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Can Penn State Basketball Overcome Departures to Improve In 2017-18?

NCAA Basketball: Maryland at Penn State
Penn State Nittany Lions forward Payton Banks (0) shoots the ball as Maryland Terrapins guard Kevin Huerter (4) defends during the first half at Bryce Jordan Center. Penn State defeated Maryland 70-64.
Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Last season the Penn State basketball team did not have a lone senior on the squad and finished with a 15-18 record (6-12 in Big Ten).

The Nittany Lions will return much of their core group, which includes five sophomores and led by Big Ten All-Freshman team member last year Tony Carr. Three of the Lions’ top five scorers from last season’s team are sophomores with their first full summer in the gym under their belts, which could pay dividends down the road.

However, despite returning that core and senior guard Shep Garner — one of two seniors on this year’s team — Penn State did incur a couple of losses throughout the offseason.

Payton Banks

Banks and Terrence Samuel — both juniors last season — used the graduate transfer rule and opted to head down south and join South Florida. Banks was Penn State’s fourth-leading scorer averaging 10.4 points in 26.7 minutes per game and a key piece off the bench toward the end of the season that included 13 starts. In the last three seasons, Banks appeared in 92 contests, including 44 starts. Samuel and Banks will join first-year head coach Brian Gregory at South Florida. Gregory was a long-time Michigan State assistant under the late Jud Heathcote and Tom Izzo before taking the head job at Dayton from 2003-11 and then Georgia Tech from 2011-16.

Terrence Samuel

Samuel will join his former teammate in Tampa after spending the past two seasons with Penn State. Originally signed with Connecticut out of high school, Samuel spent his freshman and sophomore years with the Huskies and appeared in 65 games that included the National Championship team in 2014. However, after sitting out a year due to transfer rules, Samuel appeared in 28 games making just one start and averaging just 17 minutes per game with his time being limited toward the end of the season. He averaged 3.9 points and 2.3 rebounds per contest.

Isaiah Washington

The final Nittany Lion to depart the program since last season is Isaiah Washington. Washington graduated in three years from Penn State before transferring to Quinnipiac. He will have two years of eligibility left. He appeared in just 17 games last season for Penn State and averaged 5.0 minutes in those contests.

Overall

Payton Banks was a big loss for the Nittany Lions, but look for Penn State to improve nonetheless led by sophomore Tony Carr, who could see drastic improvement from his freshman year.