Penn State’s perimeter prowess took a hit Friday as the university announced Payton Banks’ intent to transfer. Banks, a former three star recruit out of Orange, California, averaged 10.4 points, 2.2 rebounds, and 1 assist this past season. After graduating, the redshirt junior can take his incendiary outside shot to greener pastures without missing any time. The move both muddles and further clarifies the Nittany Lions’ 2017-18 outlook.
Payton Banks often provided a necessary jolt to a struggling offense. Typically coming off the bench, the forward showcased a knack for scoring in bunches. In victories over the Illini, Banks put up 17 and 24 points respectively, while shooting 65% total from the floor. The junior shot early and often, and the constant threat to drain from deep aided in an offense that frequently lacked adequate firepower.
As strong of a shooter as Banks may be, though, he was regularly plagued with inconsistency. When struggling, he didn’t just fall off the deep end either, he knowingly sprinted and jumped. In back to back losses to ranked opponents in Duke and Cincinnati, Banks shot 5 of 18, including 3 for 13 from beyond the arc. All season the forward lacked an ability to adjust when shots weren’t falling, and volume rarely took him out of a slump. When Banks wasn’t on, the Penn State offense came down with him.
Head coach Patrick Chambers deserves his share of the blame. Instead of recognizing and recalibrating a wild performance, Chambers never switched the team captain’s green light to yellow. The result was an erratic season from Banks, with the Nittany Lions’ success hinging on how hot his hands was on a given night. As Banks shot through struggle, Penn State spiraled and Nazeer Bostick and Terrence Samuel looked on with fresh legs from the bench.
Penn State was at their most successful when Payton Banks wasn’t just hitting, though, but working inside the offense. With pacing and flow dictated by Tony Carr, a high pick and roll initiated by Mike Watkins, and Payton Banks set on a wing or corner, the Nittany Lions frequently came away with good looks. The three-point ability kept Banks’ defender honest, and the extra space gave Carr room to create, and Watkins room to throw down.
Losing a sharp shooter of Payton Banks’ ability will hurt, but the sky isn’t falling. His departure opens a roster spot and scholarship for another shooter, and the team is returning plenty of talent. Shep Garner, who was also a captain last season, will infuse the team with senior leadership. While his ability is different, he does possess the range to hit from deep. Also, Lamar Stevens slowly unleashed proficient three-point success as the season wore on. He and Tony Carr both should enter the 2017-18 campaign with improved outside shots and more confidence from deep.
Penn State has enough talent to absorb losing a player of Banks’ skill. If anything, the subtraction should signify the team will function within a more consistent system on offense. The moments for hero ball present themselves often throughout a game, but when three or four players look to step up simultaneously, consistency and identity are lost. Without Payton Banks, the Nittany Lions should have a more disciplined and focused attack.