Penn State men’s basketball coach Patrick Chambers and his staff were ready for potential transfers this offseason.
They outlined plans if players left the program, so Chambers said they were ahead of the game when Payton Banks, Terrence Samuel and Isaiah Washington decided to transfer. The staff never stopped watching high school recruits or junior-college prospects while considering who might leave next. And, as a result, they picked up three players to fill their needs — high school seniors Trent Buttrick, John Harrar and Jamari Wheeler.
Chambers said Buttrick is a “pick-and-pop” forward who can shoot 3s, Harrar provides depth in the frontcourt and Wheeler gives the team another ball handler.
The coach said he worked with Samuel to find his landing spot at South Florida, where he’ll join Banks. Chambers said playing time was a factor for Washington — who is headed to Quinnipiac after averaging 5 minutes per game for Penn State during the 2016-17 season — and praised him for graduating in three-and-half years. Banks is the most-experienced departure as he started a combined 44 games and averaged more than 26 minutes per game in the past two seasons.
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“I think it came down to Payton and I sitting down, what was best for the program, what was best for Payton, and ultimately I think a fresh start was best for everybody,” Chambers said Thursday at a media availability. “No ill will there. I think everybody’s going away in a good place.”
Chambers said he didn’t just bring in players to fill roster spots.
The coach said he wants at least three guards on his teams in case of injury, and Wheeler rounds out the backcourt with returning guards Tony Carr and Shep Garner. Chambers said Wheeler, a three-star recruit, developed his 3-point shooting ability. And the guard can also provide a change of pace to Carr, whom Chambers described as “very smooth or stealth-like.”
Part of Wheeler’s game reminded Chambers of former star guard Tim Frazier.
“What I think Jamari can bring us is a little — I don’t want to put a lot of pressure on him — but that Tim-Frazier type speed and athleticism,” Chambers said.
Chambers added a pair of forwards along with Wheeler in the Class of 2017.
The coach praised the competitive nature of Buttrick and Harrar. He expects Harrar and 7-foot center Satchel Pierce — a Virginia Tech transfer who will be eligible this year — to provide help in the area of rebounding, one of the coach’s focuses for the program this offseason. The Nittany Lions ranked last in the Big Ten in rebounding margin this past season as opponents outrebounded them by 3.4 per game.
Harrar, a former Army football commit, will add a physical presence in the paint.
“I watched his film and I’m like, ‘Wow this kid is 6-9, 245 and he’s only 17,’” Chambers said. “I’m old-school, so I like guys who played football because you know they got to be tough.”
Nittany Lions to play in Bahamas in August
Chambers said Thursday that the team will take a foreign tour to the Bahamas from August 4-11. He said the team will use some practices for the trip in June and added that the Nittany Lions will play three games. Chambers thinks it will help this year’s team build chemistry with the new additions to the roster.
“Hopefully, we’ll be ahead of the curve a little bit,” Chambers added.