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Jamari Wheeler Puts Out Another Steady Performance In ‘Emotional’ Return To Happy Valley

Penn State men’s basketball fans grew to love Jamari Wheeler’s agressive, gritty style of play over the course of his four-year career in Happy Valley. Sunday night at the Bryce Jordan Center, Wheeler put that on full display while he donned a scarlet and grey Ohio State jersey.

The defensive-minded guard elected to transfer to the Nittany Lions’ Big Ten rival just a few weeks after the end of the 2020-21 season. In his return to the BJC this weekend, Penn State fans showed their feelings on the decision by booing him early and often. Wheeler heard it from the crowd when the Buckeyes took the floor, when he was announced in the starting lineup, and just about any time he touched the ball.

There were some who showed support for Wheeler and their appreciation for his productive four-year career as a Nittany Lion. Either way, however, he received plenty of attention all night — something he expected entering the Big Ten opener.

“Right when the Big Ten schedule dropped, I circled the date,” Wheeler said postgame. “It was big to come in here and get this win, definitely.”

The newest Buckeye was clearly ready to make his presence felt against the Nittany Lions. Wheeler led the Buckeyes with 37 minutes played and totaled nine points and nine assists. The Florida native also grabbed five boards, while his trademark pesky defense was clear as he forced three steals.

On a night when Chris Holtmann’s team shot 12-for-27 from three-point range, Wheeler wasn’t necessarily the star for the Buckeyes. However, his ability to make plays on defense and keep the ball moving on offense — something Penn State fans know plenty about — was valuable for Ohio State in its 76-64 victory.

“What [Jamari]’s been for us is just a really consistent, everyday guy,” Holtmann said postgame. “A really consistent worker who’s consumed with winning. You can’t have too many of those guys on your team.”

While he tied his season-high for scoring against the Nittany Lions, Wheeler’s been a solid contributor for the Buckeyes all year. He’s played at least 29 minutes in five of eight games, including a seven-point performance in Ohio State’s impressive upset over then-No. 1 Duke early last week.

“I give Jamari a lot of credit. I think he expected the crowd to obviously give him some attention,” Holtmann said. “There was some positive things said to him as well, which I know he appreciated. He loves this place, so I know it was an emotional game for him in a lot of ways.”

Wheeler was certainly not the only Nittany Lion to transfer after a messy 2020-21 season that was preceded by Pat Chambers’ resignation. The veteran guard and the rest of his teammates were clearly frustrated with the lack of the transparency in that sudden change.

Even star big man John Harrar took time in the transfer portal following the season. While the senior forward elected to return and play for Micah Shrewsberry, he and Wheeler also had a highly anticipated reunion Sunday night.

Harrar joked about body slamming his old friend ahead of the contest, but the pair only had a chance to chat during the game at one point late in the second half. The two Nittany Lions, who roomed together for four years at Penn State, managed to connect after the game.

“I just told him to go say hi to my mom and my girlfriend. I said best of luck. I think we play them again,” Harrar said. “I’ve been with him for four years. I lived with him for four years.”

Wheeler was happy to get a chance to talk with his former roommate postgame, as well.

“That’s my brother. That’s who I stayed with when I first got on campus,” Wheeler said. “So just seeing him, it kind of touched me.”

As Harrar noted, the pair will get a chance to battle it out one more time in this regular season. It’ll be the Nittany Lions’ turn to travel to Columbus on Saturday, January 16 for a road test against the Buckeyes. Until then, however, Shrewsberry’s team will try to bounce back from an 0-1 start in Big Ten play, while Wheeler and Ohio State will build on a 6-2 overall record.

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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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