Eight months after their hopes of an NCAA Tournament bid came to a screeching halt, Penn State basketball is back this week.
A lot has changed since we last saw the Nittany Lions: Lamar Stevens is gone, Mike Watkins is gone, and maybe most surprisingly, Patrick Chambers is no longer at the helm of the program he's built up.
It's going to be a bizarre season, to say the least, but the Nittany Lions return one of the deepest and most experienced backcourts the program has seen in some time.
No. 5 Jamari Wheeler (Sr., 6'1, 170 lbs)
No. 0 Myreon Jones (Jr., 6'3, 180 lbs)
No. 2 Myles Dread (Jr., 6'4, 220 lbs)
Jamari Wheeler, coming off a season in which he set career highs in points (3.8) and assists (3.2) per game, will be running point once again. The speedy guard isn't much of a scorer, but he does take high percentage shots when opportunities arise. He shot .469 from the field and a surprising .389 from three. He'll again be a tone-setter for Penn State on the defensive end after averaging over 1.5 steals per game a year ago.
Myreon Jones was Penn State's breakout player last season, being named All-Big Ten honorable mention by the media. A creative shot-maker, Jones averaged 13.3 points, while connecting on over 40% of his threes. With Lamar Stevens gone, he should be the focal point of the Penn State offense. He's smart with the basketball and could bring the ball up for Jim Ferry's team if Jamari Wheeler gets bit by the turnover bug, which can happen every once in a while.
Myles Dread struggled for long stretches last season, leading to him fluctuating between the starting lineup and the sixth man role. He shot under 32% from deep last season after connecting on over 35% of his threes as a freshman. That drop doesn't seem that drastic, but he made two fewer threes despite taking 16 more attempts. The Lions need him to regain his sharpshooting ways to add some much-needed spacing to what will be a small lineup.
No. 3 Sam Sessoms. (Jr., 6'0, 187 lbs)
No. 12 Izaiah Brockington (Jr., 6'4, 200 lbs)
No. 4 Caleb Dorsey (Fr., 6'7, 230 lbs)
No. 22 Dallion Johnson (Fr., 6'3, 175 lbs)
No. 23 DJ Gordon (Fr., 6'5, 175 lbs)
No. 10 Kyle McCloskey (Jr., 6'5, 212 lbs)
No. 20 Taylor Nussbaum (Sr., 6'2, 175 lbs)
No. 33 Andy Christos (Fr., 6'5, 175 lbs)
The two biggest names here are Sam Sessoms and Izaiah Brockington - who probably could be listed as a forward this year, but I digress. Sessoms being granted a transfer waiver by the NCAA might have been the only good thing to happen to Penn State hoops all offseason. An America-East all-conference honoree, Sessoms led the conference in scoring with 19.4 points per game while shooting .415 from the field. Despite his height, he's a reliable finisher inside and does a great job getting to the line.
Izaiah Brockington gives the Nittany Lions a spark off the bench this team hasn't had in quite some time. The lefty St. Bonaventure transfer averaged over 20 minutes a game for Penn State a season ago and the team showed no drop-off when he was on the floor. He needs to clean up the turnovers a bit, but he can be counted on for a few buckets every night.
True freshmen Dallion Johnson, Caleb Dorsey, and DJ Gordon round out the scholarship guards, with all three bringing a unique skill set to the table. Johnson is the best pure scorer, averaging over 20 points per game in both his junior and senior years of high school. The MaxPreps.com Massachusetts Player of the Year, he should be a good option from quick scoring off the bench.
Gordon is a similar type of player but can rebound and defend just a bit better than Johnson. At 6'5, he could play somewhere in between a Dread-Seth Lundy type of role.
At 6'7, Dorsey could slide down into the frontcourt from time to time. He is his high school's all-time leading rebounder, a skill Penn State is in desperate need of with Stevens and Mike Watkins graduated.