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Probing The Portal: Penn State Already Working The Portal

The Portal gives me life.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament Second Round-Penn State vs Texas Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

Penn State was four minutes away from upending 2-seed Texas and clinching its spot in the Sweet Sixteen. Alas, their offense went cold and the small frontcourt of Seth Lundy and Myles Dread — despite their fight and energy — just didn’t have the length to match Dylan Disu from inside 15 feet.

But when one chapter ends, another begins. That’s especially true for Penn State basketball, as Micah Shrewsberry and his staff will look to do something that hasn’t been done in Happy Valley since the 1950s: take the basketball program to the NCAA tournament in back-to-back seasons. One major piece in making sure that happens? Hit the transfer portal. Hard. The Nittany Lions will be losing a lot of production with the departures of Jalen Pickett, Andrew Funk, Cam Wynter, Myles Dread, Mikey Henn, and more than likely Seth Lundy too. So it’s safe to say that Penn State will once again be an active participant in the transfer portal cycle.

It goes without saying given who is leaving, but Penn State could basically use a little bit of everything. Yes, there’s a strong freshman class waiting in the wings, while Carey Booth leads a solid 2023 recruiting class, but the Nittany Lions should be in the market for anyone who checks the “good basketball player” square. Ideally though, I think this would be Penn State’s wishlist in no particular order:

  • Point guard
  • Shooter
  • Wing that can create their own shot
  • Big

So like I said before: a little bit of everything.

So let’s get into some specific names that Penn State is after. All the names below have been linked to Penn State in one way or another — either by a tweet confirming contact or a Twitter follow from someone on the coaching staff. Like I said last year and will say again this year: there are so many names in the portal, and that will continue to grow. These are just eight names to know right now, but I’d expect multiple iterations the next couple of days and weeks.

School/Hometown: UMass (Mattapoisett, MA)
Eligibility Remaining: 1 year
Height/Weight: 5-foot-11, 175 pounds

Perhaps Penn State fans will remember Noah Fernandes from when he scored 13 points against the Nittany Lions back in November 2021, but if not, Fernandes is your prototypical college point guard in a lot of ways. He’s patient when running the offense, takes care of the ball, and does a nice job of balancing the role of “scorer” and “distributor.” He lacks elite size and is just an average athlete, but would be a nice steadying force at the point in place of Jalen Pickett.

School/Hometown: East Carolina (South Bend, IN)
Eligibility Remaining: 2 years
Height/Weight: 6-foot-2, 180 pounds

On the other end of the point guard spectrum is Javon Small, who offers you a bit more size and intriguing athleticism, but is still coming along as far as being efficient. I think the hope for Small, should he make a move to a “Power Five” school, is that he’ll have less of a load to carry which should help improve the assist/turnover ratio and shooting percentages. As far as the shooting percentages go, I think a good bit of that hope comes in his 85.4% free throw. You don’t shoot that well from the line if you don’t have a nice stroke, so it’ll really be about improving shot selection — you know, quality not quantity.

School/Hometown: Wofford (Kimberly, WI)
Eligibility Remaining: 3 years
Height/Weight: 6-foot-3, 175 pounds

Speaking of efficiency, look no further than Jackson Paveletzke’s game. Shoot just under a 50/40/85 split as a true freshman is quite impressive. He’s more of a two-guard than a point right now, but the passing chops are there for him to develop into a lead man. Not a top-tier athlete, but sound ball handling and good vision will help him stay in an on-ball role.

School/Hometown: Cornell (Williamsville, NY)
Eligibility Remaining: 1 year
Height/Weight: 6-foot-3, 175 pounds

Leading scorer for a solid Cornell squad, Dolan should transition to a high-major program where he’ll be playing off the ball as a shooter. Of course, it isn’t a perfect comparison since I don’t think Dolan has the shooting-off-movement skill that Funk does, but that shouldn’t take away from the fact that Dolan’s potential gravity as a shooter will help any offense. Wish he was a tad bigger/longer, though. Underrated part of Funk’s game was that he was 6-foot-5, 200 pounds.

School/Hometown: Butler (Indianapolis, IN)
Eligibility Remaining: 2 years
Height/Weight: 6-foot-4, 195 pounds

One of my personal favorites in the portal. He has all the tools you look for in a two-guard — athletic, nice handle, and the ability to score in every which was possible. Like he flashes legitimate NBA-level talent. Like we talked about with Small though, he needs to play smarter. I think that’s a major thing Shrewsberry can point to — players like Seth Lundy and Jalen Pickett became incredibly more efficient after two seasons with Shrews. Hopefully, the same can be the case for Taylor, because if he puts it together, he can be the leading scorer on a good college team.

School/Hometown: Towson (Braintree, MA)
Eligibility Remaining: 1 year
Height/Weight: 6-foot-4, 205 pounds

As the numbers show, Nicolas Timberlake has turned into a super elite shooter the last two seasons, as evidenced by 41.2% three-point shooting percentage the last 413 attempts. Again, it’s a lazy comparison, but Timberlake isn’t too dissimilar to Funk. Unlike Dolan, shows a bit more as someone who can catch and shoot off movement, not just a stationary shooter.

School/Hometown: Temple (Kingston, NC)
Eligibility Remaining: 2 years
Height/Weight: 6-foot-5, 195 pounds

Nice pull-up game, whether it’s from three or rising in the lane for a soft jumper. Slightly limited as mostly a straight line driver, though like Dolan, I think he would be aided by playing off the ball more. Nice shot, especially when set. Does a good job relocating to open space without the ball.

School/Hometown: Cal Baptist (Burnie, Tasmania)
Eligibility Remaining: 2 years
Height/Weight: 6-foot-6, 190 pounds

Generally, Penn State has been pretty consistent with targeting portal players that have some sort of tie to the region — whether that’s the hometown or school they played at. That’s not the case for Armstrong, who plays out on the west coast at Cal Baptist (one of the 9 schools Mikey Henn attended) and is originally from Tasmania. The reason for the interest is clear: Armstrong is one of the very best transfers on the market.

He’s a niche NBA Draft Twitter guy because his size and passing combination is truly special. The five assists per game don’t really tell the whole story for the vision Armstrong has, and provided he goes to the right team, he could really flourish. The drawback for Armstrong though is that he’s a below average shooter — 30.6% from 3 and 65.3% from the line aren’t encouraging numbers.

School/Hometown: St. Francis (Lincroft, NJ)
Eligibility Remaining: 2 years
Height/Weight: 6-foot-10, 220 pounds

Talked about Cohen here with him visiting Penn State yesterday. Think it’s interesting that he visited as soon as the Nittany Lions returned from Des Moines and that Penn State hasn’t been mentioned with any other bigs. Hmm. Interesting.