Tony Carr is the talk of the program at the moment, Shep Garner returns for his final year with sights set on leaving his name among the program’s all-time scoring leaders, and Josh Reaves is still around as the much-praised work horse of the team.
While that returning trio of starters is the focus of the backcourt, it’s the backup guards — Nazeer Bostick and Jamari Wheeler — that were juicing the team and crowd up with their aggressive defense and fast-paced offense against Bloomsburg last Sunday at the BJC.
Our beat writers made one collective observation as we watched Bostick punch down two dunks and Wheeler finish off a coast-to-coast layup: They play so much faster.
— Penn State MBB (@PennStateMBB) November 6, 2017
Pat Chambers already compared Wheeler’s speed to Tim Frazier back on media day, and even mentioned that he was the best thing that had happened to Tony Carr.
Despite his comments about the freshman motivating the team’s star player, it was easier to believe Chambers after seeing Wheeler look as smooth and quick as he did Sunday. Not to mention, the two worked really well together in the 84-67 victory. The two of them are visible in all three plays shown in the video above, with Wheeler assisting the first of Bostick’s slams.
With three former Roman Catholic players already represented in the backcourt, it’s impressive that Wheeler already seems to be fitting into the mold on the court. Additionally, he averaged 5.5 points and two assists in the two exhibitions this weekend.
— Penn State MBB (@PennStateMBB) November 7, 2017
Bostick is part of that Roman Catholic alumni base that’s represented on this year’s roster, in addition to two others players from Philadelphia. He seemed to be on the brink of a breakout at the beginning of February, where he logged three straight games with double-digit minutes played.
His length and athleticism gave opponents fits when he covered them. Bostick’s defense was particularly noticeable in the Nittany Lions’ upset win over Maryland at the BJC. Unfortunately, the injury bug bit the freshman, as a fractured right hand sidelined him for the remainder of the season.
On the bright side for Penn State, it seems as if Bostick’s tenacious defense and aggressive offensive mentality has returned for his second season. He recorded 12 points against Lafayette, followed by an 11-point tally against Bloomsburg.
— Penn State On BTN (@PennStateOnBTN) November 5, 2017
On the defensive end, the duo combined for eight steals across the two games, with Bostick leading the way at five takeaways. Their defensive efforts have led to this plethora of fast-break, above-the-rim opportunities that bode well for a Nittany Lion basketball program that is at a crossroads.
One potential concern that may hold the two players back from continuing this form into the season, more specifically in Big Ten play, is turnovers. While the back-and-forth action led by Bostick and Wheeler was entertaining and mostly successful, the duo gave the ball up nine times against Bloomsburg, compared to their zero-turnover outing the day before against Lafayette.
It’s important to remember that turnovers are a normal headache that come with young, developing guards. Protecting the rock will play an important part in the plethora of close games that the Nittany Lions will surely find themselves in.
Should the two of them continue to feed off of each other’s energy, Penn State’s bench will take a much-needed step forward in the Big Ten. Who knows? Maybe their situational energy sparks will help drive Penn State’s goal of returning to the Big Dance.