The Penn State Basketball season is right around the corner! As we inch closer and closer, we’ll be taking a look at the 2021-22 Nittany Lions’ season. First off, the known commodities.
The Lions saw a sea of change this offseason, with new coaches coming in, departing and incoming players due to transfers, and the schedule going back to a full slate of games, there’s a lot to be excited about for this coming season.
However, what isn’t changing is the core of returning players. The majority of the returnees saw a lot of meaningful time last year (and before), and will be expected to carry the mantle for the team moving forward. Four of the returnees were either starters, in the case of John Harrar, Myles Dread, and Seth Lundy, or significant contributors, in the case of Sam Sessoms.
Here’s a cursory look at the players who saw the most action last season:
Over the course his four years at Penn State, Harrar went from a possible reliable backup to on of the most sought after transfer prospects in the offseason, all based on his ability to work his way into a consistent center. By season’s end, Harrar was an offensive rebound machine, giving the Lions the ability to extend possessions by grabbing everything that came his way. His 16.2 offensive rebound rate was tops in the Big Ten, ninth overall in the nation.
A necessary element to his game will be to add a consistent jump shot. If he is able to do that, look for Harrar to be one of the better big men in the Big Ten this season.
Dread has been committed to the program through thick and thin. What hasn’t been consistent has been his production on the floor. He’s had great highs and low lows, namely his sophomore season, but what’s true about Myles is that he’ll give you everything he has with every possession, and has come up with key plays to keep Penn State in games, if not win them outright, at the most opportune times.
Dread has the opposite opportunity of Harrar. Myles needs to play inside more often, as the times he has, he’s been able to make key plays for the team. Not only that, but developing an inside presence will force teams to defend more surface area on offense, as now teams know they don’t need to worry about Myles slashing inside whenever he gets the ball.
Seth’s highs have been even higher than Myles’s, but his lows have been lower. Lundy has the potential to become the face of the program for the next two seasons, a role he was set to take from the departed Lamar Stevens.
When Lundy is on, he can be one of the best players on the floor. When he’s off, he can be more than a liability, because he lets his offensive performance lead his defensive effort. In this upcoming season, Lundy’s role is not just to remain consistent overall, but to keep the defensive intensity even if his offense isn’t coming to him. That is something that Myles does really well.
With Jamari Wheeler gone, Sessoms figures to take a greater bulk of the minutes at the point, something the did a pretty good job of when with the time he got last season. Sam is fast, has moves that play quite well against the towers in the Big Ten, and had a steal rate that more than makes up for what was lost in the departure of Jamari Wheeler (in fact, Sessoms had the higher steal rate of the two, even if he didn’t have as many steals on the season).
Sessom’s focus this season should be on late game situations. A few times, Sam tried to shoulder the responsibility of gutting out a win in a close game. He needs to rely on his teammates when there’s an open shot, instead of trying to bang it out with the big men in the closing seconds. The offense that worked for the first 39 minutes of a game can work for the last minute too, he just needs to see it.
Two more returnees in Caleb Dorsey and Dallion Johnson figure to have their minutes increased this season, as, while they saw the floor some, it came mostly on garbage time, or if foul trouble decimated the roster. Of the two, Dorsey saw the most action, as he averaged 2.2 minutes per game to Johnson’s 1.8. Neither player has a large enough sample size to make any reasonable predictions, but they both figure to see that changed this season.