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Evaluating Penn State Hoops’ Roster Heading Into Offseason

In recent years, roster and staff turnover within Penn State men’s basketball has engulfed the beginning of the offseason. It’s been two weeks since year one under Mike Rhoades concluded with a Big Ten Tournament loss to Indiana, and already, the roster has holes at every position thanks to the transfer portal and eligibility expiration.

Currently, there are only four scholarship players from this past season committed to the Nittany Lions for the future. With four incoming freshmen and the status of Ace Baldwin Jr. unknown, there are plenty of additions to be made ahead of next year to fill out the roster.

It’s still March and the 2023-24 college basketball season has reached its peak, but it’s never too early to look at the status of Penn State’s roster heading into next year.

Point Guards

Baldwin has yet to announce if he is planning to return to the Nittany Lions for one final season. If the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year elects to run it back in Happy Valley, Penn State would have its leader on offense and defense. The Baltimore, Maryland, native has been stellar on both sides of the ball during his time at VCU and Penn State.

Outside of Baldwin, incoming freshman Jahvin Carter is the only player who could run the offense next season with the current outlook of the roster. Carter, rated as the third-best player in his state, is 6’2″ and from Alcoa, Tennessee. Carter picked the Nittany Lions over Georgia Tech and Middle Tennessee State and would benefit from sitting behind Baldwin for a year.

Shooting Guards

Losing Jameel Brown to the transfer portal may have surprised some people, and his departure could be felt come next November. Fellow off-ball guards D’Marco Dunn and Nick Kern Jr. remain on the roster and both should have high-impact roles in their second seasons repping the blue and white.

Dunn, who transferred to Penn State from North Carolina, came off the bench most of the year before finishing the season in the starting lineup. The athletic guard showed off his skill set on both sides of the ball but proved to be too streaky offensively to have a bigger role. Dunn averaged 6.8 points and 1.8 rebounds per game in his first season under Rhoades.

Kern was in the starting lineup for much of the year, averaging 8.7 points and 3.9 rebounds per contest. Kern, who followed Rhoades and Baldwin to State College from VCU, has elite athleticism and showed that night in and night out. Kern will have an even bigger role next season as a senior and will be one of the pieces Rhoades will build around while shopping in the portal.

Dominick Stewart is an incoming freshman who signed his letter of intent this past winter. The 6’5″ guard from Castaic, California, will probably not have a major impact next season with the guys in front of him but could be a name to watch over the next few years. Stewart is rated as the 271st-best player in the country by 247Sports.

Small Forwards

With Puff Johnson announcing his return for his final season, the Penn State roster instantly became better. Pair Johnson with Zach Hicks, who found his shooting stroke at the end of this season, and the small forwards are arguably the best position group Rhoades has right now.

Johnson returned home to Pennsylvania last offseason after spending three seasons at North Carolina. After a shaky start to his Penn State career, Johnson appeared to be one of the best players on the team at the end of the season, averaging 7.3 points per game and shooting 33% from behind the arc.

Hicks’ first season in Happy Valley went very similar to that of Johnson’s. The Temple transfer shot the ball in high numbers throughout the year but only converted at a high clip on the back end of the schedule. If both players can be efficient from the field next year, Rhoades and his staff will have a very good season with the rest of the pending additions.

Hudson Ward is a name to look out for down the line. Ward was the final commit of the recruiting class and is from Edmonton, Alberta. Ward is listed at 6’7″ and 210 pounds and picked the Nittany Lions over New Mexico and San Diego.

Power Forwards

After the departures of Demetrius Lilley and Favour Aire combined with Qudus Wahab filling out his eligibility, Penn State has no big men on its roster. The lone bright spot is incoming top-100 recruit Miles Goodman. Goodman is teammates with fellow signee Stewart at Southern California Academy. The 6’10” forward highlights the top-25 recruiting class by 247Sports in Rhoades’ first season on the recruiting trail.

After a strong season from Wahab at center, Penn State will most likely go shopping for at least two more forwards via the portal. Lilley and Aire could have been contributors next season, but both have elected to find greener pastures.

Areas Of Need

With plenty of roster spots available to be filled this offseason, there’s a case for holes at nearly every position.

The biggest, by far, is finding someone at the center position who can be consistent and has experience at the college level. With all three big men departing this offseason, Penn State has more than a few questions to answer at the position before Goodman can take over.

Every team needs shooting and the Nittany Lions are just the same. Shooting inconsistencies let the blue and white down on different occasions last season, something Rhoades and his staff will look to shore up in the transfer portal.

The Nittany Lions could use another guard from the portal who has experience handling the ball. Not necessarily a put-and-plug starter but someone who can give Baldwin a breather and help take control of the offense from time to time.

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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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