A familiar face will be on the court Sunday night when Ohio State visits Penn State in State College, Pa., for each team’s Big Ten opener.
However, Jamari Wheeler will be in the scarlet and gray of the Buckeyes (5-2), not the blue and white for the Nittany Lions (4-3).
Wheeler is a graduate transfer guard who played the previous four seasons at Penn State, twice making the Big Ten’s all-defensive team.
Taking advantage of a fifth season allowed by the NCAA because of the COVID-19 pandemic, he opted to look elsewhere when the Nittany Lions chose to hire Micah Shrewsberry after the 2020-21 season instead of interim coach Jim Ferry, who as an assistant had recruited Wheeler to Penn State.
“I feel like my old coach that was there, we could’ve rocked out, but things happen for a reason and I’m glad I’m here (at Ohio State) now,” Wheeler said Friday.
He’s not sure how the fans will react to him.
“I’ll probably have both worlds: some cheering, some booing,” Wheeler said.
He has started every game this season for the Buckeyes, averaging 5.3 points and 2.9 rebounds.
Ohio State is coming off a 71-66 upset of No. 1 Duke on Tuesday while the Nittany Lions, 63-58 losers to Miami (Fla.) on Wednesday, will be trying to win their conference opener for the first time since the 2017-18 season.
To do so, Penn State must avoid giveaways. The Nittany Lions had 14 turnovers against Miami, marking the sixth time this season they have committed double-digit turnovers.
“Coach does five to 10 minutes of passing and dribbling drills to get open, get separation, pass fake, going around your man to make the clean pass,” Penn State forward John Harrar said. “That’s where his frustration comes, we drill it every day. We’ve got to take care of the ball, value the ball.”
Penn State is led by Seth Lundy (15.1 points per game) and Sam Sessoms (14.3 ppg). E.J. Liddell tops the Buckeyes in points (21.3) and rebounds per game (7.3).
–Field Level Media