Penn State Basketball 2021-22 Season Preview: Guards

By Vincent Lungaro on November 2, 2021 at 8:00 am
Dec 6, 2020; University Park, Pennsylvania, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions guard Sam Sessoms (3) reacts to a basket against the Seton Hall Pirates during the first half at the Bryce Jordan Center. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
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The last time we saw Penn State on the hardwood, the Nittany Lions had just suffered an agonizing defeat to Wisconsin in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament. 

Since then, Penn State has undergone a heavy makeover, with Micah Shrewsberry hired as the program’s 14th head coach.

There’s been a lot of turnover from a roster standpoint. So ahead of the Nittany Lions' season opener next week against Youngstown State, we’re going to get you caught up on the two position groups, starting with the guards. 


THE STARTERS 

No. 3 Sam Sessoms (Sr., 6’0, 189 lbs) 

No. 22 Jalen Pickett (Sr., 6’4, 202 lbs) 

Penn State lost a lot of firepower with the departures of Jamari Wheeler (Ohio State), Myreon Jones (Florida), and Izaiah Brockington (Iowa State). In an effort to recoup some of that firepower, Shrewsberry made use of the transfer portal by bringing in Jalen Pickett (Siena) and Jaheam Cornwall (Gardner-Webb).

Both could start right away on opening night, but I’m going to plug Sam Sessoms into the starting lineup against Youngstown State, given his experience within the Nittany Lions program.

Sessoms started off pretty hot a season ago, averaging 12.6 points a game through the first seven games. As the Big Ten grind wore on, though, Sessoms' form dipped. He reached double-figures just twice more after that point in the regular season. He ended the campaign strongly, though, with an 18-point performance against Wisconsin, nearly engineering a crazy comeback against the Badgers.

Pickett, a two-time MAAC Player of the Year, has been getting a lot of praise from teammates and coaches during camp. Penn State will need him to translate his scoring prowess (15.0 ppg in three seasons at Siena) and playmaking ability (6.1 apg for his career) from the MAAC to the Big Ten. At 6'4, 202 pounds, he already has the physique of most productive Big Ten guards. 

"I think that Jalen is a versatile player that we will use in a lot of different ways," Shrewsberry said last month. "His vision as a playmaker is something that stood out to me when I was trying to recruit him because of the assist numbers that he had throughout his career, along with how well he shoots."

THE BACKUPS 

No. 11 Jaheam Cornwall (Sr., 6’0, 190 lbs)

No. 2 Myles Dread (Sr., 6’4, 235 lbs)

No. 24 Dallion Johnson (So., 6’3, 182 lbs)

No. 0 Irekefe Oweh (So., 6’2, 188 lbs)

No. 15 Dan Conlan (Sr., 6’4, 180 lbs) 

No. 33 Andy Christos (So., 6’5, 179 lbs)

No. 35 Ishaan Jagiasi (Jr., 6’1, 180 lbs) 

Like I mentioned above, Cornwall could start from day one alongside Pickett. Even if he doesn’t, the Nittany Lions are surely going to find plenty of minutes for him. Cornwall was an elite shooter at Gardner-Webb, draining above 40 percent of his attempts from 3-point range in three of his four seasons with the Runnin’ Bulldogs.

A minor injury kept Dread out for a bit at the start of camp, but he should be 100 percent in time for opening night. He displayed some major onions by hitting the buzzer-beating game-winner against VCU early last season, after being held scoreless to that point. That’s pretty much a microcosm of his time at Penn State thus far. He’s been willing to take and make some big shots. The problem is, he goes missing for too many large stretches offensively.

To his credit, though, Dread has become one of the team’s more reliable defenders. He played a lot of time at the four this past season and was tasked with guarding players much bigger players. In most cases, held his own in those matchups. He figures to be an important player off the bench for Penn State this year.

Johnson played very little in his first season with Penn State. A former three-star recruit out of Andover, Massachusetts, he left the Phillips Academy as its all-time leading scorer. It will be interesting to see if he can play his way into the rotation in 2021-22.

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