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Newly Added Andrew Funk & Camren Wynter Bring Stability To Penn State Hoops

Last week, Penn State men’s basketball added two proven graduate transfers to its backcourt in Andrew Funk and Camren Wynter from Bucknell and Drexel, respectively. With five, key pieces leaving the Nittany Lions’ new-look unit from last season, including Sam Sessoms, Micah Shrewsberry’s ability to land two high-volume scorers with 224 combined games of experience could instantly transform the program’s offensive production in the head coach’s second campaign at the helm.

Following the Big Ten Tournament in early March, senior guard Jalen Pickett immediately announced his intentions to use his last year of eligibility in Happy Valley after undergoing his most productive three-game span in the blue and white. In matchups against Minnesota, Ohio State, and Purdue, the New York native posted a team-high 18 points per game through crafty isolation play, highlighted by a 60% conversion rate from the floor.

Aside from an 18-point performance from Sam Sessoms against the Buckeyes in the Nittany Lions’ second-round upset victory, Shrewsberry’s guard production struggled to find consistency over the course of the postseason slate. In total, the remaining pieces of Penn State’s starting backcourt averaged merely six points per game collectively from perimeter assets not named Pickett.

The story told over the conference tournament stint in Gainbridge Fieldhouse largely depicted how the entire campaign played out on the offensive end of the floor for Shrewsberry’s incohesive core. At the season’s conclusion, Penn State finished last in the Big Ten in total offense, marked by generating only 64.6 points per matchup. Additionally, the squad converted just over 43% of its shots from the field, which sat as the 12th-worst team shooting percentage across the conference.

With the losses of both John Harrar and Sessoms looming, Penn State will need to replace nearly 35% of its scoring yield from the two upperclassmen heading into next season. Fortunately for Pickett, who accounted for over 20% of the squad’s productivity under his own accord, the tandem of Funk and Wynter would have given the Nittany Lions around 35 points per contest if the two could have laced up for Shrewsberry last season.

In his fourth year with Bucknell, Funk exploded for 17.6 points per game in 32 consecutive starts. The mark, which slotted the senior as the second-highest scorer in the Patriot League, equaled a career-high largely due to his increased success from beyond the arc. Over the regular season span, Funk ramped up his stroke from distance and attempted over seven three-pointers per outing, which made the 6’5″ combo guard a dangerous, two-way scorer for the first time in his tenure.

Ultimately, Funk’s three-point percentage increased up to almost 37% from an inconsistent 26% clip in the Bison’s shortened 12-game season during his third campaign with the program. Furthermore, his improvement from distance helped him eclipse a top-20 statistical finish in individual three-point percentage across conference play. If the Pennsylvania product would have played for the Nittany Lions this season, his efficiency from deep would have trailed only Sessoms and Myles Dread, who both shot better than 40% from a similar range.

Similar to Pickett, Funk’s greatest strength might just be his availability. Between never missing a game with the Bison and logging the second-highest minute total in the Patriot League as a fourth-year centerpiece, the Pennsylvania native takes the meaning of durability to a new level. In total, the savvy scorer has played in 110 career matchups, putting him ahead of Pickett in the games-played category by just three contests.

For Wynter, his veteran makeup is eerily similar to both Funk and Pickett. In 114 career games, the formerly unranked, zero-star recruit exceeded all pre-determined expectations by making 112 starts in four years. More impressively, the natural shooter averaged double-digits scoring marks in each season spent with the Philadelphia-based program.

Overall, Wynter’s senior-year run marked his most productive span in a Dragon uniform, despite his scoring numbers taking a slight hit. The New York native thrived in nearly every meaningful statistical category. On offense, Wynter notched 15.8 points per night, while also finishing near the top on the Drexel roster in both rebounds (5.3) and assists (4.6) over each game.

In a common theme, Wynter has also proven to be a durable ironman, as displayed in posting the second-most minutes in the CAA conference with 34.8 logged per matchup. Moreover, Wynter finished second in assists, while also carrying the third-highest point total in conference play this season, only furthering Shrewsberry’s knack for poaching tested talent within smaller programs.

Entering the offseason, the Nittany Lions are once again poised to bring in a flurry of new contributors amongst a group of established leaders. With Pickett, Dread, and Seth Lundy all poised to return, the three Penn State veterans will likely all earn starting spots from the jump barring any unforeseen roster alterations.

Additionally, for the first time in program history, Shrewsberry’s program is set to welcome a top-30 recruiting class to Happy Valley. Within the group, four-star center Kebba Njie, who elected to trust the Nittany Lions with his services over Butler and Kansas State, is the early favorite to take over Harrar’s role in anchoring the low block underneath. Aside from Pickett, Dread, Lundy, and Njie, it’s more plausible to plug Funk in at the three position rather than starting the smaller, and less physical Wynter in the backcourt’s remaining opening.

In all likelihood, Wynter proves to be a perfect solution for the instantaneous, sixth-man spark needed to reinvigorate Shrewsberry’s first five, which is almost identical to the role Sessoms formerly inherited. Despite coming off the bench in 21 games last season, Sessoms still managed to see nearly 30 minutes of on-court action each go around.

Although the roles of Funk and Wynter remain to be seen, it’s all but certain the Nittany Lions are getting an increased level of offensive productivity and efficiency from the pair of veterans. If Shrewsberry is able to build off of his defensive success from last year, the sure-fire scoring staples could be the missing pieces in helping Penn State turn its nine two-possession losses from a season ago into future program-defining wins.

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About the Author

Connor Krause

Connor Krause is a junior from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania double majoring in journalism and business. He is a lifelong Penn State football and basketball fan and enjoys rooting for Pittsburgh sports teams. In his free time, Connor can be found playing golf or pick-up basketball. You can follow his Twitter and Instagram @ckrause_31.

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