Penn State's forwards situation was kind of a mess last season. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-US PRESSWIRE
When Jeff Brooks, Andrew Jones and David Jackson graduated from Penn State following the 2010-11 season, the Nittany Lions were left with some big holes to fill at the forward position. Despite playing time being up for grabs last season for anyone who was willing to take it, there was very little answered about Penn State's forward rotation during the rebuilding year.
Billy Oliver led all PSU bigs with 6.8 points per game in the 2011-12 campaign, but he basically did so by acting like a guard and shooting mostly from beyond the arc. Of the actual interior players, Ross Travis, a rising sophomore from Minnesota, appeared to make strides towards the end of the year that will hopefully lead to a breakout 2012-13 season.
Of course, by "make strides" I only mean to say that Travis scored double digit points in two of his last four games while proving to be by far the most athletic of Penn State's frontcourt players. Travis' season-long stats don't look any less modest (4.4 points per game, 4.2 rebounds) than his mates Jonathan Graham and Sasa Borovnjak, but trust me, Travis is the guy most likely to make an impact this season.
Although Graham had three nice games in February that made it look like he might be coming out of his shell, he remains so clumsy on the offensive side of the ball that I doubt he'll ever be productive there. When presented with a post-up situation Graham either shuffled his feet and traveled, or let go of an ill-fated hook shot that clanged off the rim. That said, Graham is still useful for rebounding and defense and he was only a redshirt freshman last season, so perhaps there is progress to be made on offense.
Sasa Borovnjak, from North Carolina by way of Serbia, came into the program with promise of good things to come, but last season Chambers didn't seem to like him much. Far too often, Borovnjak was relegated to the bench while Graham came on and messed things up. While I admit that Borovnjak could use some work on defense, he's much more adept at post scoring than Graham, and a lot of the time this seemed to be a more dire need for Chambers' squad.
Should Graham or Borovnjak fail to improve much, Travis may be joined in the frontcourt by newcomers Brandon Taylor (6'8", 235) and Donovan Jack (6'9", 200). Taylor has been described as a "mismatch problem" because he can reportedly hit outside shots against other bigs and also overpower smaller defenders in the post. Any type of scoring out of the frontcourt would be useful to Penn State, so look for Taylor to see playing time right away.
Jack, on the other hand, is described as an "energy" guy who can rebound and block shots. Due to his low reported weight, I would be surprised to see him in a major role this season.
In short, Penn State has very little stability in the frontcourt heading into the 2012-13 season. There is much talent in the backcourt, but in order for this team to make noise in the Big Ten, someone up front needs to step up big time. Right now, I would guess that Travis or Taylor would be that guy, but most likely Penn State will struggle at the forward position once again this year.