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Penn State Hoops’ Regular-Season Report Card

Penn State men’s basketball’s first regular season under Mike Rhoades is in the books, folks.

The Nittany Lions finished the year with a 15-16 overall record and a 9-11 conference record. After a long winter that consisted of plenty of ups and downs, Penn State is headed into the Big Ten Tournament as the No. 11 seed and will face off with No. 14 seed Michigan. Before Wednesday’s matchup with the Wolverines, let’s look at its regular-season report card.

Point Guards: A-

Ace Baldwin Jr. was the Nittany Lions’ best player for all of conference play and only continued to improve as the season went on. Baldwin was Rhoades’ most trusted man on the court and the defined leader of the locker room. The stats speak for themselves as the VCU transfer finished the regular season averaging 14.3 points, 6 assists, 2.5 rebounds, and 2.7 steals per game.

Baldwin was named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year earlier on Tuesday, and named to the All-Big Ten Third Team. The Penn State point guard had an OK first two months of the season during the non-conference schedule but has been excellent since the turn of the year.

Before departing the team, Kanye Clary was arguably the best player on the court for the Nittany Lions. Clary was the leading score for the blue and white, but in games in which the sophomore didn’t suit up, Penn State played better as a team.

Despite an abrupt departure from Happy Valley, Clary’s play carried the Nittany Lions through the first stretch of the season. Without the shifty guards’ playmaking and shot-making ability, Penn State probably would’ve lost a few more games in November and December.

Shooting Guards: B

D’Marco Dunn and Nick Kern Jr. were both in and out of the lineup this season, shining in their roles on different occasions. Kern was arguably the second or third-best player this season in his junior campaign. Kern finished the year averaging 8.8 points per game, highlighted by 22 points in an upset win over Illinois at Rec Hall. The VCU transfer was recognized as an Honorable Mention All-Big Ten player.

After coming over from North Carolina, Dunn was one of the better role players for Rhoades and will try to build upon that next season. Dunn averaged seven points and two rebounds per game.

Jameel Brown and RayQuawndis Mitchell were never huge impact players during the season but played well when called upon. Mitchell had a season-high 14 points in a win over Maryland on Senior Night. Brown showed snippets of his talent on the road against Indiana and in Rec Hall against Illinois. The Philadelphia native has one of the best shooting strokes on the team but will need to be more consistent next year as a junior.

Small Forwards: C+

Zach Hicks and Puff Johnson were brought in through the transfer portal because of their ability to shoot the ball, especially from behind the arc. It took a long time for Nittany Lion fans to see the pair make shots consistently, but over the past month, both have played well. Hicks finished the year by converting on a 33% clip and Johnson on a 35% mark. The Temple transfer was honored earlier this week with an Honorable Mention All-Big Ten honor.

Leo O’Boyle played a mix of the four and five spots for Rhoades, though the Lafeyette transfer did not have much of a positive impact at either position. O’Boyle, who was also praised for his shooting ability before the season started, only averaged 2.1 points per game. Despite playing more minutes than other bench pieces, O’Boyle did not help the team in many areas this season.

Centers: B+

The play of All-Big Ten Honorable Mention Qudus Wahab inflated this rating. Besides the Georgetown transfer, the Nittany Lions did not get much out of their three big men. Demetrius Lilley showed moments of improvement, but his flaws and a couple of injuries limited his ability to stay on the court. A wrist and hand injury also kept Miami transfer Favour Aire from getting on the court during the non-conference slate. Aire barely played meaningful minutes during Big Ten play for Rhoades.

Wahab was everything Penn State needed and more. There was nobody on the roster more consistent than the Lagos, Nigeria, native. Wahab finished the season averaging 9.8 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. The fifth-year center added 46 blocks on the season and only got better game after game. Rhoades will most likely turn to the transfer portal this offseason to replace Wahab’s production.

Mike Rhoades: B-

The former VCU head coach inherited a team with only three scholarship players and no direction for the future. After a whirlwind of an offseason that included bringing in 10 new players, hiring an entirely new coaching staff, and becoming acclimated to State College, Rhoades’ first regular season at Penn State has come to an end.

There were no high expectations in year one, but Rhoades and Co. won nine conference games and finished a game below the .500 mark. There was a lot to like this winter in Happy Valley, and there’s a lot of promise for the future of the program considering just a year ago no one had any idea what would be next.

A poor showing at the ESPN Events Invitational, a really bad loss to Bucknell, and two blown leads to Minnesota keep this rating from being any higher.

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About the Author

CJ Gill

CJ is a sophomore from McVeytown, Pennsylvania majoring in broadcast journalism and an associate editor at Onward State. He's a huge Phillies fan, which has its pro and cons come October. You can send all disagreements to [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @CJGill14.

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