Penn State Basketball Weekly Preview: Drexel Matchup Canceled, Nittany Lions Turn to VMI
Penn State fans will have to wait a little bit longer to see the Nittany Lions first men’s basketball game since Mar. 7 against Northwestern. The Nittany Lions were supposed to open up the new season on Wednesday against Drexel, but that game was canceled due to COVID-19.
As of now, it is unclear who has tested positive or even which team had cases, but Drexel’s next game against Pitt, as well as Penn State’s next game against VMI, will still be played. That means Penn State will have to wait a few more days to start their three-game homestand and 2020 season against the Virginia Military Institute at 5 p.m. on Saturday.
The two teams last played back in 2015, as the Nittany Lions beat the Keydets 62-50 at the Bryce Jordan Center. Penn State holds a 4-1 advantage in the all time series against VMI. The Keydets struggled last season, as they finished 9-24 on the year but still managed to make it to the Southern Conference quarterfinals, where they lost to East Tennessee State.
The Keydets lost a few of their best players from a year ago, as leading rebounder Garrett Gilkeson graduated and leading scorer Travis Evee transferred to Rice. That makes sophomore guard Kamdyn Curfman the leading man for the Keydets, as he averaged 10 points and two rebounds as a freshman, starting all but one game last season.
Greg Parham will most likely fill the scoring void left by Evee at the other guard spot. As a junior, Parham averaged career highs in almost every major category, including 9.4 points per game. Parham only started 13 games last season, but that number is likely to increase in his senior season.
VMI is head coached by former Penn State guard Dan Earl, who earned All-Big Ten honors in 1996 before coaching the Nittany Lions as an assistant from 2006-2011.
He’ll face interim head coach Jim Ferry, who has put an emphasis on keeping things the same, as if Patrick Chambers were still present in the locker room. The Nittany Lions also lost their leading scorer and rebounder in Lamar Stevens and Mike Watkins, respectively, but they have nine players and four starters returning, including sharpshooting junior Myreon Jones.
Jones was the only player besides Stevens who averaged double digits in scoring last year at 13.3 points per game. He was also the only player to shoot over 40% from beyond the arc.
Ferry likes the idea of playing small ball, and putting Jones with senior guard Jamari Wheeler and junior Myles Dread fulfills that style of play. Wheeler was the team’s best facilitator at 3.2 assists per game, while Dread has proven he can guard multiple positions and knock down open jumpers.
Lineups could change frequently throughout the first set of contests. With coronavirus concerns already on the team’s mind, Ferry says the next-man-up mentality will be a big factor this year, and freshmen could see the court at a moment’s notice.
Jack McCune is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Logan Bourandas is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.
About the Contributors
Junior / Broadcast Journalism
Jack McCune is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism from Yardley, Pennsylvania, which is outside of Philly and just across the Delaware River from New Jersey. He attended Pennsbury High School in Fairless Hills, Pennsylvania. He’s a huge fan of the Eagles, Phillies, 76ers, Penn State football and Penn State basketball. He’s a producer for CommRadio news and is a writer and broadcaster for CommRadio sports. His CommRadio show, Broad Street Bros, airs Thursday nights at 8:45, as he and co-host Andrew Field talk about Philly and Penn State sports. He hopes to some day become a play-by-play announcer for football, basketball and/or baseball, and he is also interested in becoming a bartender.
Sophomore / Broadcast Journalism