Recapping the wild offseason for Penn State men’s basketball

Story posted June 9, 2023 in CommRadio, Sports by Thomas English

After having an unexpected season that resulted in an NCAA tournament berth, Penn State was forced to begin a new era as former head coach Micah Shrewsberry departed for Notre Dame.

The search for a new head coach began and didn’t last long as athletic director Pat Kraft and his staff found their guy in former VCU head coach Mike Rhoades.

The journey was just beginning for Rhoades as he was quickly tasked with forming a roster that consisted of five scholarship players already in the transfer portal.

Rhoades and the Nittany Lions swiftly chose a coaching staff that brings a unique collection of recruiting talent and experience to assist him in the roster moves.

Following him from VCU were associate head coach Jamal Brunt, assistant coaches Brent Scott and Jimmy Martelli, director of recruiting Brandon Rozzell and director of player development Clay Conner.

Jamal Brunt has solidified himself as one of the top defensive coaches and recruiters in the country through stints with VCU, Miami (Fla.) and Richmond.

Brent Scott joins the Nittany Lions with 14 years of professional experience under his belt and has Power Five coaching experience with LSU and TCU.

Jimmy Martelli, the son of legendary coach Phil Martelli, comes to Happy Valley after serving as the director of operations under Rhoades at VCU. He has prior experience as an assistant coach for Rutgers from 2010-2013.

Brandon Rozzell leaves his alma mater VCU to join Rhoades’ staff as the director of recruiting. Rozzell played professionally for 10 years before returning to his former school.

Clay Connor spent time as a graduate assistant at VCU before being elevated to his current role. He now serves as the director of player development for Rhoades at Penn State.

Rhoades also added former Penn State star Joe Crispin to the coaching staff as an assistant to the head coach. Crispin was a four-year starter and the captain of the 2001 team that made a trip to the Sweet 16.

With the coaching staff in place, the first step for Rhoades and company was to return as many players from the transfer portal as possible.

They secured shifty guard Kanye Clary for his second year, and Jameel Brown also elected to return to the blue and white for another season.

However, the Nittany Lions lost Caleb Dorsey, Dallion Johnson, Evan Mahaffey and Kebba Njie via the transfer portal. Seth Lundy also decided to leave and enter his name into the 2023 NBA Draft.

With just three scholarship players left on the roster and 10 spots to fill, Rhoades and his coaching staff went to work.

They got off to a hot start as the first domino fell with VCU star Ace Baldwin committing to Penn State. Just three days later, Baldwin reunited with VCU teammate Nick Kern.

The ball was rolling for the Nittany Lions as they dominated the portal in April, securing commitments from former Temple forward Zach Hicks, former North Carolina forward Puff Johnson and former Georgetown center Qudus Wahab.

These three transfers made five total commitments for Rhoades in April, but he still had five more scholarship spots to fill.

It didn’t take long for him to start this process as he earned a commitment from former Lafayette forward Leo O’Boyle. A week later, former Missouri-Kansas City guard RayQuawndis Mitchell announced he was transferring to Penn State.

Rhoades continued to build his roster as they received a commitment from a 2023 guard
Bragi Gudmundsson. They then secured a commitment from former Miami (Fla.) center Favour Aire to Penn State.

With these two commitments, Penn State’s roster was almost complete, and it took Rhoades just two months to do so.

Penn State had one scholarship spot left, and Rhoades looked poised to land another big transfer recruit.

After a period of waiting for Penn State fans, former North Carolina guard and teammate of Puff Johnson, D’Marco Dunn, announced his commitment to Penn State and became the 13th and last scholarship awarded by Rhoades.

With Dunn’s commitment, the journey for Rhoades and his staff to formulate a roster is complete. The program consists of three returning players, nine transfers, one Class of 2023 commit and two walk-ons.

The real work begins now for Rhoades and his staff as they gear up for the 2023-24 season and return the blue and white to the NCAA Tournament.

Rhoades and his squad will kick off their summer workouts shortly and prepare for their first action of the year as they will travel to the Bahamas for a pair of international exhibition games on August 8th and 10th.

Thomas English is a second-year broadcast journalism major. To contact him, email