It’s been a good year of recruiting for Penn State. After locking down 4-star recruits Josh Reaves and Mike Watkins for his 2015 class, coach Pat Chambers has been active all summer, adding highly touted players Tony Carr and Lamar Stevens to what looks like a very impressive 2016 group. While all of these commitments have Penn State fans rightfully excited for the future, they have also overshadowed one of the team’s lesser-known, yet still important new recruits. That would be Deividas "Davis" Zemgulis, the 3-star Lithuanian forward who joins Reaves and Watkins as the third newcomer on this year’s roster.
What exactly does Zemgulis bring to the table? While he isn’t nearly as hyped as his new teammates, the 6’6" wing could still be a big part of the Lions moving forward. Let’s take a look at his skill set and see where he fits in.
One of Penn State’s biggest problems throughout Chambers’ four-year tenure has been its lack of 3-point shooting. The Lions shot just 33.4 percent from behind the arc last season and lost their top shooter in D.J. Newbill (37 percent) to graduation. That’s where Zemgulis fits in. While he has solid size, the Lithuanian’s calling card is his deep shooting range. In fact, Penn State (as well as nearly every other major program) knew very little about Zemgulis until assistant coach Dwayne Anderson watched him knock down a slew of threes in a game that featured another player the Lions were going after. Although it may seem a little concerning that Zemgulis received so little attention from the rest of the country, it’s not as surprising when you remember he’s lived in the United States for less than three years. Also, there’s this video here:
Yes, there’s nobody guarding him, but you can’t say that wasn’t impressive. Further more, Zemgulis appears to be a fairly versatile player who can pass and isn’t afraid to battle for rebounds in the post. So while he’ll be used mostly as a perimeter shooter in the near future, he definitely has room to grow. And if Penn State fans have any doubts about his work ethic or loyalty, here’s quote from him from this story on City of Basketball Love.
"I came from nothing," Zemgulis said, "And now I have Penn State." Does that sound like a committed player or what? Penn State should feel lucky to have landed this guy.
Areas of Improvement
Though a great shooter, Zemgulis isn’t the quickest player and he’ll need to find ways to expand his game on offense as his career progresses. And while he’s a willing defender and rebounder, he’ll likely go through some growing pains in those areas as he adjusts to playing at the next level. He’s reportedly a very hard-worker who strives to get better and he’ll need to utilize those qualities while playing in a conference that will force him to guard and be guarded by a top player on a near nightly basis.
The good news for Zemgulis is that he won’t be thrown into the fire right away. Senior captain Brandon Taylor will be the team’s starting small forward and with sophomore Payton Banks providing depth, Zemgulis will be able to spend most of his freshman season learning and developing on the bench. That doesn’t mean he definitely won’t be needed, though. The Lions desperately need someone to provide 3-point shooting and Zemgulis could help lessen the burden on Taylor and Shep Garner if he proves he can produce early on. In the future the 3-star recruit should form a solid forward duo with the bruising Watkins.
Expect him to be a big part of the team’s future heading forward.