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Probing The Portal: Penn State Basketball Edition

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Who will Penn State get to replace John Harrar and Sam Sessoms?

NCAA Basketball: Penn State at Illinois Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Micah Shrewsberry’s first season at Happy Valley has come and gone, as he now turns his attention to next season. While Penn State already received good news that Jalen Pickett and Myles Dread will return for another season in blue and white, it’s safe to say that Penn State will have some holes on their roster that they need to fill. *trumpet noise* Enter the transfer portal.

Shrewsberry used the transfer portal last year to decent success. The aforementioned Pickett was an A+ pickup, leading Penn State in points, assists, and steals, while being an overall malleable piece both offensively and defensively. The other grad transfers — Greg Lee, Jaheam Cornwall, and Jalanni White — didn’t have quite the impact for one reason or another. Regardless though, heading into the 2022-23 season, it’s clear that the transfer portal will have to be fruitful if Penn State wants to make the jump into the NCAA tournament.

In addition to Lee, Cornwall, and White, Penn State will have to replace guard Sam Sessoms (transfer) and John Harrar (eligibility exhausted) — two big pieces from the 2021-22 team. With that being the case, I think as far as “needs” go, Shrewsberry would like to add a starting 5 and a starting guard/wing to go along with Pickett, Lundy, and Dread. That is the beauty of Pickett, Lundy, and Dread: versatility. You can play them at the 1-2-3 or move them up as a 2-3-4. Really depends on the talent — which, as you’ll see, is mostly at guard.

There are legitimately hundreds of high level players in the portal, but in trimming this list to 11, we limited it to mostly players that Penn State has been mentioned for.


BIGS

Neal Quinn, 7-foot-0, 260 pounds (Junior — Lafayette)

Hometown: Allendale, NJ
Stats: 14.7 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 4 APG, 1.4 BPG, and 0.9 SPG

Quinn isn’t the most explosive athlete, but he has an old school game with all the attributes — clean footwork, nice touch, and the ability to use both hands. The best part of his game? As evidenced by the four assists per contest, it’s the passing. He’s a really nice passer for a big man, doing a superb job of finding cutters from the high post. Add in that he has a pretty decent looking jumper — shot 71% from the free throw line on 127 attempts — and Quinn definitely has the makings of a starting B1G-caliber player.

Clifton Moore, 6-foot-10, 240 pounds (Senior — LaSalle)

Hometown: Ambler, PA
Stats: 12.9 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 1.2 APG, 2.8 BPG, and 0. 4 SPG

An Indiana signee out of high school, Moore transferred to LaSalle after two seasons, where he has been much more productive, culminating with a strong senior season. His game is completely different from Quinn — more athletic, more nimble, and he plays more of a modern face-up game.

Grant Basile, 6-foot-9, 225 pounds (Junior — Wright State)

Hometown: Pewaukee, WI
Stats: 18.4 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 2 APG, 1.6 BPG, and 0.9 SPG

Another good big option, Basile was the second-best player on a Wright State team that reached the NCAA tournament before bowing out to No. 1 seed Arizona. Basile’s development the past four seasons has been really impressive, going from only playing in three games in 2018-19 to averaging just under 20/10 this past season. His game is multi-faceted, showing some real ability as a pick ‘n’ pop/roll man or as a scorer when posted up.

Payton Sparks, 6-foot-9, 240 pounds (Freshman — Ball State)

Hometown: Winchester, IN
Stats: 13.5 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 1.2 APG, 0.5 BPG, and 0.4 SPG

Strong, powerful freshman big man who broke out in his first season with Ball State. He shoots lefty so he kind of reminds me of the MAC version of Julius Randle, right down to his ability to finish through contact (6.5 FTA per game) and some sneaky good passing. What he lacks though is plus athleticism — he mostly plays below the rim.

GUARDS/WINGS

Camren Wynter, 6-foot-2, 185 pounds (Senior — Drexel)

Hometown: Hempstead, NY
Stats: 15.8 PPG, 4.6 APG, 5.3 RPG, 0.8 SPG, and 0 BPG

Smaller guard but ultra-productive at Drexel — averaged 14.5 PPG and 5.1 APG over 114 games. Unlike most of the guards listed, he’s definitely someone who can share point guard duties with Pickett. Really good passer. The three-point shooting is the swing skill at his size. Super quick release but struggled with his outside shot as a senior, shooting just 27.8% from three on 4.3 attempts per game. He was much better his first three seasons — 36.8% on 272 career attempts over 85 games — so perhaps just a blip.

Andrew Funk, 6-foot-5, 188 pounds (Senior — Bucknell)

Hometown: Warrington, PA
Stats: 17.6 PPG, 3 APG, 3.6 RPG, 0.8 SPG, and 0.3 BPG

Funk has a complete game and was extremely productive at Bucknell the last three seasons, starting 76 games and averaging double-digits in all three years. I do question if he has one skill that really translates to the Big Ten. Nice shooting stroke that was much better as a senior — 36.3% from three on a robust 7.5 attempts per game. But in the 78 games before that, he was a 30.8% shooter on 334 attempts. Solid size but not a great athlete. Honestly, he reminds of his high school teammate Collin Gillespie — just the mid-major version of him.

Ethan Wright, 6-foot-4, 190 pounds (Senior — Princeton)

Hometown: Newton Center, MA
Stats: 14.7 PPG, 1.7 APG, 6.9 RPG, 1.1 SPG, and 0.3 BPG

With the Ivy League not allowing the extra COVID year, you’ll see a ton of Ivy Leaguers making the move to Power 6 schools. For Penn State, Wright would be a really good fit. First and foremost, I love his shot. High, quick release and shows the ability to make catch-and-shoot threes or off-the-bounce. He hit 39.5% from three on 5.9 attempts per game. Shows good defensive awareness, though like Funk, there are some questions about his athleticism. I think he pops a bit more than Funk at least functionally, and when you add in his more refined shot, I’d lean Wright over Funk as far as “white shooter” goes.

Marcus Hammond, 6-foot-3, 173 pounds (Senior — Niagra)

Hometown: Queens, NY
Stats: 18.1 PPG, 2.9 APG, 4.7 RPG, 0.8 SPG, and 0.3 BPG

Sweet-shooting lefty who bounced back from a very inefficient junior season (33.6% FG/29.1% 3P) to shoot 43% from the field and 37% from three on 6.3 attempts per game. Smaller guards can always be a worry for if they’ll be able to get their shot off, but Hammond definitely has a bit more length than Sessoms and Cornwall. It’s a small sample size of just two games, but it doesn’t hurt that he played really well against Xavier and Ohio State — averaged 23.5 on 51.6% shooting.

Mardrez McBride, 6-foot-2, 180 pounds (Senior — North Texas)

Hometown: Augusta, GA
Stats: 11.3 PPG, 1.1 APG, 3 RPG, 0.8 SPG, and 0.1 BPG

McBridge’s game is simple: he can absolutely light it up from three. A JUCO transfer who spent only two seasons at North Texas, McBride shot an impressive 39.8% from three on 5.3 attempts per game. He doesn’t get to the free throw line much (just 1.4 attempts per game) nor does he create much for others (1.2 assists per game), but McBridge will help space the floor and knock down shots.

Drew Friberg, 6-foot-7, 210 pounds (Senior — Princeton)

Hometown: State College, PA
Stats: 9.3 PPG, 1.3 APG, 3.6 RPG, 0.9 SPG, and 0.1 BPG

State College High legend Drew Friberg is looking for a new home after four years at Princeton. Could Penn State be a fit? Maybe. He’s an excellent shooter, making 39.7% of his threes on 6.3 attempts per game. But that’s really all Friberg does — 83% of his attempted shots were threes. While he has decent size for a 3 or 4, he’s not much of an athlete. If a late scholarship opens up, maybe Friberg makes some sense, but I think Penn State takes a couple bigger swings.

Rahsool Diggins, 6-foot-2, 170 pounds (Freshman — UConn)

Hometown: Philadelphia, PA
Stats: (9 games) 0.8 PPG and 0.3 APG

A bit of a different trend here with Diggins, who is a former Top 100 prospect who never worked his way into the rotation at UConn. After just one season in Storrs, Diggins is back on the market with Penn State certainly interested. Going off of the 247Sports Composite rankings, Diggins would be the second-highest ranked player in Penn State’s history, just behind Tony Carr.