Things have been uncomfortably quiet on the recruiting trail for Penn State ever since three upperclassmen announced their intentions to leave the program last month. The Lions must now fill out their rotation before next season with at least another player or two, but PSU hasn't surfaced as a serious competitor for any viable grad-transfers.
That's been a disappointing development considering the experience and ability these players can offer. Capable seniors are exactly what this program could use to support their young core's goal of reaching the NCAA tournament, but there's been no evidence this market will prove fruitful to PSU this spring. If the Lions do land a senior for next year, it will likely be someone who has yet to announce their transfer plans.
Instead, Pat Chambers and his staff are all-in on two separate prospects, neither of whom are graduate-transfers. They've prioritized both players over the last month and have secured crucial visits this week. It's not the most advisable strategy to have so few alternatives, but it's one PSU has to employ considering how little time's available. Here are the two players Chambers has set his sights on.
Ty Lazenby - 6'5" SG - Northern Oklahoma-ENID (JUCO)
The Nittany Lions' first official visitor this week is currently in State College, so be on the lookout for the golf cart around campus. Lions247 reported last week that Ty Lazenby is taking his official visit Monday through Wednesday. The Oklahoma native would be expected to fill the Lions' perimeter shooting needs after he averaged 22.9 points per game and shot 35.9 percent from three this past season. Penn State offered Lazenby shortly after he posted 40 points against JUCO power Southern Idaho in the NJCAA tournament.
Lazenby has spent two seasons at Northern Oklahoma Community College after he only garnered one D-I scholarship as a high school senior in 2015. His hometown of Glencoe, Oklahoma has a total population of 603, so lack of exposure certainly played a role in his decision to stay close to home and prove his ability at the JUCO level. He did just that after earning first-team All-American honors last week.
Lazenby's recruitment is shaping up to be a Penn State and Utah battle (shoutout Kyle Kuzma), although he did take his first official visit to Charlotte last week, and Texas Tech has been sniffing around. Lazenby's scheduled to visit Utah after his Penn State trip this week, but you better believe Chambers will try to secure his commitment before then.
Jamari Wheeler - 6'0" PG - The Rock School (FL) - Duquesne Decommit
To address their need for another point guard, Penn State has zeroed in on Jamari Wheeler out of Florida. The unrated prospect had originally signed a letter-of-intent to Duquesne in the fall, but he requested his release after the school fired Jim Ferry. Once his release was granted, Penn State moved quickly with an offer on the very same day. Wheeler also grabbed offers from VCU, Houston, South Florida, Seton Hall, Auburn, and some smaller schools.
Last night, Wheeler announced his top five schools and shared his upcoming visit schedule. He will be officially visiting PSU this weekend for the Blue-White game, while he will take in Auburn's campus on April 26-27. Out of his top five, Auburn and Seton Hall appear to be the Lions' main competition for his services.
So why is Wheeler a hot commodity despite the lack of star acclaim? He had a remarkable senior season for The Rock School in Gainesville, FL (shoutout Joel Embiid). The Rock went 33-5 against a national schedule and finished ninth in MaxPreps' top-10 independent school rankings. Unfortunately Wheeler's senior stats aren't readily available, but he was lauded as his team's best player and earned praise for both his shooting and defense.