Head coach Pat Chambers enters his sixth season at the helm of the Penn State Nittany Lions men’s basketball program. The 2016-17 edition of Nittany Lions basketball features a roster made up of 14 players, none of whom are seniors.
Led by junior guard Shep Garner, the Penn State squad is anchored by the return of five letterwinners, three of whom started in over 60 percent of the team’s games last year. Garner started in 32 games last year, and juniors Payton Banks and Josh Reaves started in 31 and 20 games, respectively.
Joining the junior trio is a freshman class that was ranked in the top-30 in the nation during the last recruiting cycle. The four true freshman look to make an immediate impact as freshman guard Tony Carr will be leading the team via the point guard position.
The 2016-17 team is coming off a 2015-16 season where the Nittany Lions went 16-16 overall with a 7-11 record in Big Ten play. The 16 wins last season marked the third time under Chambers where Penn State had 16 or more wins in a season.
With seven wins in Big Ten play, the Nittany Lions had the most successful conference performance to date under Chambers. Two of those seven wins game against teams ranked in the top-25, as Penn State defeated the No. 22 Indiana Hoosiers and the No. 4 Iowa Hawkeyes in back-to-back games at home.
The upsets over Indiana and Iowa helped catapult the Nittany Lions to the 10th seed in the 14-team Big Ten tournament for the first time in program history.
Now, looking to build on the successes the team had toward the end of the 2015-16 season, Chambers and his up-tempo style of play will be primed to use the three highly touted freshman out of Roman Catholic High School in Philadelphia. Guard Nazeer Bostick, the aforementioned Carr and forward Lamar Stevens helped lead Roman Catholic to the PIAA Quad-A state basketball championship last season before beginning their careers at Penn State.
The trio of freshmen join Garner, forward Mike Watkins and forward Julian Moore as Penn State men’s basketball players from the Philadelphia area of the state.
The Nittany Lions will tip-off to start their season on November 11th against Albany at the Bryce Jordan Center in State College. The Nittany Lions will face a daunting non-conference schedule that features games against national powerhouse Duke, Cincinnati or Rhode Island, St. John’s (at Madison Square Garden), as well as a match-up against in-state rival Pitt in Providence, RI.
Beginning in December, conference play starts for Penn State with a home match-up against Northwestern, and the Nittany Lions’ schedule features games against Minnesota, Indiana, Illinois, Rutgers, Maryland, Purdue and Ohio State at home. Penn State will play a home game at the Palestra in Philadelphia against Michigan State in January.
The 2016-17 season serves as the 121st season in program history, and it boasts an influx of talented newcomers and returning players looking to take the Nittany Lions back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011.
Image credit: Briana Basile/The Daily Collegian