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Potential Targets To Fill Penn State Men’s Basketball’s Open Roster Spots

Penn State men’s basketball now has three open roster spots following the departures of Isaiah Washington, Terrence Samuel, and Payton BanksAll three saw decent playing time this season for the Nittany Lions — with Washington earning his minutes late in the season in favor of Samuel. Banks started in 13 games for Penn State averaging nearly 27 minutes per game. Pat Chambers will look to fill the void left by those players to try have a more complete roster when the 2017-18 season rolls around.

The team’s depth was tested late in this season and now faces a tough challenge next year replacing the production of those three players. As it currently stands, two reinforcements are coming next season with Satchel Pierce becoming available following his transfer and Trent Buttrick arriving as a freshman. It remains to be seen what kind of role Buttrick will have next season, but more big men certainly can’t hurt after the numerous games last season when Mike Watkins and Julian Moore were in foul trouble.

Here’s a little rundown of a few prospects that are on, or should be on, Pat Chambers’ radar this late in the recruiting cycle.

Clifton Moore

6’10” | Power Forward | Horsham, Pa.

Moore has recently requested the release of his National Letter of Intent from Indiana following the firing of head coach Tom Crean. This can potentially throw a talented player back into the mix on the recruiting trail, but it’s not certain that he will leave Indiana. Indiana’s new head coach Archie Miller is pushing hard to keep the recruits that Crean brought in from leaving the program.

It’s currently a fluid situation and it remains to be seen what Moore will do if granted his release, but it would make sense for Chambers to take a look if Moore is able to open up his recruitment again. He would be able to play alongside Watkins and Pierce as a stretch-four and would add size to a relatively small Penn State front-court.

The skilled big man from the Philly area shows that he has good mobility for a big and possesses a solid shooting stroke that could complement the current bigs for Penn State should he choose to suit up for the blue and white. Below is a video from two games this season where he showed flashes of his potential skill set.

Kajon Brown

6’5″ | Small Forward | Lee College

The athletic wing player originally from Harvey, La. just finished up his sophomore season in the NJCAA at Lee College in Texas after transferring there from Tulsa University following his freshman year. If you think a JUCO player that’s played in the south his whole life seems a little off the radar, you’d usually be right. But Brown just recently completed a visit to Penn State this past weekend, according to JUCO Recruiting’s twitter page, so this is not out of the realm of possibility.

Brown averaged 8.8 points and 3.1 rebounds per game shooting 45.8 percent from the floor this year for the Runnin’ Rebels after appearing in 31 games. With the departure of Banks, this team can use some depth on the wing and a player that was originally a Division 1 recruit with collegiate playing experience would not be a bad addition to a young Nittany Lion team.

Here is a video of a few high-flying highlights from his high school days at Helen Cox in Louisiana:

Najja Hunter

6’5″ | Small Forward/Shooting Guard | Newark, NJ

Hunter is a lesser-known commodity, but can potentially be a player that could provide depth on the wing. He used to play for Wesstown School in Norristown, Pa. with a few other Penn State targets (see more below), but transferred to St. Benedict’s Prep (NJ) for his senior year.

He helped lead St. Benedict’s to a 30-4 record this season with a State Prep Championship victory and a North American Independent Schools Athletic Conference Tournament win. Hunter is the No. 13 ranked player in New Jersey with a three star rating at 247Sports. Chambers has shown interest in the past, so it’ll be interesting to see if he’ll push harder now with the open spots.

Hunter looks like he’d be able to play a little bit at the two-guard spot at the next level, which could be a valuable characteristic with the loss of Samuel. At 6’5″, he definitely has the size to be a productive guard in the Big Ten. In the video shown below, Hunter appears to have a knack for getting to the rim and finishing when there. He also seems to have a decent handle with the ball and can find the open man in transition. With limited video available, it’d be nice to see if Hunter can shoot from the perimeter or have the ability to defend on the wings.


Mohamed Bamba

6’11” | Power Forward | Norristown, Pa.

This one is an absolute pipe dream, but the Westtown School product still hasn’t committed anywhere at this point. 247Sports has Bamba listed as the No. 3 prospect in the country with offers from the college blue bloods of Duke and Kentucky — so the chances of him joining Penn State are slim to none. Westtown is also the home of top 2018 prospects Cameron Reddish and Jake Forrester — who have both taken official visits to Penn State this past fall, with Forrester high on Penn State’s radar.

Bamba’s high school coach, Seth Berger, is also a big advocate of Chambers. In a recent Sports Illustrated article he talks about transfer rules and calls Chambers a good friend of his. He believes that Penn State is only, “one or two players away from being able to challenge for conference titles annually without one-and-done stars.” Chambers has offered scholarships to three players from Westtown — four if you include Hunter. Maybe he’ll be able to land one with the use of his Phily-area connections.

Even though it’s highly unlikely, landing Bamba would drastically change the outlook of Penn State basketball for the better. This is the type of player that can put a program on the map single-handedly.

Who knows, maybe Penn State will host open tryouts like it did in 2013 — so maybe even you can be a potential fill-in on the roster. It remains to be seen what Chambers will do with the available openings and even though it’s likely they won’t land any superstars at this time, maybe they’ll be able to find a diamond in the rough somewhere with one of these guys — other than Bamba.

Also keep in mind, lots of players are leaving their schools following graduation like the three from Penn State — so that opens up a whole new group of potential players that Chambers can bring on to this Nittany Lion team that’s looking to make some noise in the Big Ten next year.

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About the Author

Dylan Coughlin

Dylan is a senior majoring in Broadcast Journalism at Penn State. Growing up near Philadelphia, he's a life-long Philly sports fan who #TrustsTheProcess and thinks the Sixers will run the league in five years. You can follow him on Twitter @DCoughlin25 for some okay content or e-mail [email protected]


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