It’s October, and that means we’re about a month away from Penn State tipping off its basketball season with an exhibition match against Bloomsburg. Nittany Lions fans across the country should be in for an exciting campaign, as head coach Pat Chambers is returning a ton of talent from a team that won six Big Ten games last year despite starting four underclassmen.
You might be saying to yourself, “Bloggers and fans of the Penn State basketball team are always thinking up reasons to get psyched about the program. Are we finally going to see results this year?” That’s a good question, and the truth is that we don’t know the answer. That’s what makes sports so exciting! What we can tell you is that now is a great time to jump on board with Penn State hoops fandom. The squad hasn’t qualified for a major postseason tournament since 2011, so you won’t look like a bandwagon supporter. At the same time, there’s great potential for future success thanks to the talent that’s already in State College.
It all starts with Tony Carr, Penn State’s representative on the 2016-17 Big Ten all-freshman team who last year led the Lions with 13.2 points per game and 4.2 assists per game. With 33 games of experience under his belt, Carr will be expected to become a more efficient scorer and distributor this season while leading his team to the postseason.
Carr should have enough talent around him to make that goal a reality. Fellow sophomores Mike Watkins and Lamar Stevens carved out big roles for themselves last year, with Stevens developing into a valuable secondary scorer and Watkins leading the team in rebounds and blocked shots. Add in the defensive tenacity of Josh Reaves and the shooting range that Shep Garner brings to the table, and you’ve got a starting five that can hang with the top units in the Big Ten.
However, it was a lack of depth that caused problems for Pat Chambers’s team last season. Payton Banks, Julian Moore, and Terrence Samuel didn’t give the Lions enough production off the bench, and that’s something that has to change for Penn State to have success when conference play starts up again. While Banks and Samuel have both left the program, Moore will be pushed for playing time by fellow big man and Virginia Tech transfer Satchel Pierce.
It will also be interesting to see how freshman Jamari Wheeler takes to the backup point guard role as well as how Chambers works Trent Buttrick and John Harrar into the rotation if at all. Over the next few weeks, we’re going to be previewing each potential contributor to Penn State’s basketball team so that you know what to expect when the squad takes the court in November. Following the aforementioned exhibition game, the Lions begin regular season play against Campbell on November 10.
If you stick with Black Shoe Diaries between now and then, it won’t be hard to get excited for hoops season, even as the game with the oblong ball continues to whip Nittany Lion fans into a frenzy.