The artist formerly known as Deividas Zemgulis is running out of opportunities to make an impact on Penn State’s basketball team. Since coming on as a freshman in 2015-16, the long-range shooter from Lithuania has scored in just 11 Big Ten games, with 10 of those performances coming in his debut season. That’s not a good sign considering how shallow the Nittany Lions were on the bench last year, but Zemgulis will get another shot in 2017-18 to show that he can provide some range and depth to Pat Chambers’s young squad.
He didn’t get off to a good start during Penn State’s two exhibition games in the Bahamas this past August. During the brief tour, Zemgulis played a total of 22 minutes in two games, scored just five points, and appeared to fall behind freshman Jamari Wheeler on the depth chart. It’s true that Wheeler and Zemgulis should play different positions this year — Wheeler is expected to back up Tony Carr while Zemgulis is more of a wing scorer — but it’s not a good sign that an experienced player like Zemgulis is already getting fewer minutes that someone who just joined the program.
We’ll talk more about Wheeler’s potential in his own profile. For now, it looks like Zemgulis will be battling Nazeer Bostick for backup small forward minutes, but that will only happen if Zemgulis proves that he can provide value with his three-point shot. As a freshman, nearly 60 percent of the Lithuania native’s field goals came from beyond the arc, but he only connected on 25 percent of those. Last year was even worse, albeit in a small sample. Zemgulis took 13 of his 20 shots from three-point range while making just three of them.
The good news for the junior is that the Lions still need someone to help spread the floor after Payton Banks and his 202 three-point attempts from last year — second on the team behind Shep Garner — left the program. Even if the development of Carr, Lamar Stevens, and Mike Watkins drives the offense to the next level, this team will still be lacking in the three-point shooting department. If Zemgulis develops into a consistent shooter, he’ll turn into a valuable rotation player. If not, he’ll just be another prospect who didn’t work out.