UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. (WHTM) – There is less than a month before the Penn State basketball season tips off under the guidance of new Head Coach Mike Rhoades.
Penn State will begin its 2023-24 season on Nov. 6 at the Bryce Jordan Center against Delaware State.
Penn State finished the 2022-23 season 23-14 overall and 10-10 in the Big Ten. The Nittany Lions made it to the championship game in the Big Ten Tournament where they lost to No. 5 Purdue in a close 67-65 defeat.
Penn State went dancing for the tenth time in program history and had its NCAA Tournament run ended in the second round by No. 5 Texas in a 71-66 loss.
Penn State released its 2023-24 season schedule on Sept. 9. The Nittany Lions will play 17 home games this campaign. Their first away game will be at the ESPN Events Invitational in Orlando, Florida. They will go against Texas A&M on Thanksgiving for a rematch of their first-round NCAA Tournament game.
The Nittany Lions open in-conference competition on Dec. 6 at Maryland. The first Big Ten game at home will be against Ohio State on Dec. 9.
The premiere event of the season will be Penn State playing at The Palestra in Philadelphia on Jan. 7 against Michigan. This is the fourth time the Nittany Lions have hosted a Big Ten game inside the “Cathedral of College Basketball”.
The regular season will conclude with Penn State facing Maryland on March 10. The 2024 Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournament starts on March 13.
Penn State is entering this season with just four players on the roster who were part of the program last season.
The only returning players are guards Kanye Clary, Jameel Brown and Andy Christos and forward Demetrius Lilley.
Jalen Pickett is the biggest loss to the Penn State men’s basketball program from last season. Pickett set the Nittany Lions single-season assists record with 243 assists last season and tied the record for most field goals made in a season with 260.
The lineup will be very interesting to watch come together with a completely overhauled roster.
The most intriguing additions include guard Ace Baldwin Jr. from VCU, guard Nick Kern Jr. from VCU, guard/forward Puff Johnson from North Carolina and forward Qudus Wahab from Georgetown.
Ace Baldwin Jr.
Senior Baldwin Jr. spent the last three seasons with VCU where he was a two-time All-conference pick and last season’s Atlantic 10 Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year. Baldwin Jr. accumulated 10 blocks, 183 steals (2.3 spg), 256 rebounds, 419 assists (5.2 apg) and 829 points (10.4 ppg) at VCU. While with the Rams, Baldwin appeared in two NCAA Tournaments and one NIT.
Nick Kern Jr.
Junior Kern Jr. played in 66 games during his two seasons with VCU, starting in the last 19 games this past season. Kern Jr. posted 246 points and 136 rebounds with a 54.5% field goal percentage as a Ram.
Senior Johnson spent the last three seasons at North Carolina where he played in 68 games. The Moon Township, Pennslyvania native aided the Tar Heels in reaching the 2022 National championship game where he had 11 points and six rebounds.
Johnson was the leading scorer from the bench last season and saw the most action among the non-starters. In the 2022-23 season, Johnson played 430 minutes and posted 110 points, 10 assists and 72 rebounds with a .387 field goal percentage.
His brother Cameron Johnson is a current starter in the NBA with the Brooklyn Nets.
Graduate student Wahab spent the first two seasons of his collegiate career at Georgetown before transferring to Maryland as a Junior. Wahab returned to Georgetown for his senior season last year.
Between Georgetown and Maryland, Wahab accumulated 1,030 career points with 737 rebounds across 119 appearances and 88 starts. Last season Wahab played in 29 games with 25 starts where he averaged 9.6 points and a team-best 7.1 rebounds per game.
Wahab shot 51.1 percent from the field and executed 15 double-digit scoring games with four double-doubles.
Coaching – a new era
Mike Rhoades is entering his first season as Penn State Men’s Basketball’s head coach. The Peter and Ann Tombros Endowed Head Coach has 19 seasons of experience as a head coach of collegiate basketball programs.
Throughout his career, the Mahanoy City, Pennsylvania native has a 373-189 record and a .664 winning percentage. Rhoades has coached teams to NCAA Tournament appearances seven times with nine national postseason appearances.
Rhoades started his career as an assistant at Randolph-Macon in 1996; he was promoted to head coach in 1999 at just 25 years old. Rhoades spent 10 years at the helm of the Yellow Jackets where he put up a 197-76 record and coached them to four NCAA Tournament appearances. VCU made it to the Sweet 16 twice under Rhoades. Rhoades’ Yellow Jackets took six Old Dominion Athletic Conference (ODAC) championships and had No. 1 national rankings in two seasons.
Rhoades was the ODAC Coach of the Year for three straight seasons.
Rhoades was an assistant coach and associate head coach at VCU from 2009-14. While Rhoads was with VCU during this time the Rams went to the NCAA Tournament four times and were in the postseason every year.
From 2014-17 Rhoades turned around the program at Rice. As a head coach, Rhoades led the Owls to their first 20-win season since 2003-04 and Rice’s first postseason run since 2011-12.
Rhoades returned to VCU after Rice, where he coached the Rams for the last six seasons before joining Penn State. The Rams had players be drafted in back-to-back NBA Drafts, earned their first outright Atlantic 10 Conference regular season championship and had three NCAA Tournament appearances under Rhoades.
VCU had a 129-60 overall record and a 72-32 Atlantic 10 record, making him the fourth-winningest coach at VCU ever.