will get with the talent will remain to be seen but for the off-season, there will be plenty of reason to be optimistic.

Times are changing for the team on the court and the people in the stands. We have to get used to being a contender, as fans. Let your shoulders relax a little, if what you’ve always wanted was a team that would compete for the NCAA Tournament on a regular basis. It has arrived. There will be tough losses and losing streaks that bring back the anxiety that used to be a common feeling of dread for Nittany Lion supporters.

Now Dread is on our side and the program is miles from where it was when Pat Chambers took over nearly a decade ago.

A Look At The Future

I don’t follow recruiting closely enough to be able to project what might happen in the future. Hopefully some of our readers can share what they know in the comment section to give the conversation more depth.

Pat Chambers recently got a verbal commitment from Sonny Johnson, Jr. and the point guard out of Cleveland won’t join the team until 2022. Johnson is an interesting prospect that at first glance reminds us of Tim Frazier. He’s a speedy and talented guy, under 6 feet tall, and is recovering from an ACL tear. With two more years before he arrives on campus, a lot can happen.

Other than Sonny Johnson, there are no other players currently committed. It appears that there will be a need for a few players in 2021, and with the newfound leverage that Chambers has due to his team’s success on the floor, it’s possible that new avenues will open, and better players will become available.

There are a couple of very talented players coming out of Roman Catholic High School in Philadelphia in 2022. Jalen Duren is currently the No. 2 prospect according to 247sports and the 6-foot-9, 220-pound center would look great in Penn State colors. Duren is a 99% overall 5-star recruit and until recently it would have been laughable to even speak of the possibility that he would join the long list of players from Roman Catholic to come to Penn State.

Justice Williams is a point guard at Roman Catholic and like Duren, he is a 99% 5-star prospect for 2022. We don’t know too much about his plans at this point but like Duren, it would not be a long shot to see him choose the Lions as his college destination.

When looking at some of the players that Penn State has offered or shown interest, according to the recruiting services, one thing sticks out. The caliber of recruit is rising, in terms of the overall rating.