Blue White Illustrated

May 2023

Penn State Sports Magazine

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Page 42 of 67

M A Y 2 0 2 3 4 3 W W W . B L U E W H I T E O N L I N E . C O M T he job was going to be challenging, no matter who the head coach hap- pened to be. Penn State was set to lose six seniors from its men's basket- ball roster following the 2022-23 season, including its top five scorers. That was painful enough, but then came a coaching change, prompting a second exodus via the transfer portal. New head coach Mike Rhoades will be charged with replenishing the roster ahead of his first season. At his introduc- tory news conference on March 31, he acknowledged the hard reality that his new team is facing. The transfer portal, Rhoades said, "is the landscape of college basketball now." "I think it's more important to get ev- erything right. We owe it to the program, and you owe it to what you're trying to do, to get it right," he continued. "Now it's time to go recruit. It's time to build relationships with these young guys that are here." The issue for Rhoades is the shrinking size of that young group. Here is a look at where the Nittany Lions stood in the earliest days of his tenure: Graduating: Penn State's losses in this category include All-America guard Jalen Pickett, as well as the first- and second- leading three-point shooters in the Big Ten in forward Seth Lundy and guard An- drew Funk. Add guards Camren Wynter and Myles Dread and forward Mikey Henn to that total, and the Nittany Lions have lost 84.7 percent of their scoring from last year be- fore even taking into account the portal. Of that group, only Lundy had a bonus year of eligibility remaining, but he opted to pursue an NBA career. Status uncertain: Transfer portal en- tries aren't irreversible. Having met with Penn State players immediately upon tak- ing the job, the new coaching staff has been working to quickly establish rela- tionships and convince some of those portal entrants to stick around. Rising sophomore guards Evan Ma- haffey and Jameel Brown entered the transfer portal soon after coach Micah Shrewsberry's departure. Their classmate Kebba Njie, a 6-foot-10, 237-pound for- ward, waited a few more days before fol- lowing suit. The most productive member of that trio, Njie played in all 37 games for the Nittany Lions last season and started 26. He averaged 3.4 points and 3.5 rebounds, ranking third on the team in the latter category, while playing 14.3 minutes per outing. Mahaffey averaged 9.3 minutes over 34 games. Brown appeared sparingly, stuck behind Pickett for available minutes and ultimately playing in 14 games. The Nittany Lions also saw two ris- ing seniors enter the transfer portal even before Shrewsberry's exit. Guard Dallion Johnson and forward Caleb Dorsey both hit the portal hours ahead of the leak that Shrewsberry was leaving for Notre Dame. Two members of last year's freshman class, point guard Kanye Clary and for- ward Demetrius Lilley, were still on the roster as of April 6. Seeking releases: In addition to those losses, Penn State's three-man 2023 re- cruiting class has disintegrated. Forward Carey Booth and guards Braeden Shrews- berry and Logan Imes have all sought re- leases from their signed letters of intent. Although no announcement had been made as of early April, Shrewsberry was expected to follow his father to South Bend. Imes and Booth had yet to indi- cate their intentions, and the entire class remains eligible to return to Penn State should those players choose to do so. Incoming: As soon as they arrived at PSU, Rhoades and his staff began working furiously behind the scenes to rebuild the Nittany Lions' roster. The natural starting point was Adrian "Ace" Baldwin Jr., Virginia Common- wealth's point guard and top scorer last season. Baldwin entered his name into the transfer portal the same day Rhoades was introduced at Penn State. There was immediate speculation that he would rejoin the coach in State College, and that assessment soon proved accu- rate. On April 9, Baldwin announced that he would be joining the Nittany Lions. He's the reigning Atlantic 10 Player of the Year and also the conference Defensive Player of the Year after averaging 12.7 points, 5.8 assists and 2.2 steals per game. Baldwin was an obvious priority for Rhoades and his staff on the front end of their roster-building process. He in- stantly shot to No. 12 nationally in the On3 Transfer Portal Rankings upon an- nouncing his intention to leave VCU. Baldwin's decision to join Rhoades at Penn State could entice others to follow, both incoming transfers and Penn State scholarship players who are currently in the portal. ■ NITTANY LIONS MUST REBUILD AFTER GRADUATION, PORTAL LOSSES NAT E BAU E R | NAT E . B AU E R @ O N 3 . C O M A 26-game starter as a true freshman, forward Kebba Njie entered the transfer portal in early April. PHOTO BY DANIEL ALTHOUSE

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