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‘What the hell happened to Penn State?’ Questions and answers after one crazy day

Photo by Penn State Athletics: Myreon Jones

This has been a historic day for the Penn State men’s basketball program — for all the wrong reasons. Six, count ’em, six players decided to enter the transfer portal during a head-spinning matter of hours, all coming one day after the Nittany Lions welcomed new head coach Micah Shrewsberry.

And we may not be done yet, meaning more players still could decide to bolt. Actually, it would be a surprise if the number stops at these six that we know of so far entering the transfer portal:

** Myreon Jones (leading scorer 15.3)

** Izaiah Brockington (second-leading scorer 12.6)

** Seth Lundy (third-leading scorer 10.1)

** John Harrar (fourth-leading scorer 8.8, leading rebounder 8.8)

** Jamari Wheeler (best defensive player)

** Trent Buttrick (key reserve)

There has been no word yet if fifth-leading scorer Sam Sessoms (8.2) and sixth-leading scorer Myles Dread (7.3) will enter the portal. But at this stage, that wouldn’t be a surprise.

Man oh man. Can you imagine, a Big Ten team that was on the NCAA Tournament bubble just a few weeks ago having virtually every one of its key players transferring?

It’s mind boggling.

But — and we’ve been talking about this for weeks — NOT UNEXPECTED.

Let’s get to questions from fans and see if we can address all the main points:

Question from Matt: What the hell happened to Penn State?

A: This sequence of events was set in motion back in late October, when Penn State forced out coach Patrick Chambers. He had been investigated for his behavior after some issues were made public, including him using the word “noose” with former player Rasir Bolton, who transferred to Iowa State.

The Penn State players were pissed off at how everything went down, which you can read about here. They wanted answers from AD Sandy Barbour and the administration about why Chambers was forced out, and they didn’t get those answers. From then on, it was clear to many who follow the program that there was a very strong chance a lot of players would transfer after this season.

PODCAST: Veteran PSU hoops reporter Mark Brennan from Lions247 with Fight on State joins “Sports Central with Cory Giger” to discuss everything

 

Interim coach Jim Ferry did a fine job keeping all the players together and focused, and the team competed all season. Had the Lions made the NCAA Tournament, Ferry almost certainly would have been named the head coach, and if that had happened, there’s a good chance a lot of these players would not be transferring.

But once Ferry was not retained, there was nothing left for these players to be loyal to at Penn State. They’re still mad at the administration, and rather than sticking around to see what the next coach has to offer, many have decided to transfer.

Question from S. Dimmick: By nearly every significant player entering the transfer portal, does this send a message that they preferred Jim Ferry as head coach more so than wanting to potentially learn a new system?

A: No, that’s not really it. These players apparently are still angry at Barbour and the administration for how things went down with Chambers. They stayed this season so they could all be together with an “us against the world” mentality, and Ferry was the right guy to lead the team, since he’s been around for several years and the players could trust him. With Ferry now gone, there’s probably not anyone left that the players feel like they can trust.

Question from Laman: Can Shrewsberry find enough quality players to have a team next season?

A: Yes, absolutely. Penn State will have a full roster, no matter how many players transfer. See, the new coach also can turn to the transfer portal to find some quality players who would jump at a chance to play right away at a Big Ten school. That can be a big selling point for Shrewsberry — the promise of immediate playing time — which is something that not all Power 5 programs can offer.

Shrewsberry also has been recruiting high school players and programs for a long time. He has connections. He may not have as much to sell at Penn State as he did at Purdue, but he still should be able to lure some recruits. Now, will they be highly rated guys? Maybe not. But given his experience, and again that there will be immediate playing time, some good prospects will find that appealing.

Question from Ben: Are there any players in the portal or recruits that would follow Shrewsberry to PSU?

A: Yes, I do believe so. How many? We can’t know that yet. But usually, when a coach leaves one school and goes to another, there is some follow factor with recruits. A big one to watch could be 4-star guard Jameel Brown from Philadelphia, who is committed to Purdue for the class of 2022. If Shrewsberry can flip him, it would be big for the team and the program, since it would help with ties to Philly.

Question from Rich: Is new head coach Shrewsberry staying with Purdue until they are eliminated from the NCAA tournament?

A: Yes. Which is a good move on his part, and the right thing to do.

Question from John: Any chance any players decide to stay and not transfer?

A: This is possible. There are going to be tons of basketball players in the transfer portal this offseason, and not all of them are going to find the right home they are looking for. It’s the whole “grass isn’t always greener on the other side” thing.

However, these PSU guys in the portal are good players and will get tons of interest from good programs around the country. Buttrick is the lone exception, but he will still draw interest. The rest of the players were key contributors on a competitive Big Ten team, and they will be feeling a lot of love from many programs wanting their services in the coming days.

I would expect some conversations to take place between Shrewsberry and these players, as well, so he may try to sell them on what he wants to do at Penn State and convince them to stay. Then again, Shrewsberry also might want a clean slate coming into the new job, and realize that if players don’t want to be here, then maybe everyone would be better off if they do leave.

Question from Chris: What type of offense is Shrewsberry going to run, and is he retaining any of the current coaches?

A: I don’t believe any assistant coaches will be retained. Shrewsberry has been around a long time and has lots of connections, so he’ll turn to people he knows when filling out his staff.

Purdue runs an effective motion offense, and Shrewsberry was the offensive coordinator there. He was well known for designing good sets that get people open while spreading the floor, plus Purdue has always been good at getting production from their big men inside.

Question from Josh: With the mass exodus of players, what are realistic expectations for the next year or two?

A: This depends heavily on the type of players Shrewsberry can convince to come to Penn State immediately. If he gets some really good players out of the transfer portal, plus a couple of good recruits, it’s possible that the Lions could be competitive in the Big Ten next season. Not an NCAA Tournament team, but competitive.

If Shrewsberry cannot get enough good players out of the portal, then next season could be really, really rough.

As for two years from now, that’s a lifetime in college basketball these days because of the transfer portal. So, even if Penn State has a really bad year in Shrewsberry’s first season, he once again will have an opportunity to bring in game changers who can help immediately from the portal.

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