UNIVERSITY PARK — There is a decent chance his name is spelled wrong on the scouting report, but Donovon Jack continues to show new aspects of his game that opponents need to take into consideration before suiting up against Penn State.
Jack — who said he never saw another person spell his first name the way he does — had the best-rounded game of his collegiate career Saturday, as he totaled 18 points, seven rebounds and seven blocks in 27 minutes during the Nittany Lions’ victory against Marshall. All the numbers were well above the season average for the 6-foot-9 center, who put himself in good positions for easy baskets when guards Tim Frazier and D.J. Newbill would drive the lane.
“It’s hard to believe we’re 10 games in already, but I’m getting in a flow with (the guards),” Jack said. “I didn’t play a bunch last year, but it’s good to play with everybody and get games under our belts.”
The 18 points against the Thundering Herd tied Jack’s career high, a mark he set earlier this season against La Salle, when he connected on four 3-pointers. Not many players of his height have the kind of outside shot the left-hander does, but that goes well with his unique name.
Though he is constantly referred to as “Donovan” by newspapers, websites and even in box scores, the Reading native said he has become accustom to the misspellings.
“It doesn’t bother me as much as it bothers my mom,” said Jack, who said there was no real rhyme or reason behind why his parents used three O’s in his first name. “My mom through grade school and up through high school would complain about it. But I got used to it.”
He noted he also has had times in which people think Jack is his first name, but regardless of any mix-ups, Jack has flashed a few bright spots in his first 10 games in a starting role. Jack has averaged 7.6 points and 2.3 boards, and has a team-best 16 rejections — nearly half came Saturday.
The sophomore averaged 6.6 minutes in 17 games last season before sustaining a season-ending stress fracture in his right foot in February. Coach Patrick Chambers has said he still thinks Jack is like a freshman in some respects because of the missed time and is happy to have Jack (who averages 19.7 minutes per game) with his minutes in the low 20s each contest.
“Anything more than that is probably stretching it, though he played 27 (against Marshall),” Chambers said. “He’ll be a 20-25-minute player, but when he’s on the floor, he’s a positive. Again, he was hurt last year, so he’s going to have a good game, a not so good game. He knows I’m looking for a consistency.”
Part of Jack’s time on the bench, however, has been a direct result of foul trouble. He’s been whistled 36 times so far, the most on the team. Jack did pick up four fouls against Marshall, but the majority of them came later in the game, when the contest was out of reach and he already did damage on both ends of the court.
“It’s a big deal when you stay out of foul trouble and stay in the game,” Jack said. “I know my role on the team, I follow that, go with that. I don’t need to be a hero every game.”
While the Lions’ have a potent backcourt with Frazier and Newbill averaging a combined 37.7 points per game, the frontcourt was an area of uncertainty entering the season.
With a lot of attention on the guards, open looks have been there for Jack all season, though he got off to a bad start by going 0-for-5, including some missed open layups, in the season-opener against Wagner. But Jack has bounced back, and now leads Penn State with a 57.1 percent shooting percentage (minimum 20 attempts). And, with a reference to a San Antonio superstar, Newbill praised Jack’s floor awareness.
“He has a great IQ for the game,” Newbill said. “So, he already understands driving and space. One thing that he always says to himself is ‘Tim Duncan.’ Every time Tony Parker and them guys drive, he always finds an open area for easy dump off stuff.”