First, it was John Johnson being suspended indefinitely from the team, and last week it was Brandon Taylor's knee injury. With those two being out, someone needed to pick up their combined 50 minutes a game. The players that have benefited the most from their absences have been redshirt freshmen Payton Banks and Julian Moore, as well as first year junior college transfer Devin Foster. The three of them have put together some great minutes as this Penn State team is showing why it has more depth than any Penn State team possibly ever.
Junior college transfer Devin Foster only saw 13 total minutes of action before John Johnson's suspension in mid January. Foster has been the most direct beneficiary of his teammates suspension. In the last 4 games, Foster has averaged nearly 22 minutes a game. Since then, Foster has led the team in ridiculous layups that aren't supposed to go in. In the last 4 games, Foster has been 8 of 10 shooting, and each attempt has been a layup. He is averaging 5 points a game in that stretch, to go along with 3.3 rebounds and 1 assist. Foster has been running the point when he has been on the court, and he's been doing well at it, taking pressure off leading scorer D.J. Newbill.
Redshirt Freshman Payton Banks from California has also been a beneficiary of the absences. He has logged double digit minutes in each of the last 6 games, including 15 minutes in a 9 point outburst in the win against Minnesota. Banks always seems to make good decisions, and looks so smooth in his play. He has seemed to take over the #2 spot at small forward in Taylor's absence, and will be the future at that position for the Nittany Lions.
Julian Moore might be one of the most intriguing prospects that Penn State has had in a long time. He was a point guard in high school before going through a growth spurt that has him standing at 6'10" tall. He still seems to be growing into his new body, which evident by some occasional sloppy play. But his upside is tremendous. He's the most athletic big man Penn State has had under Coach Chambers, and he has good touch around the rim. He already has good post moves, and has shown the ability to finish in that position. He came into the spotlight after his 10 point outing at Illinois which featured two high flying put back dunks. His offensive efficiency is something to look forward to in coming years.
If both Johnson and Taylor were to come back today, These three players have played well enough that Chambers should feel comfortable putting them into tight games. Chambers now has a bench that goes 10-11 deep, which is a far cry from the 7-8 deep that they would go under former coach Ed Dechellis. Its easy to see why Penn State fans are optimistic about the future. Moore, Banks, Shep Garner and Geno Thorpe have all seen significant minutes recently, and all have at least 2 years of eligibility left after this season. Couple that with the best incoming recruiting class in school history, and Penn State's outlook is looking good for the next few seasons.