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Big Ten Basketball Previews: Penn State

Revenge of the Little People

Penn State v Wisconsin
“Hey you? Are you over 6’7’’? Can you play?”
Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images

2022 In Review

As luck would have it, midreavus79 already reviewed PSU’s season:

In order to understand 2021-22 Penn State Nittany Lions basketball team, you have to go back one season: Mere weeks before the 2020-21 season started, former head coach Pat Chambers, coming into his would-be 10th season with the program, announced his resignation effective immediately. As a result, several of the players who committed to him ended up leaving the program following that season.

Penn State’s first season under Micah Shrewsberry was a poor performance when looked from an outside perspective. From a Penn State perspective, though, this is a great position to build on the momentum this season, in the hopes it will lead to big things the future...All in all, the Nittany Lions did the best they could given a tough situation. They may have underperformed from a national perspective, but from a Penn State standpoint, there’s a lot to hope for the future of the program.

Penn State did survive all the upheaval, put together a competent outfit, and while they lose a couple big pieces in Sam Sessoms and John Harrar, they are in pretty good shape. While they bring in three transfers and five freshmen, they also return some guys who played heavy minutes last year, including Preseason B1G Team member Jalen Pickett.


PG Jalen Pickett, 6’4’’ Senior: Micah Shrewsberry has a real luxury in the return of Pickett for his COVID year. The former transfer from Sienna hardly ever went to the bench last year, playing 92% of the minutes. While he was billed as a scorer and did lead the team in scoring, he also showed a lot as a point guard, with a high assist rate and a low turnover rate. He could improve a bit on his three point shooting, which was just ok at 32% despite near 150 attempts. He could also draw more fouls - someone on the team needs to be able to attack the basket, might as well be him.

SG Myles Dread, 6’4’’ Senior: Myles Dread, the most intimidating name for a three point specialist around. Dread shot 15 free throws, 23 twos, and 135 threes last season, getting near Justin Ahrens levels of shot selection. He hit 40% from three, so keep shooting young man.

misdreavus79: Dread played with an injured shoulder last season, and got surgery in the spring to address the lingering injury. As a result, Dread was unable to work out with the team in the summer. He’s back at full strength now and is practicing with the team as the season approaches.

SG Dallion Johnson, 6’3’’ Junior: Giving Johnson the benefit of the doubt as a starter because he’s not a freshman or a transfer, he’ll have some work to do to earn his minutes. While he did show promise from three (37%), he didn’t really show up anywhere else. Shrewsberry clearly likes him and he was playing quite bit by the end of the season, so if he can some to his game he can stick.

misdreavus79: Johnson provided Penn State with an offensive spark when the team was struggling to score, which led to his starting role as the season closed. With an offseason to get acquainted with the offense Shrewsberry wants to run, as well as expected improvement on defense, Johnson should solidify his starting role with the team.

PF Seth Lundy, 6’6’’ Senior: Lundy comes in a probably Penn State’s second best returnee, and he’s an interesting player. He was up and down on the offensive end last year, though he ended up fine in his shooting numbers. But he wasn’t much of a passer, and didn’t draw many fouls given how athletic he is and how excellent he is as a free throw shooter (87%). On the other hand, he’s a great defender and is often drawing a tough assignment defensively. Given he is nearly the tallest returnee on the team, that figures to continue.

misdreavus79: Seth Lundy’s lone goal for this season is to work on his inconsistency on offense. He’s already made huge strides on the defensive side of the ball in Shrewsberry’s system, so continued performance on that end is not unrealistic. Now, what we need to see is whether he’ll have the stretches where he completely goes missing on the offensive side. If he can address those, he’ll be a force to be reckoned with.

PF Michael Henn, 6’8’’ Senior: I’m putting Henn here in pencil, and really, the big man on the team is a huge question mark. Henn is a transfer from Denver and is playing on his fifth team in five years. That is one committed transferer. PSU has limited options at center, and Henn has some stretch to his game (39% from three) but is by no means a rim protector. For that, Shrewsberry figures to dip into his freshmen class, which is pretty good.


SG Camren Wynter, 6’2’’ Senior: Wynter will be a prime candidate to start, but as a transfer from Drexel we will keep him on the bench for now. He was a high usage player for the Dragons last year and took 401 shots, but he also was a willing passer. His three pointing shooting was rough last year (28%), but the year before that he was at 42%, so he has the ability. He’s an important player for the Nits - if he can be another playmaker next to Pickett, PSU will be much tougher to defend.

SF Andrew Funk, 6’5’’ Senior: PSU’s wing depth is provided by Bucknell transfer Funk. Bucknell was just awful last year, but Funk was probably their best player, and took nearly 500 shots, including 240 threes. Along with Wynter, he is going to have to adjust to not being the teams’ first option, but he does provide them with another guy who can score, though his defense probably keeps him out of the starting lineup.

C Kebba Njie, 6’8 Freshman: Here we find our first freshman, the four star freshman Njie and Penn State’s highest rated recruit. He and fellow freshman Demetrius Lilley are really the only true centers on the roster, so it makes sense to think Njie may start or get heavy minutes. This position is really the big question mark for the Nits - the Buckeyes played small ball two years ago to great effect, but they had E.J. Liddell in the middle. Penn State has some great pieces, but their options at center aren’t great.

PF Caleb Dorsey, 6’7’’ Junior: Dorsey played very limited last year, and wasn’t very good at anything, but his size and status as a returning player puts him in the mix on the bench.

CG Jameel Brown, 6’4’’ Freshman: Now we are hitting the freshmen who may or may not play. Brown was a top 150 recruit who, like many PSU players, should be able to play multiple positions. As a freshman he’s likely to come in just to shoot or play defense, but he figures to be a big part of the team next year.

PG Kanye Clary, 5’11’’ Freshman: The problem with previewing a team with a lot of freshmen is trying to find something to say about each of them. Hey, it’s Kanye Clary, and he’s a point guard, and he probably won’t play much this year. Though as a pure guard prospect who can push the ball up the court, maybe he will? Freshmen, ladies and gentlemen.

SF Evan Mahaffey, 6’5’’ Freshman: Mahaffey is fairly nondescript on the composite, at 185th overall, but 247 liked him a lot better, at 127. Plus, he chose Penn State over Cincinnati and West Virginia, so he had some real programs after him. In any event, there’s a crowded group in front of him for playing time this season, but he’s another guy to watch for the PSU future.

C Demetrius Lilley, 6’10’’ Freshman: While Lilly is probably their rawest recruit, it’s worth mentioning that he is their tallest player and one of their very few options at center. He may get playing time by default, because at some point Penn State will be playing Seth Lundy at center if these other guys can’t go.


MaximumSam: This is the first preview that doesn’t feel stinky. To be sure, Penn State has a big hole in the middle where they can only hope the freshmen are ready to play. But they have a lot of good shooters, a lot of good playmakers, and playing them is going to be an all night affair.

All small ball qualifiers apply - can this team rebound? Defend the paint? Get to the foul line? Who knows. But they can also put five shooters on the court who are all hard to defend, and chasing them around all game is going to be annoying.

BoilerUp89: I like Njie and wasn’t super thrilled that Painter never offered him. But then we got another 7 footer so I can understand why Painter never put the offer out there despite recruiting Njie. Njie feels more ready to play than most freshman centers but his height is going to an issue against certain teams in this conference.

Brown is a combo guard that was originally committed to Purdue but decommitted shortly after Shrewsberry left for the HC job at PSU. He’s the type of instate recruit Penn State has to be getting to improve their program trajectory. I’m not sure how much he will play as a freshman since Pickett and Dread will get as many minutes as they can handle.

Pickett, Lundy, and Dread are a good returning cast and Shrewsberry is a pretty solid coach. I share your concerns about the center position and depth more generally, but in a down year for the conference this senior laden starting lineup could make some noise and threaten towards a NCAA bid. Or an injury or two could tumble it all down and this becomes a transition year. Hopefully, the former as injuries are terrible to see.

Other Takes

BTPowerhouse: At this point, just looking at the league pairings, a bid for the 2023 NCAA Tournament seems less than likely. Still, there is a reason teams play the games. This squad is serviceable enough that Penn State might just snap the drought.

Daily Hoosier: Shrewsberry is a good coach, and this team will play hard and give teams plenty of headaches in what should be a down year in the Big Ten. The Nittany Lions could end up being the league’s most enigmatic team, pulling off upsets with hot shooting nights, and losing to bottom feeders when shots are not falling. If they buy in on the defensive end there isn’t a team in the league who can take this Nittany Lions squad lightly.

Inside The Hall: Penn State is still being picked to finish near the bottom of the league, but Shrewsberry is beginning to help the program close the talent gap. The Nittany Lions played one of the slowest paces in the country last season and were able to grind out wins against the likes of Indiana, Iowa and Michigan State at home. Frontcourt production will be a problem, but the Nittany Lions have solid guard play and a coach who emphasizes defense. This might not be a major step-forward season, but Penn State looks to be a program on the rise.

Busting Brackets: Penn State’s core likely wouldn’t be considered elite, but it’s more serviceable than they’ve had in some time. It’s definitely a group that could push for the postseason. Nevertheless, the pieces are in place for Penn State to make its first NCAA Tournament in more than a decade. That alone might make giving Micah Shrewsberry a lifelong contract a necessity.