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Big additions: PSU officially welcomes hoops transfers Pickett, Cornwall

Graphic from Penn State Athletics: Jalen Pickett (22) and Jaheam Cornwall (11)

Penn State picked up a pair of commitments from highly rated guards out of the transfer portal a week and a half ago, and Monday the school officially welcomed those two to the basketball program.

Jalen Pickett comes to Penn State from Siena, where he was the MAAC Player of the Year two seasons ago. The Nittany Lions also added Jaheam Cornwall from Gardner-Webb, where he was a first-team all-conference performer in the Big South Conference and played for four seasons.

The additions give new Penn State coach Micah Shrewsberry a lot of options at the guard spots. Penn State also has Sam Sessoms returning after a solid 2020-21 season, in which he came off the bench and averaged 8.2 points.

It will be interesting to see what Shrewsberry does at the point and shooting guard spots and how he divides up the playing time between those three players.

Here is some more background information on Pickett and Cornwall, from the Penn State release:

Cornwall, who will join Penn State as a graduate transfer, played four years at Gardner-Webb and was a first-team All-Big South selection as a senior. The 6-0, 175-lb. guard from Brooklyn, New York, will graduate with his degree in sports management this spring. Pickett, a 6-4, 202-lb. guard, earned Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) first-team honors three times and was voted the 2019-20 MAAC Player of the Year at Siena. From Rochester, New York, Pickett will have two years of eligibility remaining.

“Jah is an experienced guard who will be a great addition to our program,” said Shrewsberry. “He has played in a lot of college games, so some of our younger guys can lean on his knowledge. He is a big-time shooter, but he’s also a great decision maker. I’m looking forward to using him in a lot of different ways.”

Averaging double figures in scoring in each of his last two seasons, Cornwall was Gardner-Webb’s top playmaker and the team’s leading scorer in 2020-21 at 14.1 points per game. Ranked in the top 10 of 11 Big South stat categories in his final season, Cornwall raised his assists-per-game average to 3.8 for fourth in the league with an assist-to-turnover ratio that was third best (1.83). In his final four regular-season games, he averaged 20.5 points with a career-best 32 points on 11-of-15 shooting with six treys against Longwood. He opened conference play at Winthrop with a career-high nine assists.

A three-time first-team All-MAAC selection and 2019-20 MAAC Player of the Year, Pickett averaged 15.0 points per game in his three years at Siena with 60 career double-digit scoring games. He was second on the team in both scoring (12.9 ppg) and rebounding (6.3 rpg) in an abbreviated 2020-21 season and was among the MAAC top 15 in numerous individual stat categories.

“We are excited to add Jalen to our family,” said Shrewsberry. “He is a versatile guard who will help us on both ends of the floor. Jalen’s basketball IQ is off the charts, and he uses it to make everyone around him better. He is driven to be a good player and we are looking forward to helping him achieve his goals.”

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As a junior, Pickett led the MAAC in assists per game (4.8) for the third-straight season and paced the MAAC with a 2.21 assist-to-turnover ratio. Pickett also had an impact defensively with 1.14 blocked shots per game, the fifth-highest average for a guard in Division I in 2020-21.

Pickett compiled 1,139 career points in his three seasons with the Saints and reached the 1,000-point mark in just 65 games. His 6.1 assists average is tied for the second-highest individual career average at Siena.

In his sophomore season, Pickett became the only player in the last 25 years to average at least 15 points (15.1), six assists (6.0), one block (1.1) and one steal (1.0) per game according to Heat Check CBB. That season, Pickett became just the second sophomore in conference history to be named MAAC Player of the Year, joining Lionel Simmons of La Salle (1987-88). The Lou Henson All-American tallied double-figure scoring totals in 25 games with four double-doubles and six 20-point outings. His name appeared on the USBWA All-District I and NABC All-District II lists as he ranked seventh nationally in assist-to-turnover ratio (3.30), 20th in assists, and 21st in minutes (36.9).

Pickett’s remarkable debut season at Siena included a record 11 MAAC Rookie of the Week nods on the way to a unanimous 2018-19 MAAC Rookie of the Year selection and ECAC Rookie of the Year honors. In addition, he became the first freshman in more than three decades to claim a spot on the All-MAAC first team and was the first freshman in program history to earn NABC District 1 first-team accolades. Pickett garnered CBS Sports/USBWA National Freshman of the Week after pouring in 46 points and 13 assists in a triple-overtime game against Quinnipiac. His 46 points are the second-highest single-game point total in Siena history. Compared to the nation’s freshmen, Pickett finished the season ranked third in assists and fourth in both assist-to-turnover ratio and steals.

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Cory Giger is a 15-year veteran of the Penn State beat and a journalist with 28 years of experience. He has won more than 100 state and national journalism awards during his career, plus he's a voter for the Heisman Trophy in football and Wooden Award in basketball.

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