Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said he’s getting closer and closer to figuring out his starting five with a little more than two weeks until the season opener.
“In the summer you’re forecasting just like we all do and you’re wondering alright, who might play this spot? A couple spots could be open,” Chambers said Thursday. “And it’s been really close, really close which is almost good news-bad news, right? You want somebody to really go elevate their play and just take it. It’s been close so we’ll see how it goes.”
Chambers said guard Shep Garner has been the constant and forward Brandon Taylor will play good minutes, while Julian Moore, Donovon Jack, Payton Banks and Josh Reaves are all battling for for open spots. Redshirt freshman Isaiah Washington and freshman Deividas “Davis” Zemgulis have impressed Chambers, too.
Penn State opens the season Nov. 14 against VMI at the Bryce Jordan Center, but the Nittany Lions’ starting lineup could change from game to game.
“How we’re gonna play and who we’re gonna start, it could change,” Chambers said. “Normally, I’d pick five and we’d stick with it.”
Garner, who started 33 of 34 games last season, got a “good run for his money” from Devin Foster.
But Foster and other reserves will be crucial to Penn State’s season as Chambers said he’d be comfortable playing 10 players.
Plus, fewer minutes will keep players fresh during games and later in the season.
“You think right now Shep’s probably gonna have to play 36 minutes,” Chambers said. “Well, I can’t do that. I got to get him down to 32. And then Devin Foster’s got to take those additional four or five minutes.
“Brandon Taylor could play anywhere from 30-35. I don’t think that’s right for him and that’s not gonna be good for him, therefore it’s not gonna be good for our team. So again, I need to get him down to that 30, 28 range.”
Chambers said Garner, Taylor and Jack have all been consistent.
And Washington and Zemgulis have emerged as 3-point threats at practice. Chambers said Washington’s shooting has “skyrocketed,” and Zemgulis is starting to find his comfort zone.
“With the way he shoots the ball, it’s gonna be tough for me to keep him off the floor,” Chambers said of the 6-foot-6 Zemgulis.
Chambers said his team has embraced playing “inside-out” after former guards Tim Frazier and D.J. Newbill keyed the offense in past seasons.
It’s different than the coach’s usual style, featuring fewer ball screens, but he’s excited about the change.
“Our bigs are making really good decisions, whether to go strong, kick out, so for me, it’s been a fun style to coach and to implement,” Chambers said. “And I mention it every day how that’s the way we want to play. We got to give these guys touches.”
Chambers said Foster has been dealing with swelling in his knee.
“He didn’t scrimmage on Saturday,” Chambers said. “His knee’s been bothering him. He had a little swelling but he practiced on Tuesday, we had a day off yesterday so he’s good to go. So right now, we’re pretty solid — just minor bumps and bruises. Nothing crazy to report.”