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Mike Rhoades facing first test as Penn State’s coach just days into tenure

It’s been less than a week, and Penn State’s new head coach is already facing a huge test.



Penn State basketball, transfer portal, Mike Rhoades
Feb 18, 2020; Richmond, Virginia, USA; Virginia Commonwealth Rams head coach Mike Rhoades reacts on the bench against the Dayton Flyers in the second half at Stuart C. Siegel Center. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Last week, the Nittany Lions held an official press conference at the Bryce Jordan Center — the home of PSU hoops — to introduce the newest head coach in Happy Valley. Mike Rhoades — who is taking over for new Notre Dame head coach Micah Shrewsberry — is walking into a bit of a mess with Penn State basketball, and just days into his tenure with the Nittany Lions, he is already facing a crucial test: dealing with the transfer portal.

Penn State basketball coach Mike Rhoades already facing major test

Yesterday afternoon, former four-star big man Kebba Njie — one of the highest-rated recruits in Penn State basketball history — announced that he has entered his name into the transfer portal. The loss of Njie not only leaves Penn State down a big man, but also means that the Nittany Lions are down to two remaining scholarship players right now; for reference, NCAA Division 1 programs are allowed 13 scholarship players.

Mike Rhoades knew that he was not walking into a great program when he took the Penn State basketball job, but he now has a great deal of work cut out for him. Rhoades, who compiled a 129-61 record, two A-10 titles, and three tournament appearances over the past six seasons with VCU, is going to become well acquainted with the transfer portal in order to make up for all of the talent that Penn State basketball is losing.

Rhoades needs to hit the transfer portal ASAP

With 11 scholarships available, the Penn State Nittany Lions need to get active in the portal immediately. There is plenty of talent on the market right now, some of which is already interested in helping Mike Rhoades rebuild Penn State basketball, such as former A-10 Player of the Year Ace Baldwin. Still, a crystal ball is not going to change anything for Penn State; the Nittany Lions need a solid player that Rhoades can build a class around, and they need it fast.

We are currently in the middle of the week-long recruiting dead period; however, on Thursday at noon (ET), the Penn State basketball team can start landing top-ranked players in the portal.

“(The transfer portal is the) landscape of college basketball now, but I think it’s more important to get everything right. We owe it to the program, and you owe it to what you’re trying to do, to get it right,” Rhoades said. “Now it’s time to go recruit. It’s time to build relationships with these young guys that are here.”

With the addition of a few top portal targets, there is no reason that Penn State basketball cannot compete in the middle or upper tiers of the Big Ten next winter, and Mike Rhoades knows it.

“We’re going to be very active recruiting, and that’s why our staff is here,” Rhoades continued. “And that’s what you gotta do. We gotta go build a roster. But I assure you this, we’re going to do it right. And we’re going to do it so we can build this to last. That’s very important.”

Mikes Rhoades, who is known as a “PA guy” due to his deep roots in the state, has not even been the head coach of Penn State basketball for a week yet, though he is already facing his first major test as head coach: assembling a competitive roster from scratch.

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