Penn State is seen as a team on the rise in 2016-17, mostly due to last year’s surprising amount of conference victories and this year’s very talented crop of incoming freshmen. However, it’s not a given that Pat Chambers’s team will improve on the .500 overall record and seven Big Ten wins from 2015-16. For that to happen, someone has got to fill the production hole left by departing senior Brandon Taylor.
A major reason for Penn State going 4-3 last February with wins over Indiana and Iowa was Taylor evolving into a star player who led his team in scoring, rebounding, and usage rate. Now that he’s moving on, Shep Garner will be relied upon to shoulder some of the leadership and scoring from the backcourt, while Payton Banks will try to make a jump similar to the one Taylor made between his junior and senior campaigns.
Banks finished third on the team in scoring last season with 9.4 points per game, but much of that production occurred during the non-conference slate. In those 13 games, Banks scored in double figures 10 times, with at least eight points in every game. Once Big Ten play hit, though, Banks fizzled, scoring at least 10 points in just five of 18 league games despite a career-high 24 points against Minnesota on January 5.
After looking like more of a spot-up shooter in his redshirt freshman season, Banks attacked the basket more often as a sophomore, but he still only shot 38 percent from the field overall. That’s pretty lousy when more than half your shots come from inside the arc.
Role for 2016-17
With Chambers trying to move to a new fast-paced offense, Banks will still get his opportunities from beyond the arc, but he’ll be better served working from the inside out in the half-court offense and leaving the three-point shooting to Garner and Davis Zemgulis. If Banks can develop his post game into a weapon the way Taylor did last year, he’ll have a more defined role in the offense than he used to have. Plus, the offense will be more balanced with opportunities opening up for other players on the perimeter.
However, not everyone can be Brandon Taylor, and asking Banks to fill that role so effectively may be asking a bit much. More likely, the California native will be that NBA-style power forward who sets up on the arc and either shoots the three or attacks the basket like he did last year. I’m just not sure Penn State is good enough at shooting the ball yet to focus so much on the outside jumper. And Banks might not be good enough at scoring off the bounce for opponents to respect that part of his game, either.
With Taylor moving on, Banks is a solid bet to score more than 10 points per game and grab some extra rebounds as well. How efficiently he reaches that scoring average and whether or not he’s able to develop a post game will go a long way towards determining Penn State’s fate in 2016-17.