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Penn State Basketball: As The Nittany Lions Start Practice, Five Things To Know

by on October 07, 2014 6:00 AM

The wait is over.

Penn State's basketball team will hold its first practice of the 2014 season on Tuesday in preparation for a Nov. 14 opener against Morgan State at the Bryce Jordan Center. 

A lot can happen in the offseason, especially as other sports capture your attention. So to get everyone up to speed for this year's version of Nittany Lion hoops, we've put together some information to get you back in the swing of things.

1. New Faces: Penn State adds three new faces and two freshman to the roster this year in guards Shep Garner and Isaiah Washington. Garner could see time working at the point if he can grasp the offense and can dish out the ball with minimal turnovers. Washington is a long bodied guard whose size and athleticism should be fun to watch develop over the year.

6-1 guard Devin Foster, a JUCO transfer will also join the squad this year with a DI body and experience playing at a higher level. He brings with him a deep range from beyond the arc in addition to experience handling the ball at the pointl.

While technically freshmen in eligibility, Penn State should also see more from forward Payton Banks and 6-10 forward Julian Moore. Banks redshirted last season but has received high praise all year long for his work in practice, Moore received a medical redshirt and was cleared by the NCAA to keep his freshman year of eligibility despite seeing action in some early season games.

2. Out Of Conference Games To Watch: There are a lot of games in a college basketball season. Chances are you won't make it to every single game or be free to watch every game on TV. If you can only attend a few or watch a few, here are three that should be worth your time.

  • Nov. 28 @Bucknell: A fun in-state game at an arena that is known for a great atmosphere.
  • Dec. 3 hosting Virginia Tech: The Big Ten/ACC Challenge has meaning for the Nittany Lions and the conference. DJ Newbill will be competing against a team led by Buzz Williams, the coach who recruited Newbill and the dropped him in favor of another recruit. It's water long under the bridge, but an automatic storyline to follow.
  • Dec. 14 against George Washington: Any chance to play an A10 school is a chance to see some fun basketball.

3. Recruiting: Penn State couldn't have had a better offseason on the recruiting trail picking up two 4-star prospects and landing tall outside shooter in Deividas Zemgulis. Here's what Penn State's future recruiting classes look like so far:

2015 Recruiting Class: 1 SCHOLARSHIP remains

  • 4* Mike Watkins: 6-8, C, Rivals 150 (118)
  • 3* Deividas Zemgulis: 6-6 SF
  • 4* Josh Reaves: 6-5 SG, Rivals 150 (128)

2016 Recruiting Class: 4 SCHOLARSHIPS remain

  • 4* Joe Hampton: 6-6 PF, Rivals 150 (70)

4. Biggest Needs: The Nittany Lions ended last season as the best defensive team in the conference when it came to the 2-point shot. On the flip side Penn State was 11th in the conference at shooting the three. Defense has been there for Penn State but the offense hasn't. If the Nittany Lions can find scoring from beyond the arc it'll go a long way toward making the defensive effort worth it. It sounds stupidly simple, but if Penn State can make shots the Nittany Lions will win games. The talent gap between Penn State and the rest of the Big Ten is getting smaller and smaller. Now it comes down to executing.

5. Overall: Even with the departure of Tim Frazier to graduation, this might be Pat Chambers' best team on paper with options on the bench and talent in the starting five. The Nittany Lions don't have nearly as tough of a non-conference slate this year. However, if the Nittany Lions play well enough in conference for strength of schedule to come back to haunt them in March, that's a problem they'll probably be glad to have.

This is DJ Newbill's team, but the success he is able to have will have more to do with continued improvements of the likes of Brandon Taylor, Ross Travis and John Johnson. A favorable schedule and an experienced team should produce more wins, but nothing has come easy in the Big Ten, especially for Penn State.

Overall the pieces are there, it's just about making plays and open shots, something that hasn't always happened.

Honorable Mentions:

5.1: D.J. Irving, a four-year member of the men’s basketball team at Boston University, has joined the Penn State staff as a graduate manager for the 2014-15 season. Former Nittany Lion and once graduate assistant Andrew Jones has moved on to join the Oklahoma City Thunder's new D-League affiliate as a coach.

5.2: Penn State’s returning players account for more than 70 percent of scoring and rebounds from a year ago. The 2013-14 Nittany Lions posted win totals, both overall (16) and in the Big Ten (6), among the highest in the last 15 years and had a total of 12 games decided by five or fewer points.

2014-15 Nittany Lion Basketball Roster


No.NamePos.Cl./El.Ht.Wt.HometownHigh School
0 Payton Banks F RS FR 6-6 220 Orange, Calif. Lutheran
1 John Johnson G SR 6-1 185 Philadelphia, Pa. Life Center Academy (N.J.)
2 D.J. Newbill G SR 6-4 210 Philadelphia, Pa. Strawberry Mansion HS
3 Devin Foster G JR 6-2 205 Dayton, Ohio Jefferson Township
5 Donovon Jack F JR 6-9 210 Reading, Pa. Berks Catholic
10 Brandon Taylor F JR 6-6 225 Tabernacle, N.J. Trenton Catholic
13 Geno Thorpe G SO 6-3 180 Pittsburgh, Pa. Shaler
14 Kevin Montminy G SR 6-3 185 Centre Hall, Pa. Penns Valley Area
21 Isaiah Washington G FR 6-3 160 Williamsport, Pa. Williamsport
32 Jordan Dickerson C JR 7-1 245 Brooklyn, N.Y. IMG Academy/Abraham Lincoln
33 Shep Garner G FR 6-1 185 Chester, Pa. Roman Catholic
34 Alan Wisniewski F SR 6-10 235 Sterling Heights, Mich. Bishop Foley Catholic
43 Ross Travis F SR 6-7 235 Chaska, Minn. Chaska HS
44 Julian Moore F RS FR 6-10 235 Philadelphia, Pa. Germantown Academy

 

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Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for StateCollege.com. He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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