Key Departures: Myreon Jones (–>Florida); Izaiah Brockington (–>Iowa St); Jamari Wheeler (–>Ohio St)
New In Town: Greg Lee (<–W. Michigan); Jalen Pickett (<–Siena); Jaheam Cornwall (<–Gardner Webb) Jevonnie Scott (JUCO); Jalanni White (<–Canisius)
State of the Program:
It’s a new era for the Nittany Lions, and after last year’s tumultuous season led by interim Coach Jim Ferry, they have their man in Micah Shrewsberry. Shrewsberry came up under Brad Stevens, as an assistant at both Butler and with the Celtics, and also had stints under Matt Painter at Purdue. Quite the tutelage to have received on your way up, but his first D1 head coaching gig will not come without its challenges. 3 starters from last year’s 11-14 squad have left town, and with limited time to recruit amidst the chaos induced by the resignation of longtime coach Pat Chambers, Shrewsberry will be relying solely on the transfer market to replenish the program. I would expect based on his past experiences, he will come in and try and establish an old school culture based on good defense and disciplined offense. He could have his own style in there, but the impact of a dozen years alongside Stevens and Painter will surely be noticeable. He does get back a few weapons, including a couple of starters and a few role players that should be able to slide into that starting group. They will be led by the returning frontcourt Seth Lundy (JR) and John Harrar (SR), along with guards Myles Dread (SR) and Sam Sessoms (SR). They should represent 4/5 starters while returning G Daillon Johnson (SO) and F Caleb Dorsey (SO) will battle for backup minutes after playing limited minutes a year ago. The remaining rotation will be made up of transfers.
Leading the transfer group is Siena transfer, 6’4” G Jalen Pickett (SR). Pickett was a 3-time All-MAAC selection and was the unquestioned leader of the Siena team his entire time there. He was the main playmaker, both for himself and for his teammates, averaging 15/5/6 over 3 seasons with Siena. He should come in and start with Dread and Sessoms in the backcourt, and provide much needed playmaking for Shrewsberry. Next up is 6’9” F Greg Lee (SR) out of W. Michigan. Lee averaged 13/7 in his one season with the Broncos after transferring from CS Bakersfield, and looks to come in and be the primary backup for Harrar at the 5. 6’0” G Jaheam Cornwall (SR) out of Gardner Webb comes in with a pure jumper, having made over 200 3’s at a 42% clip with ability off the bounce and in catch and shoot situations. He should be the primary guard off the bench, and could serve as a sort of sparkplug for an offense that will likely struggle at times. JUCO transfer F Jevonnie Scott (JR) comes in as an elite athlete that excelled at using his quickness and strength to finish above the rim with ferocity. How he handles no longer being the quickest/strongest player on the floor will determine how much playing time he’s able to get in the frontcourt. 6’8” F Jalanni White (SR) enters the program as mostly a depth piece after starting off-and-on over his 4 years at Canisius and not averaging more than 7 ppg in any one season, finishing at only 4 ppg and 2 rpg last year.
Prediction: 13th Big Ten (NR)
Expectations for Shrewsberry and Penn St this season are pretty low, as the transition year could be rough at times. What is important to watch is how he’s able to establish and instill his philosophies into the existing talent, and how he can create some cohesion with this hodge podge of a roster. There are enough quality pieces to make them at least competitive so I don’t see it being a total disaster so long as he comes in and establishes a sound culture. Lundy is a bit of an x-factor for this team, as he’s had multiple explosive offensive performances in the past, if he can find some consistency he could become an all-conference performer. His past streakiness, which saw him drop 30+ and then disappear for several games, will need to be overcome however. Over the long term I have high expectations for Shrewsberry, as he’s been being molded for this opportunity over the last dozen years, and his experiences should have him fully prepared for what he’s facing. It will not be easy and it will not be quick, but I think he gets Penn St back to relevancy and back to the tournament a few years down the road. This year marks the beginning of a painful yet hopeful rebuild for a program that hasn’t been to the NCAA tournament since 2011.