Penn State Hoops’ Forwards Are The Strength Of 2018-19 Roster

Opening the season as the No. 32 team in the KenPom College Basketball Rankings┬áleads to a lot of high expectations for Penn State men’s basketball. With the loss of Tony Carr and Shep Garner to the pros and Nazeer Bostick leaving the program, the strength of this team has shifted from the guard position to the frontcourt.

Junior Lamar Stevens and senior Josh Reaves can play three to four positions each at a very high level. Stevens was named the NIT’s Most Outstanding Player after a 30-point performance at Marquette and a 28-point showing in the championship game against Utah at Madison Square Garden.

The Roman Catholic product was an honorable mention All-Big Ten selection, but is capable of making a serious run at the conference’s player of the year award this season. He should be a first team selection at the minimum if he remains healthy. Whether it’s his traditional power forward role or the wing and center positions that he’s been thrust into before, Stevens is easily the most talented player on the Nittany Lions’ roster.

Reaves is the spine of this team with his vibrant energy on both ends of the floor. Whether it’s his quick hands and defensive instincts wreaking havoc at one end of the floor or his high-flying dunks and steadily-improving jumper, the senior might be the difference in how far this team goes.

His clutch go-ahead dunk at the Garden gave Penn State a memorable win over Ohio State in the Big Ten Tournament, and he added a tip-in with one second left in the exhibition against West Virginia to his growing list of clutch plays, even though it was just a preseason game. Reaves is a capable ball handler, but his defensive prowess allows him to play virtually any position on the floor, which may make the former Oak Hill Academy star the most valuable player on the team.

Behind these two stars is a congested group of capable bench pieces — Trent Buttrick, Deivis Zemgulis, and the option of playing John Harrar at the four, which Chambers has spoken about extensively. Harrar is considered a big man at this roster, and will play the center role in the absence of Mike Watkins and Satchel Pierce, who are both suspended. All three players can knock down the occasional open jumper and are good sized players who can survive the physical slate awaiting them in Big Ten play.

Zemgulis started in a victory at Ohio State last season, and consistently provided good minutes off the bench for the Nittany Lions. Buttrick is more of a wild card — he stands at 6-foot-8, 234 pounds, but plays like more of a stretch four. The sophomore can be a needed perimeter shooter with Garner and Carr gone, but will be much more valuable to Chambers’ squad if he can become serviceable in the paint. Watkins and Harrar hunt rebounds like mad men, and Buttrick would be a much-improved piece off the bench if he can improve as a traditional big man.

Freshman Daniil Kasatkin and junior Grant Hazle fill out the bottom of the depth chart on the wings, standing at 6-foot-7 and 6-foot-6, respectively. Neither are likely to see much playing time this season, and Kasatkin could even be redshirted for the year to allow for more development before he sees the floor for the Nittany Lions.

If Buttrick and Zemgulis can take their play to the next level while Harrar carries the low-depth center position, Reaves and Stevens could be enough to help put this team onto the NCAA Tournament Bubble. But if the bench can’t produce enough to offset the absence of Watkins and a young backcourt, this frontcourt will be playing in the NIT once again this season.

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About the Author

Mitch Stewart

Mitch is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism from Roanoke, Virginia. In addition to his role with Onward State, Mitch talks about all the #sprots on Penn State's CommRadio. To contact Mitch, feel free to send him an e-mail at [email protected], and if you really don't value your social media accounts, follow him as he yells on Twitter about Penn State basketball @mitchystew.

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