Penn State Hoops Builds Clear Foundation In Historic 2022 Recruiting Class

On the same day he grabbed his first win as Penn State men’s basketball’s head coach, Micah Shrewsberry signed the highest-rated recruiting class in program history this week.

The Nittany Lions’ new head coach was hired in mid-March of this year, but he immediately got busy on the recruiting trail. Outside of the several transfers he welcomed to his fresh roster, Shrewsberry welcomed five recruits to Penn State’s Class of 2022. The group, which includes a four-star prospect and four more three-stars, is ranked as the No. 22 class in the nation, according to 247Sports’ composite rankings.

Shrewsberry didn’t stray far from the Nittany Lions’ usual pipeline, as he grabbed two Philadelphia prospects in Jameel Brown and Demetrius Lilley. However, the head coach also dipped his toe into Ohio to grab Evan Mahaffey and Kebba Nije, as well as Virginia to earn Kanye Clary‘s commitment.

Penn State’s director of recruiting, Brian Snow, who was described as an “outside the box hire” by Shrewsberry, emphasized this point at the National Signing Day presser Thursday.

“It’s pretty obvious Philadelphia’s really good to this school, so we’re gonna spend a lot of time there. But that’s not the only place we’re gonna go to,” Snow said. “Coach Shrewsberry knows everybody in the midwest. We get Kebba Nije, who goes to high school in Indiana but he’s from Ohio, Evan Mahaffey, from the great city of Cincinnati… Those are guys, when you’re from that area, the Big Ten means a lot to you.

“Philadelphia’s always gonna be really important. Pennsylvania’s always gonna be really important. The surrounding areas, as well, where Penn State means something and the Big Ten means something — we’re gonna attack that in recruiting.”

The second non-Pennsylvanian to commit to Shrewsberry’s program was Mahaffey, the three-star small forward out of Ohio.

Mahaffey, who stands at 6’5″ and has a wingspan of nearly 7’0″, has an athletic ability and personality that his coaches raved about Thursday. The Cincinnati native plays his high school ball at Moeller High School, which is considered to be one of the top programs in state. Mahaffey averaged 8.7 points and 4.7 boards as a junior last winter, and is currently considered the fifth-best overall player from his home state.

“I think we have a group of awesome kids that are coming into this program. For me, Evan takes the cake for that,” assistant coach Mike Farrelly said. “Before he’s done here, he might actually be the mayor of State College while playing for us.”

Outside of his personality, Farrelly noted that the forward can move extremely well on the defensive side of the ball, and can guard many different positions.

“When you can guard point guards and you can guard big guys — he’s gonna be a really good defender for us in many aspects.”

While the Nittany Lions are extremely excited about the pair of Ohio prospects in Mahaffey and Nije, perhaps the most significant recruit was Kanye Clary. The Virginia Beach point guard was the first high school recruit to commit to Shrewsberry back in June, and helped get the ball rolling for this historic class.

Clary surprised his new coaches by verbally committing just a day after his official visit on June 2. The 6’0″ point guard is ranked as the No. 35 prospect at his position, and has been described by his coaches as a player who can contribute right off the bat when he arrives in Happy Valley.

Assistant coach Aki Collins compared the guard’s style of play to that of senior Sam Sessoms, as he’s also on the smaller side and plays with a “chip on his shoulder.”

“He wants to prove that he’s going to be one of the better guards in our league,” Collins said. “He can really get up and down the floor, but can also play in the half court.”

The Nittany Lions have clearly managed to spread that recruiting presence around the country in these past several months, but the Philadelphia commits are bringing plenty of value of their own.

Lilley, the 6’9″ center, made noise during the offseason by skipping AAU ball and taking the time to refine his body. According to the coaching staff, Lilley has managed to lose nearly 40 pounds and is moving up and down the floor in a much more efficient fashion.

Lilley is just about to start his senior season at Lower Merion High School. If that sounds familiar, that’s because the talented center is the first player to average at least 20 points and 10 rebounds there since a guard by the name of Kobe Bryant.

Meanwhile, the other Philly native in the class is Brown. The guard was originally committed to Purdue, where Shrewsberry was last an assistant coach, but followed him to Penn State and verbally committed this past August. Brown picked the Nittany Lions over other offers from Notre Dame and Minnesota.

“He’s a Philadelphia kid — so that helps us continue to roll in that area and get could players from that area,” Shrewsberry said. “The players on our team from Philadelphia already know him… He and [Demetrius] both give you a little ‘street cred’ over there.”

Overall, the coaching staff’s focus was to bring in players that fit the system from a basketball and cultural standpoint. Along with a historically high-ranking group, this new staff feels they’ve brought in five young stars who will help build the foundation for what is to come.

“They’re Penn Staters. That’s who they are first and foremost,” Shrewsberry said. “They fit everything that we’re looking for. I truly believe that Penn State’s gonna fall in love with these guys just based on who they are.”

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About the Author

Will Pegler

Will is a senior majoring in digital and print journalism and is an associate editor for Onward State. He is from Darien, Connecticut and is a lifelong Penn State football fan. He loves a good 80's comedy movie, Peaky Blinders, The Office, and the New York Yankees and Giants. You can catch some of his ridiculous sports takes on his Twitter @gritdude and yell at him on his email [email protected]

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