Penn State did not have much going on at the backup point guard spot last year. When Tony Carr left the game, it was up to Shep Garner and Terrence Samuel to distribute the ball, and neither of those guys is a natural at the position. Enter Jamari Wheeler, a freshman point guard from Florida who promises to give Pat Chambers some much-needed help off the bench in 2017-18.
What he did last year
Wheeler spent last year at The Rock School in Gainesville, Florida, where his quickness and defensive ability made him a popular recruiting target. Originally committed to common Penn State opponent Duquesne, Wheeler reopened his recruitment when the Dukes made a coaching change. He decided on Penn State last April after receiving offers from other major programs like Seton Hall and Auburn. At 6’1” and 170 pounds, Wheeler could stand to gain some weight, but based on his usage during Penn State’s Bahamas Tour in August, he’ll get serious playing time as soon as the regular season begins.
What to expect this year
Wheeler scored a total of 15 points in 39 minutes during two games in the Bahamas. However, 13 of those points came in the less competitive game against the Providence Storm. In 20 minutes of play against the NPBA All-Stars, he scored just two points. There’s only so much we can take from a pair of exhibition contests, though. With plenty of scorers in Penn State’s starting lineup, Wheeler won’t be depended on for points right away in November. Rather, his ball-handling skills should allow for Tony Carr to work off the ball a little more and take longer breaks now that he’s not the only point guard on the roster.
Chambers seemed very excited about Wheeler at Men’s Basketball Media Day.
Jamari is going to be, and I don’t want to put this label on him, but he’s got the speed of Tim Frazier. He’s got toughness beyond his years. He’s not a typical freshman. He’s the fourth-strongest on the bench (press) on our team and he’s 6-foot. I mean, that’s impressive numbers, and he competes. It’s the best thing that’s happened to Tony Carr. He gets after Tony Carr from the time he walks into practice to the time it ends and his speed is going to give a whole other pace to the game, which I think fans should be really excited about.
Hopefully we’ll only hear more comparisons to Frazier as Wheeler’s Penn State career progresses. For now, it’s good to know that he’s got a solid relationship with Carr and is capable of keeping the offense at a fast pace when he takes over at point guard.