Jamari Wheeler Has Career Day for Nittany Lions in Season-Opening Win
Penn State guard Jamari Wheeler came into the season as a senior who was more known for his defensive play. Wheeler wasn’t even a full-time starter until last season, when he finished ninth on the team in points with 3.8 per game. Wheeler was more of a forgotten option offensively with other guards such as Izaiah Brockington and Curtis Jones Jr. getting more touches.
Now a leader on this year’s team, Wheeler was the main man in the Nittany Lions’ 86-65 win over VMI. Wheeler led the team with 18 points and was second in rebounds with six, only behind big man John Harrar.
While the entire team struggled to hit on 3-point attempts, Wheeler was able to make four 3-pointers in the game. This statline saw a huge boost from last season, as Wheeler hit 39% of those shots Saturday, while he only hit 14% and 18% in his freshman and sophomore seasons, respectively.
Wheeler was one of many Nittany Lions who struggled early in the game, as Penn State was only up by two points at the end of the first half. Once the second half started, however, the offense ran through Wheeler, as he scored 15 of his 18 points in the final 20 minutes.
The defensive ability of Wheeler was also on full display, as he recorded five steals: the same number recorded by the entire VMI team. Despite his offensive performance, Wheeler believes his strength will always be on the defensive side.
“I’m always a defensive guy,” Wheeler said. “[It’s] our bread and butter.”
The question is whether Wheeler can keep up this performance throughout the rest of the season. Wheeler has always been a great defensive player, but there’s a chance that new head coach Jim Ferry trusts Wheeler enough as a senior to run the offense when the team needs it like it did against VMI. Ferry echoed that trust to the media after the game.
“He deserved to have a career offensive day, and it’s not a fluke,” Ferry said. “I’m really happy that he made the shots he did today.”
Wheeler and the rest of the Nittany Lions will continue their season against VCU next week.
Logan Bourandas is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.