Penn State seemed poised to make a jump next season with Tim Frazier returning from injury and Jermaine Marshall and DJ Newbill back for another year, but those hopes took a hit on Wednesday afternoon when the school announced that Marshall would be leaving the program upon completing his degree.
Marshall will graduate with a degree in human development and family studies after the second summer school session, and then he will begin to pursue a professional career.
“Jermaine and I have had several discussions recently regarding his plans for the future and he feels strongly that graduating and entering the professional world at the conclusion of the summer is in the best interest of his son and his family,” Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said in a statement. “We thank Jermaine for his contributions to our program and wish him the best of luck.”
“I would like to thank my teammates, coaches and basketball staff as well as the faculty and fans of Penn State,” Marshall added. “I truly enjoyed my four years at the University and learned a great deal from all of them. This is a difficult decision, but I want to provide for my son and feel the best decision for me and my family is to graduate and enter the professional world this summer.”
It’s a massive blow for the Nittany Lions. Marshall averaged 15.3 points last year as their second-leading scorer, and with Newbill returning and Frazier, who was a first-team all-Big Ten caliber player before blowing out his Achilles, they seemed ready to at least be competitive in the conference.
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Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.
After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.
Video credit: Wyoming Athletics
Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.
Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.
Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.
Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.
Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.
But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.