Takeaways From Big Ten Basketball Media Day

Story posted October 12, 2022 in CommRadio, Sports by Jonathan Draeger

Big Ten Media Days gives way to the slowly approaching college basketball season.

For Penn State, it marks a year with expectations to improve and reach the peak of the mountain. “I wake up every single day trying to repay [Penn State] and get our program to the top of the Big Ten. That’s all I’m thinking about,” head coach Micah Shrewsberry said.

Penn State finished its season in the Big Ten Quarterfinals with a loss to the No. 9 Purdue Boilermakers 69-61. The Nittany Lions finished the year with a 14-17 overall record and a 7-13 conference record.

The motto ‘Gritty, Not Pretty’ has stuck around the team this season. Forward Seth Lundy wants them to carry that slogan with them in all aspects of the game.

“I feel like there’s definitely something that we build off of every practice,” Lundy said. “And now, we go into every practice with that mentality.”

Last season, Penn State beat five of the nine Big Ten teams in the NCAA Tournament. Lundy finds himself confident that this season will be different.

“We know that we are one of the better teams in the conference,” Lundy said. “We learned a lot of lessons last year. Now, we’re just building off of that.”

The competition is tough, but in practice, the five new freshmen have made a true impact on the program early. The team feels more competitive with one another, and it gives the second-year head coach something to look forward to in the upcoming season.

“We also have five freshmen that we’ve all recruited that fit our personality, that fit who we want to be as a program, that have also raised the competition level in our practices,” Shrewsberry said. “We’re going to fight every night and we’re going to make it as hard as possible.”

When speaking upon the five freshmen, Shrewsberry says two of them jump off the page to him. “Evan Mahaffey is a ball of energy. He’s everywhere at 6-foot-6 with long arms,” Shrewsberry said. “Kebba [Njie] has been really good for us in terms of what he has been able to do from a skill factor.”

While bringing in the highest rated recruiting class in the program’s history, the Nittany Lions also bring talent from the transfer portal. They added size with 6-foot-8 forward Michael Henn from Denver and added backcourt help with Bucknell’s Andrew Funk and Drexel’s Cam Wynter.

Guard Jalen Pickett likes what Funk brings to the table and could be a surprise in the Big Ten. “Funk is a lot better than some people think or from what I’ve been reading,” Pickett said. “He can really guard and shoot the ball.”

Shrewsberry has high expectations for Wynter, as he sees him to stay afloat with the Preseason All-Big Ten guard. “Cam is another guy that scored 1,600 points in his career,” Shrewsberry said. “He’ll join Jalen on that 1,500 points, 500 rebounds and 500 assists platform shortly into our season.”

Not only is he expecting production from his new players, but he also wants some of the veterans on the squad to play at the level of Pickett, especially Lundy, who Shrewsberry expects a milestone year from the senior. “Seth, one day, is going to join him in that 1,000 points list this year,” Shrewsberry said.

One of the ideas in Minneapolis is how the conference coaches will deal with expansion when the USC Trojans and the UCLA Bruins enter the Big Ten in 2024. It does not phase Shrewsberry from being a coach in the conference.

“People are watching, no matter where it’s at,” Shrewsberry said. “If they have it in Alaska, I’d be proud to represent the Big Ten in Alaska.”

Penn State opens their season on Nov. 7, when they host the Winthrop Eagles at 7 p.m. You can listen to the game on CommRadio.

Jonathan Draeger is a third-year majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email jrd6052@psu.edu.