Since 1999, Penn State has made the NCAA Tournament twice. That was also the last year that the Nittany Lions had a player drafted into the NBA. Which player is most likely to get drafted and break the streak?
Let's first take a look at the current roster, starting with the upperclassman. Terrence Samuel and Shep Garner will be the seasoned leaders of the Nittany Lions in the upcoming season. Garner averaged 14.8 points, 3.2 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game as a junior last season and will most likely lead them in scoring this season. Samuel, on the other hand, is a transfer from UConn. Samuel averaged 20 minutes a game as a sophomore, but only put up 3.6 points a game.
Of the duo, Garner has the better chance of getting drafted into the NBA. Through two seasons at Penn State, Garner owns a sub par 37 percent field goal percentage while shooting just 35 percent from behind the 3-point line. Unless he is able to bump his shooting percentage into the mid-40's, its unlikely that he would get drafted; he could however be an undrafted rookie and make a NBA roster the hard way. With Samuel, increased playing time might help him put up some bigger stats, but it's still pretty unlikely that he will be drafted upon graduation.
Some younger players that have a chance of developing into something more are Payton Banks and Josh Reaves. Banks, a sophomore last season, scored 9.4 points per game, grabbed 4.3 boards and dished out just over an assist a game. Banks will have to improve his shooting percentage and add a bit more muscle to his 6 foot, 6 inch, 220 pound frame if he wishes to make the transition from a dominant player in the Big Ten to becoming a NBA Draft pick someday.
Reaves averaged 6.1 points, 3.6 rebounds and 1.9 assists a game in just 23 minutes a game as a freshman. He was the highest-rated Nittany Lion recruit last season out of Oak Hill Academy, one of the premiere high schools in terms of turning out college basketball talent. If he develop his game with each passing season at Penn State, he could be well on his way to developing into a future NBA pick.
Penn State has another top 100 recruit coming to campus this season in guard Tony Carr. He played at Roman Catholic High School in Philadelphia and is looking to help the Nittany Lions be more competitive after a .500 season last year. Given a couple seasons at the college level, Carr could become the Nittany Lion that finally gets drafted and breaks the long streak. Of course, with younger players like Carr and Reaves, adjusting to the college game and the system run at Penn State will determine the likelihood of them playing professional basketball.
Penn State has been stuck near the bottom of the Big Ten for quite some time now. Current coach Pat Chambers has had just one season over .500 in his five years of coaching. A big reason why the Nittany Lions have been stuck in a pattern of average play is due to a lack of elite athletes. However, the future does offer some hope with the likes of upperclassman Terrence Samuel and Shep Garner helping a young core of Payton Banks, Josh Reaves and incoming freshman Tony Carr.
Of the five, it's more likely that the younger guys, especially Reaves and Carr, get the chance of being drafted into the NBA. Given a few more seasons at the college level, the Penn State men's basketball team might not only turn into a contender for the conference title, but also have a player drafted into the NBA for the first time since 1999.