Let's face it, this year has been a complete disaster by any objective measure for Penn State. After a one loss nonconference slate, the Nittany Lions have struggled to find the win column in conference play. They are currently sitting 1 game ahead of Big Ten newcomer Rutgers for last place.
The greatest weakness for the Penn State Nittany Lions this year was a lack of a consistent second (and third) scorer. No player outside of DJ Newbill was able to average double figures/ And D.J. Newbill isn't coming back next year (Ross Travis too). Without a prominent scorer coming back next year, Penn State will have a less one dimensional attack. Some young players will have to increase their production significantly, while the upperclassmen will be looked to lead the team on the court and off. It's time to start evaluating the younger players and the upperclassmen to see where they stand on next year's team.
The Returning Starters
In this category are players who started at least a third of this year's games. The players will be listed with next year's eligibility.
Shep Garner (SO) Guard
Garner has had an up and down freshman year. He started the season with 5 straight double figure scoring games, but he seemed to hit the freshman wall in February as Big Ten play has taken it's toll on him. But Garner has still visibly grown as the season has gone on. He is taking less 25 foot threes than he did earlier in the season, and has gotten better at playing within the offense. He has learned when to attack the rim and when to pull it back. His three point percentage will undoubtedly go up next year as is shot selection should improve from year one to year two. As the point guard, he needs to be on the same page as Chambers so he can be an extension of Chambers on the court. Another offseason should help take care of this.
Brandon Taylor (SR) Forward
Injuries were the storyline of Taylor's campaign 2014-15 campaign. He started out the Big Ten season with a slump, but by mid January, Taylor had found is stride and was feeling confident. But near the end of the Rutgers game, Taylor went down with a knee injury. He would miss the next two games, came back to face a tough Maryland team. He started right where he left off against Rutgers, going 3 for 6 from three in each of the next three games. Taylor has slumped again late in the season, but this may be attributed to lack of confidence in his leg after appearing to reaggravate the injury in a game. Taylor will be the veteran leader of next season's team, and will need to be a consistent scorer. Penn State can't afford for Taylor to go through some of the extended slumps he has had in the past 3 years.
Jordan Dickerson (SR) Center
At this point, we know what Jordan Dickerson has to offer. He is never going to be a major threat to score, but he can be a consistent threat down low defensively. He has at least 1 point and 1 block in each of the last 9 games. He will probably receive similar minutes next season, and will be counted on to defend some of the Big Ten's best centers
Donovon Jack (SR) Center
Jack has regressed significantly in his junior season, and may find himself on the outside looking in for next season's frontcourt depth chart. Freshman Julian Moore has surpassed Donovon Jack on the depth chart late in the season, and with top 100 center Mike Watkins coming in next season, it's hard to see what Jack's role on the team will be going forward.
Geno Thorpe (JR) Guard
The current sophomore guard has really come on strong in the latter half of the season. Thorpe has always been a lock down defender, but he was raw offensively. He has the talent, but hasn't been able to consistently make jump shots. But in the last few weeks, his three point percentage has improved, and he has scored in double figures in 5 of the last 7 games. Geno and Shep are a nice compliment in the back court, as Shep is more of a shooter while Geno is a slasher. Incoming freshman Josh Reaves will compete for minutes behind Shep and Geno, and may even compete for a starting spot.
Garner, Taylor and Thorpe will be the main pieces on next year's team, but there are other returning players that will make an impact.
Julian Moore (SO) Center
Moore got his first career start in Saturday's loss against Iowa. He is Penn State's most offensively gifted center, but he still has a lot of work to do. He will need to put on some weight in the offseason, and he will have to continue to work on his post moves. He has the soft touch that is needed for a scoring center, now he just needs to figure out ways to use those skills in a game situation.
Payton Banks (SO) Forward
Banks had a rather pedestrian freshman year. His shooting percentage is a mere 28% from the floor for the season. He has a long way to go to catch up to the speed and physicality of the Big Ten. But you can't dismiss his confidence, as he's not a afraid to take the tough shot or drive it to the hoop.
There are a lot of young pieces on the team that are going to be in Happy Valley for the next few seasons. many of them have shown glimpses of being viable Big Ten players, but it's going to take some growth and experience for the Nittany Lions to flourish, and if this season is any indication, they have a lot to work on in this offseason to be able to compete next year in the Big Ten.