Shrewsberry the Right Hire for Penn State Men's Basketball

By Vincent Lungaro on March 17, 2021 at 8:30 am
Purdue associate head coach Micah Shrewsberry motions during the second half of an NCAA men's basketball game, Tuesday, March 2, 2021 at Mackey Arena in West Lafayette. Bkc Purdue Vs Wisconsin
© Nikos Frazier via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Let me start off by saying, no I'm not oblivious to the fact Penn State has seen six key players enter the transfer portal within the last 24 hours or so. This mass exodus is a less than ideal situation for any coach to face, let alone a new one like the recently hired Micah Shrewsberry.

It's pretty clear that these probable departures have little to do with Shrewsberry and much more to do with the handling of the dismissal of Pat Chambers this past October. 

Anyone who paid attention to the Nittany Lions' preseason media day should have seen this coming. Players were less than pleased over the fact they felt like they were kept in the dark about the reasoning behind Chambers' abrupt departure on the eve of the season. 

I'm not writing this to discuss the way the University handled parting ways with Chambers. Obviously, there was discontent from players toward Sandy Barbour and the athletic department for how it all played out. For what it's worth, I think even had the University handled things perfectly, we still would have seen players hit the transfer portal at the conclusion of this season. Maybe not to this extent, but in today's college basketball landscape, most players commit somewhere for a coach, not for the program. 

So, I guess I did discuss a bit of what I said I wasn't going to. Anyway. Back to Coach Shrews. He's a terrific hire for Penn State. Six marquee players, with more possibly to follow, entering the portal is not in any way an indictment of his coaching credentials.

You'd be hard-pressed to find someone who comes from a better coaching lineage than working alongside Brad Stevens and Matt Painter. 

Painter was happy to give Shrewsberry the keys to Purdue's offense, serving as the de facto offensive coordinator each of the past two seasons. For a program that historically relied on a stingy defense to make the difference, Shrewsberry helped Painter develop the Boilermakers into one of the more efficient offenses in the country. 

The Boilermakers averaged 71 points per game this season and had an adjusted offensive efficiency rating of (points scored per 100 possessions) of 114.3, good for 23rd best in the country according to KenPom. 

As offensive coordinator, he worked closely with Purdue big men Zach Edey and Trevion Williams. While both have different skillsets, the way he managed to flow them into the offense when one or the other was on the court and not skip a beat was fun to watch. Each of them made huge in-season strides this year, with Edey named to the Big Ten All-Freshmen team and Williams a first-team All-Big Ten selection. 

His expertise in making a team's offense as efficient as possible will be a welcome sight in Happy Valley. While the offense under Chambers and Jim Ferry weren't terrible, Nittany Lion fans are well aware of the scoring droughts their team experienced for large stretches of games far too often. 

In Boston, he was one of the first calls Stevens made when putting together his first staff in 2013. And judging by Stevens' reaction to Shrewberry's hire at Penn State, he feels the Nittany Lions are getting one heck of a basketball mind. 

During his six seasons in Boston, Shrewsberry played a large role in player development, working with the likes of All-Stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. That's a heck of a recruiting piece to hang your hat on when you hit the road and try and get guys to commit to your program. 

Speaking of which, he made a big impact on the recruiting trail for the Boilermakers. He played a part in getting 2021 power forward Trey Kauffman — a four-star prospect and the No. 32-ranked player in the country per 247 Composite — to commit. That track record of player development at Purdue and with the Celtics is vital at a program like Penn State where you're not always going to have the most talented players in your conference. 

He's also been the lead recruiter for 2022 four-star commits Fletcher Loyer and Jameel Brown. Brown's commitment to Shrewsberry and the Boilermakers is especially notable because of his ties to Philadelphia, an area where Penn State needs to keep a foothold after the strides made there by Chambers (i.e. Tony Carr, Lamar Stevens and Seth Lundy).

His recruiting prowess will also come in handy as he tries to rebuild the Nittany Lions' roster on the fly. While Penn State has seen a core of its roster enter the transfer portal, it's not a foregone conclusion all of them are going to leave. Seth Lundy, who entered the portal this afternoon, left the door open for a return to Penn State in an interview with 247Sports

There is also ample opportunity to go out and get players who have transferred out of other programs. With the NCAA's expected updated transfer rules, players would be immediately eligible to play if they do opt to transfer, giving Shrewsberry greater flexibility and a larger talent pool to work with in assembling a roster than ever before.

When you add all of this up, it gives Penn State someone who can be a figurehead for its men's basketball program. Don't let the fact Shrewsberry hasn't been the head coach at a D1 program make you nervous.

Ferry did a heck of a job keeping the ship afloat in difficult circumstances this season. He would have been a perfectly capable choice to keep the program treading along the lines of where it was going under Chambers.

With his NBA credentials, a terrific offensive mind and a knack for getting the most out of his players, Micah Shrewsberry is a no-brainer of a hire and the type of coach who can help Penn State truly move up the metaphorical Big Ten ladder.