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2015-16 Big Ten Preview: Penn State Nittany Lions Wings

Brandon Taylor headlines a group that needs to overachieve if Penn State is going to compete in the Big Ten this year.

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

When Penn State has been successful in the past decade, the team has had non-guards who can create their own shots. The 2009 NIT championship team was led by Jamelle Cornley, the undersized power forward who played more like a swingman with his ability to pose a threat from beyond the free throw line. In 2011, Penn State evolved from Big Ten also-ran to NCAA Tournament team thanks to Jeff Brooks, the talented small forward who finally translated his talent into skills that allowed him to stretch the floor and attack the basket.

Brandon Taylor, senior

For the 2015 version of the Nittany Lions to be anything special, Taylor will need to make a leap the way Brooks did in the past. Is the senior capable of rising up and becoming a scorer that the young Penn State guards can dump the ball to? He'll have to play a lot more efficiently than he did in 2014-15, when Taylor connected on just 37 percent of his field goal attempts. Whether he was bombing away from three-point range or trying to overpower smaller defenders in the post, Taylor never become a consistent force for the Lions. Instead he drifted in and out of the offense to finish at just 9.1 points per game. At least that's good enough to make him Penn State's second leading returning scorer.

Theoretically, Taylor can become a matchup nightmare who can force larger defenders away from the basket and back down shorter ones, but he hasn't turned into that yet. Perhaps this season is the one that sees Taylor finally break out.

Payton Banks, sophomore

The sophomore from California will need to improve his game in order to see the floor in 2015-16. Last season he averaged just 8.7 minutes per game, and that probably would have been less if head coach Pat Chambers knew how many spot-up three-pointers he was going to miss. Banks mostly just set up in the corner when he was on the floor, but he went just 11-for-39 from long distance. That's obviously not good enough for a guy who hasn't done much more than shoot in his career so far. For Banks to become a reliable backup, he's got to at least become a shooting threat and work on his inside-the-arc game as well.

Deividas Zemgulis, freshman

Shooting from beyond the arc (and in general) was a major issue for the Lions last year, but one guy who can help turn that around is Zemgulis, a new recruit from Lithuania who is said to have a smooth jumper despite his six-and-a-half-foot frame. Other than that, we don't know much about Zemgulis. Although he is the least heralded member of Chambers's three-man recruiting class, he can carve out a major role for himself right away if he's able to knock down long jumpers.


Proponents of the Nittany Lions this year will point out their exciting young guards and deep forward rotation. The wings aren't the most interesting part of the roster, but if Taylor can refine his offensive game and Zemgulis can realize his shooting potential, this group can help Penn State overachieve in 2015-16.