As the college basketball season is about to get underway, teams across the nation are excited to see what the year has in store. Patrick Chambers feels the same way as Penn State has a chance to make the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2011.
The Nittany Lions return five of their top six teams from last season with the top three returning scorers all being freshman. Sophomores Tony Carr and Lamar Stevens paced the team in scoring with redshirt sophomore Mike Watkins providing Penn State with an interior presence.
The problem with all of them is they all either struggled shooting from the perimeter or simply did not do it at all. Shep Garner led the Nittany Lions in three-pointers with 82, but only shot 35.7 percent from behind the arc. In fact, his numbers across the board were down from his sophomore year as he took fewer shots and lowered his shooting percentages as well.
Garner has always been a streaky shooter for the Nittany Lions, but his new role of playing off the ball saw fewer opportunities for him to make his mark on the game. While he is not a lead guard by anyone’s standard, it was the first time in his collegiate career that he did not have a need to bring the ball up.
While his tenure did overlap with D.J. Newbill, Garner was still the man tasked to bring the ball up the court. He has proved to be a capable passer, but his strength is shooting the ball from deep. He is the Nittany Lions’ top three-point shooter, capable of doing great things when he lets the ball fly.
When Garner is on, he is lights out as his 8-12 shooting against Boston College in 2015 can attest. For all the incredible shooting nights he has numbers that resemble a batter on a hitting drought. His inconsistency as a shooter might be a problem, but his microwave ability can help the Nittany Lions succeed in conference play.
Some of his problems with consistency come with his shot selection as his decisions to chuck up shots from 30 feet make it hard for him to shoot a high percentage from the floor. That type of shooting has made Steph Curry into one of the best shooters in the history of basketball, but approaches like that in college are not advisable.
His ability to stretch the defense is necessary as the Nittany Lions don’t have many players that are capable of creating their own shot. The lack of creative play-makers on the perimeter means a team needs good shooting to offset that problem, which was Penn State’s problem all of last season.
Payton Banks led the Nittany Lions in three-point percentage last year at 36.1, but he transferred to South Florida. The loss of Banks means Garner is the Nittany Lions’ only reliable shooter on the perimeter.
Defenses across the Big Ten will take notice of the lack of a shooter on Penn State, but Garner has the shot-making ability to overcome tight coverage on the perimeter. If he can find his stroke from deep early in the season, the Nittany Lions could be in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2011.