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Penn State Basketball

ESPN’s Jay Bilas Breaks Down Penn State Basketball’s Draft Picks

Penn State Nittany Lions guard Jalen Pickett (22) January 21, 2023 David Hague/NSN

Penn State isn’t known as a basketball school, but it was a basketball school Thursday night.

For the first time in program history, Penn State had two players selected in the NBA Draft.

Jalen Pickett went to the Denver Nuggets at pick No. 32, and Seth Lundy followed 14 picks later, going to the Atlanta Hawks.

These were the two best players on last season’s Penn State squad that accomplished multiple milestones; first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2011, first Big Ten Championship Game berth since 2011 and first NCAA Tournament win since 2001.

ESPN’s Jay Bilas, arguably college basketball’s most prominent analyst, was on ESPN’s panel live from the Draft in Brooklyn’s Barclay’s center.

He analyzed Pickett and Lundy, saying Pickett has a “great balance of how to play.

“I mentioned Jalen Brunson before when talking about the (backing down defenders) that Jaime Jaquez Jr. uses at UCLA. That’s a lot of what Jalen Pickett can do as well,” Bilas said soon after the Nuggets took Pickett.

This is in reference to “booty ball,” a term for an offensive player backing down a defensive player in the post. Pickett did that often at Penn State, so much so that Illinois coach Brad Underwood complained– twice– about NCAA rules allowing Pickett to do that for more than five seconds.

As Bilas alluded to, “booty ball” was part of Brunson’s game at Villanova.

He helped the Wildcats to two national championships in three seasons and now is the face of the New York Knicks, averaging 24 PPG last season.

What impresses Bilas most about Pickett is his ability to facilitate. A 6-foot-4 player who ended his college career with more than 2,000 points usually isn’t known for passing, but Pickett’s an exception. Last season, Pickett set Penn State’s single-season mark for assists with 243, and his 6.6 assists per game average was fifth in the country.

“He makes other people around him better,” Bilas said, “he guards, rebounds, but I think the best attribute he has is the passing.”

Bilas’ breakdown of Lundy was more straightforward: The guy can shoot.

“He’s a pure shooter,” Bilas said. “High release on his shot, just over 20 percent from three, and he can rebound his position. But the thing that makes him valuable as the 46th pick to Atlanta is he can shoot the lights out. He has really deep range… he’s a really good shooter.”

Fellow analysts Andraya Carter also praised Lundy, citing his performance at the NBA Combine, where he and Pickett performed last month.

“I was impressed by Seth Lundy at the combine,” Carter said, “I thought he was one of the hardest workers in the drills… on catch-and-shoot, everything was game speed.”

“Some guys are kind of floating during the shooting drills. He’s going as fast as possible in every single one. I was impressed by him.”

Pickett and Lundy impressed Penn State fans many nights over the two seasons they played together.

Time will tell how impressive their NBA careers will be, but in any case, Thursday was a great night for Penn State basketball.

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