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Penn State star Jalen Pickett named an AP All-American, breaks 70-year streak

Finally, the All-American drought at Penn State has come to an end.

AP All-American

STATE COLLEGE, PA — On Tuesday, ahead of Thursday’s matchup against Texas A&M, the Penn State basketball team received some great news surrounding star guard Jalen Pickett. Pickett, who has been instrumental in getting his Penn State Nittany Lions to the NCAA tournament with a 22-13 record this season, was named a second team AP All-American.

Penn State’s Jalen Picket named an AP All-American (second team)

Penn State basketball fans know that Jalen Pickett is a star; finally, the rest of the nation is starting to take note as well. On Tuesday, Jalen Pickett was named a second team AP All-American — Pickett also earned All-American honors from USBWA and NABC, meaning he was named an All-American by three of the four outlets used to determine consensus All-Americans.

The last (and only) time Penn State basketball had an All-American was in the mid-1950s when former Nittany Lion legend Jesse Arnelle received this honor. Now, nearly 70 years after the fact, Jalen Pickett has become the second-ever Penn State basketball player to be named an All-American. Additionally, he is the only Nittany Lion to ever earn USBWA District Player of the Year honors.

Pickett is one of the best players in the nation

Right now, Penn State’s Jalen Pickett is the only player in the country averaging at least 17 points (17.9) per game, seven rebounds (7.3) per game and six assists (6.7) per game. In a mere 66 games with Micah Shrewsberry and the Nittany Lions, Pickett has tallied 1,038 points, 390 rebounds, and 369 assists.

Ahead of Penn State’s first NCAA tournament berth in over a decade, more great news came the Nittany Lions’ way with some massive honors, including Pickett breaking Penn State’s long All-American drought.

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Scouting report on Penn State Basketball center Qudus Wahab

Learning more about Qudus Wahab.

Penn State basketball, Qudus Wahab

The second player I’m covering in the scouting series is the 5th-year senior from Georgetown Qudus Wahab. The projected starting center may be the deciding factor for which way the Penn State basketball season goes. With a lot of inexperience behind him and some good centers in the conference, Wahab’s play is going to be crucial for the Nittany Lions.

Scouting report on Penn State Basketball center Qudus Wahab

Wahab comes to Penn State to close out what has been an up-and-down college ride so far. Qudus was a top 150 recruit back in the 2019 high school recruiting class and chose to play for Georgetown. After a big sophomore year where he averaged about 13 points and 8 rebounds, Wahab decided to enter the transfer portal looking for a better program. He transferred to Maryland, but after a disappointing season that saw him play just 19 minutes a game, he entered the portal again, this time heading back to Georgetown. In his 4th season, he bounced back from his bad year at Maryland, but still did not reach his sophomore-year level, averaging 9.6 points and 7.1 rebounds a game.

He got more post touches this year than he had in the past and his efficiency reflected that, dropping from a career 58% shooting mark to just 51.3%. The Georgetown team was bad with a record of 7-25. Their offense ran terribly and everyone suffered because of it. Wahab comes to Penn State with less of a burden offensively and some very talented guards to play with in Ace Baldwin and Kanye Clary which should help increase his efficiency.

When you watch the highlights Wahab looks like your average traditional center. Often the biggest player on the floor he appears to be a physical presence down low on both ends. It looks like he loves to work in the post and he isn’t the most athletic player. Highlights rarely show the full picture, however, so let’s dig a little deeper and check out some full games. Again, shoutout to the amazing College Basketball Scouting channel for a good breakdown of the numbers of Wahab’s senior season.

The first game I watched was a January 24th matchup against DePaul. Wahab played 22 minutes in this matchup finishing with 9 points on 2-6 shooting from the field and 5-6 shooting from the line. He also added 10 rebounds and a block to the box score. The main thing that jumps out of this game is the style that Georgetown was running last year. They ran a ton of iso-heavy plays and rarely used ball screen actions. Wahab seemed to spend the majority of the game in the dunker’s spot or fighting for position inside. In the season Wahab operated in a post up 48% of the time resulting in 0.93 points per possession, or PPP, which is 67th percentile. He looks comfortable there but it is not the most efficient style of offense, which was evident in this game with his poor shooting from the field. He is in roll/pop action only 15% of the time resulting in 0.98 PPP which is 45th percentile.

That percentage should skyrocket playing in Rhoades’ offense and, with the improved guard play around him in Ace and Kanye, that PPP will improve as well. The other thing that is really apparent here is his rebounding skills. He has a nose for the ball off the boards and he gets work done there on both ends. In this game, his 10 rebounds were evenly split, 5 defensive and 5 offensive. Wahab’s offensive rebounding is gonna be a huge factor for a Penn State team that has had problems there in the past. He had a 13% offensive rebounding rate last year. Comparatively, Penn State as a team had a 17.7% rebounding rate last season. Wahab’s defense was not the sharpest in this game. He looked lethargic and was out of position a number of times, but playing for a team as bad as Butler can take away your motivation to really try. This next game we are gonna look at provides some evidence that it is a motivation issue and not an ability issue.

Game 2 was a matchup against the future champion UConn Huskies on February 4th. The game ended in a loss for Georgetown, but the Hoyas played a tough game, falling 68-62. The game is this close was in no small part thanks to Qudus Wahab. Matching up against arguably the best center rotation in the country of Adama Sanogo and Donovan Clingan, Wahab played 27 minutes scoring 10 points on 5-9 shooting from the field with 6 rebounds and 2 blocks. Wahab looked much more motivated and active in this game. He seemed to take pride in the matchup and really held his own on both ends. He could not get super far inside easily against Sanogo but he was able to get to his spot near the right elbow for a few smooth post hooks. The post hook is a solid weapon for Wahab. He goes to it near the right elbow for 14% of his shot attempts and he hits them at a respectable 50% from the field. That shot has the makings of a great low-shot clock bailout play to try and salvage some bad possessions. On defense, he was much more engaged. He defended his individual matchups well but also was an excellent team defender. He always seemed to be in the right position this game and was hustling around nonstop. His defense was the biggest reason why Georgetown was able to hold UConn to just 68 points. With the right motivation, Wahab showed he can rise to the occasion.

What will Wahab’s role be at Penn State?

With Penn State, it will be a wildly different role for Wahab on both ends. Playing with a guard like Ace Baldwin who operated in the pick-and-roll 48% of the time last season should give Wahab a lot of new looks on offense. Wahab seems to have a good feel for space and is crafty inside to finish at the rim despite his lack of athleticism. He already shot 69% of his shots at the rim on 54% efficiency, and, with a more PnR-heavy offense and better guards, we could see both those numbers improve at PSU. On defense, the transition is a bit more complicated. The Rhoades’ defense uses a lot of pressure concepts that will be a new experience for Wahab. It is a very high-energy defense that requires a lot of hustle. Wahab has struggled with hustle at times, but with very little experience behind him, he is going to have to really buy into the system for the Penn State basketball team to be successful.

Wahab is going to be one of the most important players for the Penn State basketball team this season, for better or worse. Last year for him was not great, but we have seen some fantastic play from Wahab at times throughout his 4-year career. With improved guard play and a more coherent system, Qudus could be in for a nice comeback in his final college season.

Thank you for reading Basic Blues Nation. Please follow us on Facebook and Twitter for the latest news and insights on your favorite Penn State athletics. For feedback, questions, concerns, or to apply for a writing position, please email us at basicbluesnation@gmail.com or direct message us on our social media. Also, be sure to check out our new site shop. It’s due to your support that we can become one of the market’s fastest-growing Penn State sports outlets!

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What to takeaway from the Penn State basketball Bahamas trip

What are the big takeaways from the Penn State basketball Bahamas trip?

Penn State basketball,

It has been about a week since the Penn State basketball team went 2-0 on their foreign trip to the Bahamas, beating the Bahamas Pirates and the University of Victoria. It is time to reflect and see what the trip taught us, and what we still don’t know.

Kanye Clary stole the show

The biggest story of the week was almost certainly the play of sophomore guard Kanye Clary. Clary got the surprising start in both games alongside the senior PG Ace Baldwin in an unconventional 2 PG starting backcourt. He excelled in this role, torching the opposing defenses with his scoring and passing. In game 1 he scored 13 points on 5-11 shooting with 7 assists, 5 rebounds, and 2 steals. He missed a couple of easy finishes that game, but his ability to get to the rim and his improvement as a playmaker jumped off the screen. Game 2 is where he really shined. He scored a team-high 22 points on an extremely efficient 10/13 mark from the field with 5 assists and 5 rebounds tacked on. This performance earned him some praise across the college basketball world including from Jon Rothstein.

Kanye Clary = Under-The-Radar Breakout Guy.

Zach Hicks = Under-The-Radar Transfer.

Penn State = Big Ten Sleeper.

— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) August 10, 2023

The defense simply just had no answer for him. Clary’s tight handle and incredible speed allow him to get to the rim at will, and even if you manage to wall him off he very easily transitions into a smooth pull-up mid-range that he can get off even over height. The Ace-Clary backcourt pairing was the one I was hoping for, and it seems well on its way to becoming reality thanks in no small part to the apparent emergence of Kanye Clary.

While Kanye was the star, the offense as a whole looked a lot more advanced than expected at this stage. Obviously, the level of the opponents affected this, but even considering that the passing and chemistry on display were impressive. It started with the VCU connection between Ace Baldwin and Nick Kern. When they shared the floor together they felt perfectly in rhythm. Nick would cut at the perfect times and Ace would hit him inside resulting in many easy finishes at the rims or passes to the big inside. Beyond just Nick though the offense had a lot of movement. There was almost constantly someone cutting and filing the spot allowing for Ace or Kanye to punish any defensive lapse. Everyone worked to find the open man and seemed to understand their role very well. Whether that is Zach Hicks ready to fire it up at all times as the starting lineups go to knock down shooter, or D’Marco Dunn ready to enter the game and put some points on the board as a spark off the bench.

The defense on their hand was a little less polished. This is not to say it was bad, but there are clearly some things to work out. Rhoades runs a unique defensive system that is not easy to pick up right away. His defense is a variation of Shaka Smart’s “chaos” defense which utilizes a lot of trapping, full and half-court pressing, and gambling for turnovers. Not every gamble is gonna work and you will give up some easy buckets, but it is offset by how much “chaos” you are causing. Many players on the team are still a bit too cautious, not fully committing to the chaos, and still trying to make sure they can recover. However, this just creates easy pathways to get scored on because the pressing isn’t as effective and they can’t recover as well. It will take some time for a majority of the roster to adjust to this new mindset and be ok with getting beat at times. We can look at VCU under Rhoades and see how effective this defense is, but we can just look at Ace’s performance this past week. He racked up 6 steals over the two games and just completely destroyed the rhythm of both offenses.

Like Ace, there were a few more standouts on both ends of the floor throughout the week. The first is fellow VCU transfer, Nick Kern. Kern showed what it looks like when defenses guard him normally instead of in the paint as they did at VCU, and it looks great. Kern scored 17 in the first game and 16 in the second game, missing just 4 shots in total during the week. His speed and finishing at the rim make him an ideal cutter and inside play finisher. He did not test out the jumper in these two games unfortunately, but if he can knock down open threes at a reasonable clip he could be in for a big junior jump. The other standout was UNC transfer Puff Johnson. Puff had a very solid all-around week, showing off the scoring with 13 points in game 1 and 15 in game 2. He also looked good on the boards grabbing 13 total rebounds. His versatility jumped out, playing 3-5 during the week and defending up and down the lineup with effectiveness. The most encouraging showing for Puff was the shooting form deep. He has struggled from range in his NCAA career but will be asked to provide spacing for the Nittany Lions this year and looked the part, knocking down 4-7 shots from three-point range.

What will the offense look like in 2023?

While there were a lot of positives, there are still a lot of things we do not know. The number one question mark still remaining in my opinion is the offensive style this team will play. As mentioned before there was a lot more movement than what is typical of a Mike Rhoades team, which is encouraging. However, it is really impossible to lock down how much of that was just circumstance because of the lack of big depth. Centers Qudus Wahab and Favour Aire were unable to participate in the foreign trip leaving just one center, Demetrius Lilley, on the roster. This led to a lot of small ball lineups with guys like Puff and Leo O’Boyle playing the 5. In these lineups, we say a lot more free-flowing offense with a ton of dribble handoffs, or DHOs. A DHO-style offense is much more in line with the current trend of professional basketball and what we saw last year under coach Shrewsberry. Rhoades is traditionally a standard pick-and-roll coach, which we did see at times when Lilley was in but still not a ton. At this stage, it looks like Rhoades has evolved his offense a bit to fit his new personal, but with the unusual playing circumstances, it is impossible to say for sure.

The lack of big depth also made determining the current center rotation possible. Back when I previewed the Bahamas trip, the two biggest questions I had were who would be the starting shooting guard and how would the center rotation work out. While we got a surprising and fun answer for question 1, the absence of Wahab and Aire made question 2 impossible to answer. To his credit, Lilley looked solid. He has clearly transformed his body and is moving much more fluently on the floor. He had a few nice finishes inside and boxed out on the boards well. However, he still looked a step slow on defense, and he was not on the same page with Ace leading to some turnovers. Unfortunately, it is not even fair to judge Lilley in these games because there were more unnatural circumstances. The biggest one being the Bahamas Pirates did not have a center. Lilley, an average to maybe even undersized center in his own right, was easily the biggest player on the floor at all times. An environment he likely will never see in college play this year.

In an admittedly stupid exercise, I would like to break down my personal rotation prediction based on a tiny two-gamed sample against two inferior opponents.

Starters:

PG- Ace Baldwin

SG- Kanye Clary

SF- Zach Hicks

PF- Puff Johnson

C- Qudus Wahab

The Ace-Kanye backcourt is one I have been dreaming of since Ace committed and it looked the part this week. The way this pair can play off each other’s passing and driving talents to score the rock themselves or set up their teammates will give the team their best shot at a good offense. It will just be important to stagger their minutes to keep one on the floor at all times to run the show on offense. With two starting guards that do not love to shoot, Hicks is a necessity in the starting group. His shooting from deep will help provide the spacing Ace and Kanye need to operate. But Hicks won’t be enough which is why Puff Johnson joins him at the forward sports. It was a very tough decision deciding between Puff and Kern to start, as it seems to be for Rhoades as well with both starting 1 game each in the Bahamas. The need for shooting ultimately gives Puff the spot, despite being a bad shooter in the past. Puff is willing to shoot threes, and Kern just isn’t at this stage. Despite not playing this past week, Wahab, the 5th year senior from Georgetown, is still the obvious choice to anchor the team down low at the 5.

The reserves:

6th man: Nick Kern

BE: D’Marco Dunn

BE: Leo O’Boyle

BE: Lilley/Aire

Whoever did not start between Puff and Kern was the easy choice for the 6th man and in this case, it is Kern. Nick brings an instant energy to the court which will be huge to spark the team off the bench. Dunn as mentioned above will likely be relied on as the scorer off the bench. If there is one thing this roster lacks it is on-ball scoring outside of Ace and Clary. If Dunn can live up to some of the expectations he had as a top 100 prospect like he flashed last week that would be absolutely massive for the offensive potential of this squad. Leo fills the shooter off-the-bench role Rhoades has used before and will play just to space the floor and hit threes. If his shooting starts off slow he could lose this spot very quickly. With Aire not playing, it is impossible to say who has the edge right now at the backup center. Whoever ends up being better be prepared because they are going to have to play quite a bit with Wahab’s tendency to get in foul trouble.

It is important to remember after all of this that this is all based on a two-game sample against bad competition in August. It is an impossibly small sample and everything that I took away is based on that small sample. We still have a long way to go till the season tips off and a lot of things can change by then. The week at the Bahamas just gave us a fun sneak peek at what the team looks like at this stage and gave us some hints about what the team could look like this winter.

Thank you for reading Basic Blues Nation. Please follow us on Facebook and Twitter for the latest news and insights on your favorite Penn State athletics. For feedback, questions, concerns, or to apply for a writing position, please email us at basicbluesnation@gmail.com or direct message us on our social media. Also, be sure to check out our new site shop. It’s due to your support that we can become one of the market’s fastest-growing Penn State sports outlets!

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Penn State Basketball defeats University of Victoria 103-77

Kayne Clary’s 22 points led the way for the Nittany Lions.

Penn State basketball, Kayne Clary

The Penn State basketball squad goes 2-0 during its week in the Bahamas, picking up a 103-77 win over the University of Victoria Thursday. Five Nittany Lions scored in double figures, as Kanye Clary led the way with 22 points.

Penn State basketball gets blowout win to wrap up international trip

While this game was still not at a Big Ten level, it was much more competitive than Tuesday’s matchup at the Baha Mar Hoops Summer League. The Vikes actually had a center and played a much more organized style of basketball, leading to a much more standard game. Led by Canada West player of the year Diego Maffia, the Vikes were able to keep pace with Penn State for stretches on offense and throw a bunch of different looks at the Nittany Lions on defense. However, they were clearly overmatched by Penn State’s pressuring defense, shooting just 35.1% from the field and turning it over 18 times.

The Penn State offense was hitting on all cylinders this game. The Nittany Lions shot 58.9% from the floor and a blazing 40.7% from downtown. While there are definitely chemistry issues to work out, the passing already looks like a strength of this team. The Lions pilled on 28 assists as a team in a selfless effort from everyone on the roster. Everyone on this team is moving well off the ball, and the guards are eager to hit the cutter toward the rim to score or dish it off to the low man. Leading the way were guards Kanye Clary and Ace Baldwin.

Kanye Clary leads the way for the Lions

Kanye Clary again started alongside Baldwin in the backcourt and showed he is ready for a second-year jump. Clary was an efficient scorer, shooting 10-13 from the field and 1-3 from deep to get 22 points. Clary also showed off the all-around game to go with the scoring, raking up 5 assists and 5 rebounds.

With his speed and handle, Clary can get to the rim on almost every possession, and tonight, he made the right reads to go with it. He had dazzling finishes and some absolute dimes at the rim as he directed the Vikes’ defense. There will likely be some inconsistency with a second-year player. Still, Clary is looking to be a significant contributor this season after a solid end to his freshman year.

Baldwin flashes despite poor shooting night

Like last game, Ace Baldwin shot the ball poorly, going just 1-6 from the field in a 4-point performance. Despite this, he was still one of Penn State’s best players. Baldwin carved up the Victoria defense all night, finishing with 10 assists. He also controlled the game on defense, acting as the main point of attack defender and picking up 4 steals. When Baldwin is on the floor, he instantly elevates the Nittany Lions on both ends of the court. It will be huge for Penn State basketball to have a player who can be an impact player even if the shot isn’t falling.

Johnson and Hicks step up

Puff Johnson got a starting spot Thursday after a strong performance off the bench in the last game and did not disappoint. He filled the stat sheet with 15 points, 6 rebounds, 2 steals, and a block. Johnson was very effective as a finisher, shooting 6-8 from the field, including a strong 3-4 showing from deep. Johnson once again showed that he can play up and down the lineup with his skill and size. He has looked the part of an essential two-way player.

Joining Johnson in the forward spots was Zach Hicks, who had a huge bounce back from a disappointing first game. After making just 2 shots on Tuesday, Hicks knocked down 7 jumpers on 9 attempts, including 5 makes from deep for 19 points. Hicks’s smooth jumper was on full display today as he fired up shots whenever he had a sliver of space, which is exactly what this Nittany Lions squad needs from him. There will be ups and downs, just like with every shooter, but Hicks looks ready to be Penn State’s go-to three-point specialist this season.

Penn State gets solid contributions from the bench

Off the bench, it was a pair of good performances from Nick Kern Jr. and D’Marco Dunn. Kern and Baldwin showed off their VCU chemistry, with Kern getting hit on the back door cuts all game. He was incredible tonight at attacking space or finding the big inside, finishing with 16 points on 7-10 shooting, 6 rebounds, and 2 assists. Dunn continued to flash his scoring ability off the bench with several nice drives and a smooth jumper. He finished with 9 points on 4-8 shooting, including 1-3 from deep. He also flashed impressive defense with a huge block inside and perimeter pressure.

Watching this team, they are clearly a group of transfers learning as they go. We are still seeing a lot of miscommunication, especially on defense, as everyone attempts to adapt to Mike Rhoades’s aggressive trap system. However, it is easy to get excited after these two matchups. The positions and roles seem to be falling into place, and the chemistry is already building up nicely. Penn State basketball will now head back home and start to prepare for the beginning of fall camp after a successful international trip.

Thank you for reading Basic Blues Nation. Please follow us on Facebook and Twitter for the latest news and insights on your favorite Penn State athletics. For feedback, questions, concerns, or to apply for a writing position, please email us at basicbluesnation@gmail.com or direct message us on our social media. Also, be sure to check out our new site shop. It’s due to your support that we can become one of the market’s fastest-growing Penn State sports outlets!

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