Penn State Men’s Basketball 2021-22 Season Preview

Story posted November 5, 2021 in Sports, CommRadio by Jonathan Draeger

The last time the Penn State Nittany Lions men’s basketball team took the court was the night of Mar. 11.

The Wisconsin Badgers met interim coach Jim Ferry’s team in the second round of the Big Ten Tournament in Indianapolis, Ind.Wisconsin won 75-73 after a mishandled possession by guard Sam Sessoms, thus ending the season right there, and entering an offseason of chaos.

The offseason included a coaching search and half the roster leaving due to graduation or the transfer portal.The Nittany Lions lost key starters like guards Myreon Jones to the Florida Gators and Izaiah Brockington to the Iowa State Cyclones.

However, Micah Shrewsberry was hired as head coach, making him No. 14 coach in program history. Shrewsberry had previous tenures as an assistant with the Boston Celtics and the Purdue Boilermakers.

Since being hired, the first-year head coach has managed to bring in five players from the transfer portal, ranging from schools such as Gardner-Webb to Western Michigan, adding height and speed to the remaining players from the 2020-2021 team.

Penn State wants to shock people this season, but with a gritty conference like the Big Ten and tough competition in their non-conference slate, can the Nittany Lions fulfill a trip to the NCAA Tournament?

Starting with those who stayed, the leading scorer returning from last season is Seth Lundy, who averaged 10.1 points per game, yet had inconsistent scoring throughout the season.

Following Lundy are the remaining key players from Ferry’s squad: guard Sam Sessoms averaging 8.2 points per game, Myles Dread posting a 7.3 clip per game, and forward John Harrar getting 8.8 points per game.

The rest of the squad features players that either sat for the majority of last season, finished their high school careers, or transferred from a variety of programs across the country. Focusing more on the transfers, the five players Shrewsberry brought to Happy Valley combined for the second-most points scored by an incoming transfer class in the nation.

The transfer class ranges from the smallest guards, like Gardner Webb transfer Jaheem Cornwall who stands at six feet, to the tallest forwards as in the 6-foot-9 senior+ Greg Lee from Western Michigan. The added depth fulfills replacements that left due to the transfer portal and graduating seniors.

Looking ahead at the schedule, Penn State plays 11 non-conference opponents before indulging into constant Big Ten play.

Notable opponents are the LSU Tigers and the Oregon State Beavers in the Emerald Coast Classic, the Miami Hurricanes in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, and the VCU Rams who were runner-ups in the Atlantic 10 Tournament Championship game.

One thing to notice is a seven-game stretch where the Nittany Lions will face tough competition six out of the seven games dating from Nov. 26 to Dec. 18.

In between non-conference games, the blue and white sprinkle in two conference opponents in the Ohio State Buckeyes at the Bryce Jordan Center and the Michigan State Spartans in East Lansing, who both made the tournament last season.

Shrewsberry’s old team, the Purdue Boilermakers, visit State College on Jan. 8, which will be the first matchup between Boilermaker head coach Matt Painter and his protégé. Penn State also finds Big Ten contenders like the Michigan Wolverines coming to town and the Illinois Fighting Illini in Champaign.

With a tough 31 game slate ahead of them, Penn State is looking to build a winning culture, but they may revert to relying on the three-ball due to their size, which may cost them games down the stretch.

However, that will not stop the team from bringing in fans around campus and the borough to watch the Nittany Lions play.

The athletic department has been promoting the season by doing pop-up events around campus. Such as “Shrews’ Slamma Jamma”, mini-activities for students to interact with the players, or tables at the HUB to talk about the upcoming season.

Either way, the team wants the Bryce Jordan Center to be the best atmosphere in the Big Ten, and to aid as the team’s sixth man.

Jonathan Draeger is a second-year student majoring in broadcast journalism. You can contact him at jrd6052@psu.edu.