Mired in a season-long three-game losing streak to start Big Ten play, Penn State was hit with more bad news Monday when it was revealed that senior guard John Johnson had been suspended for conduct inconsistent with team standards and values.
Nittany Lion coach Pat Chambers offered little in the way of further details at a press conference Monday afternoon.
John Johnson's been suspended, Chambers told reporters. He's still part of the program. He's not with the team, as far as basketball activities now. I don't have a timetable, I wish I could give you a timetable. But every time we talk I'll try to update you.
That's all I can really give you right now, he added. That's the only information I can provide. So if you respect that, that would be great.
Though Johnson has come off the bench in every game this season, he is still State's fourth-leading scorer (7.4 ppg). He is averaging just more than 20 minutes per game, and is shooting a solid 43 percent from the floor and 37 percent from the arc.
The Nittany Lions (12-4, 0-3) had a bye over the weekend but take on Indiana (12-4, 2-1) in Bloomington Tuesday night.
Asked about the timing of the suspension, Chambers said, There's never good timing for bad news, is there? (By) the same token, we're gonna help him as much as we can and the next guy's got to step up.
Johnson's absence likely means more minutes for two other bench players, because Chambers is already squeezing about as many minutes as he can out of regular-rotation guards D.J. Newbill, Shep Garner and Geno Thorpe.
Redshirt freshman Payton Banks is a completely different player than the slashing Johnson. The 6-foot-6, 220-pounder is more of a spot shooter. However, he also figures to be a much better rebounder than the 6-1 Johnson, and will be a better defensive matchup against the bigger backcourt players in the Big Ten.
Banks is averaging 6.1 minutes per game, but really has not taken enough shots to gauge how consistent he might be in that area. He is 5 of 15 from the floor and 3 of 11 from the arc.
Payton, he's given us good minutes in the games he did play, Newbill said. With the rotation like it was, it was kind of hard to find minutes for him. But when he did get the opportunity, he came in and played hard, rebounded, defended, and shot the ball well a couple games.
Banks' most extensive action of the season came in a win over Drexel, when he played 15 minutes and scored seven points.
Junior college transfer Devin Foster is a bit more like Johnson, but PSU's solid depth in the backcourt has limited the 6-2 junior to just 13 minutes on the season. He has yet to attempt a shot.
Chambers suggested Foster was in the mix for playing time during preseason camp, but issues on defense knocked him out of the rotation. He explained, Devin's starting to understand now. It took a little while.
Now guess what? He's got to be ready to go because we need him, Chambers said. He's a great distributor and he's been shooting really consistently, and now he knows our defense. So he's gonna get his chance.
Added Newbill: He's a great passer. He's great running the offense. He's really strong going to the basket, he's physical. He's got great ball-handling skills and I think he's an underrated defender, too.
Foster is a lefty with a bit of a hitch in his shot. But he shot 39 percent from the arc at Vincennes (Ind.) University last season.