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Penn State Hoops’ Jalen Pickett Primed For Growing Role With Key Challenges Ahead

Now riding a 4-2 record to open the 2021-22 season, Penn State men’s basketball has a chance to test itself against some talented opponents this week.

The Nittany Lions will take part in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge Wednesday night by hosting Miami at the Bryce Jordan Center. The Hurricanes have opened the season 4-3 and are coming off an ugly loss to Alabama, but they could serve as an important benchmark for where Micah Shrewsberry’s squad currently stands.

On Sunday, Penn State will open Big Ten play against Ohio State. The Buckeyes hold a 5-2 record but have collected a fairly strong resume with a loss to Xavier and a heartbreaker to No. 14 Florida. Most notably, Ohio State took down No. 1 Duke in a massive upset in Columbus Tuesday night. Chris Holtmann’s team also has a win over No. 25 Seton Hall to its name.

Entering a part of their season that could serve as a serious swing point, the Nittany Lions will rely on several new stars to keep the momentum rolling. Someone on the top of that list is Jalen Pickett, the senior guard transfer from Siena.

The Rochester native has served as a consistent source of offense for Shrewsberry’s group of late and is coming off a win against Oregon State in which he totaled 14 points and went 4-for-8 from three-point range, along with seven assists. The 6’4″ guard has played at least 32 minutes in each game so far and was on the court for 45 minutes in Penn State’s overtime battle against LSU last Friday.

“[Jalen]’s getting more comfortable in terms of what we’re doing and what we’re trying to do,” Shrewsberry said Monday. “We’re trying to get the ball in his hands a lot more, as well. I think once you start that success, the confidence kind of comes. You can see that confidence coming out of him…That’s who we knew he was because we’ve seen it and he’s done it throughout his career.”

In that loss to the Tigers just after Thanksgiving, Pickett still managed 14 points and four more three-pointers. He also grabbed a season-high eight boards, made a key block down the stretch, and dished out three assists. Even in defeat, Pickett feels there was plenty to build on from the 1-1 trip to the Emerald Coast Classic.

“It’s big for us. It shows us our identity and what we can be capable of when we really lock in,” Pickett said. “We definitely want to get stops and make it tough for other people to score, and then offensively, keep the ball spaced, keep it moving, and take the first look that we get.

“That’s how [Coach Shrewsberry] wants us to play. We’re all starting to figure out our roles.”

Pickett did get off to a fairly slow start on the offensive end in his new home in Happy Valley, as he opened by struggling from the field. The guard went 3-for-10 in the opener against Youngstown State and had a tough 1-for-7 night in the win over St. Francis Brooklyn. However, he shot 55.6% from the field against the Tigers and has scored in double figures in Penn State’s last three games.

Pickett’s new head coach doesn’t promote many cliche mantras, but Shrewsberry does emphasize that his team can’t afford to take any steps back. When it comes to Pickett, these next few tests will be essential for him to prove his scoring ability can continue and keep the Nittany Lions afloat in an always difficult Big Ten.

“We need him to continue to play like that — continue to be aggressive, continue to set up himself and other guys,” he said.

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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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