The 2016-2017 season may be one of the most anticipated in Penn State basketball history. Pat Chambers has assembled on of the, if not the, best recruiting classes in Penn State history. The recruiting class is headlined by 3 recruits from Philadelphia's Roman Catholic High School, as well as Joe Hampton from Oak Hill Academy.
The downside to such a deep recruiting class for the Nittany Lions will be their lack of experience in 2016-2017. Pat Chambers will lose senior leadership from four seniors, most importantly Brandon Taylor and Donovan Jack. Not only does Chambers lose four seniors, but there won't be one senior replacing them in 2016, as Penn State had no juniors last season.
It will be important with such a talented freshman class for someone to step up and take the lead in the off season. Chambers can't let this class get off to a bad start because of a lack of leadership in the locker room. While Brandon Taylor's 16.3 points and 6.5 rebounds will be missed, his presence on the court and in the locker room will be as well. Taylor has been there for 4 of Chambers' 5 seasons at Penn State, and was a calming presence on the court. When the offense was struggling and the Lions needed to slow things down and get a good look, they often went through Taylor.
While Donovan Jack didn't put up significant numbers in his time as a Nittany Lion, he was another 4-year player under Chambers who will be disappearing from the locker room in 2016. The other two Penn State seniors had transferred in the middle of their college careers.
Heading in to the 2016-2017 season, the most seasoned player on Penn State's roster will be rising junior Shep Garner. The Chester, PA native played over 35 minutes per game last season and was a huge part of the Nittany Lions offense. Garner will have to take over as the unquestioned team leader if Penn State wants to continue to build on their 7-11 conference record last season.
It will be important for Garner to set the tone for the incoming freshman class to continue the mentality Chambers has built playing hard every second and not backing down to the powers of the Big 10. Fellow junior Peyton Banks will also be relied upon to be a leader as he enters his third season in the program after playing 29 minutes per game last year.
The wild card in this equation is incoming freshman sensation Tony Carr. While Carr will be inexperienced, he may be asked to play point guard for a large part of games as Garner is sometimes at his best playing off the ball. If there was ever a time for a freshman to become a leader on a team, it will be Carr for Penn State next season. He needs to be not just a leader for his excellent recruiting class that features two other players from his high school, but also for a Nittany Lions team that will lack the presence of a senior.
Without a senior, one might think that Chambers' inexperienced team may break down against high level opponents (including a non-conference matchup with Duke). The Nittany Lions, however, have the potential to have two guards on the floor for 30 plus minutes a game that can both bring a calming affect and slow the game down to get good shots late. This can override the lack of seniors on the team, and give Pat Chambers consistent leadership on the court in 2016-2017.