If Penn State's front court seemed incomplete at times last season, that's because it was.
When forward Sasa Borovnjak went down with a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in practice on Oct. 7, 2010, it left the Nittany Lions frequently shorthanded with the sophomore relegated to watching the season from the bench. As a result, forwards Jeff Brooks, Andrew Jones and Billy Oliver were forced to log heavy minutes and foul trouble for the trio became a threat that lurked behind every corner.
A year after surgery to repair his knee injury, however, Borovnjak is back practicing with his teammates and looking to bolster a younger, deeper front line for the Lions in 2011-2012.
"It's been a long year for me recovering from my injury," Borovnjak said at Penn State's media day on Tuesday. "I've been just working hard on rehab in the training room to get stronger and get back on the court and I am finally here, excited about the season."
Borovnjak saw action in 18 games for Penn State in 2009-2010 and averaged 1.8 points and 1.1 rebounds as a true freshman. The Belgrade, Serbia native posted a career-high six points in a win against Robert Morris on Nov. 16, 2009 after committing to then-coach Ed DeChellis out of Veritas Christan Academy (N.C.).
And though last season proved to be a lost one on the court for the 6-foot-9, 240 pound natural power forward, he'll be looking to build on the things he learned off it in what he considers a productive redshirt season.
"I got to see things from the coaching perspective," Borovnjak said at Penn State's media day on Tuesday. "From the bench, last year when I was watching all the games, I learned how to use free space and try and post up or drive the ball opposite of where the most guys are."
Borovnjak acknowledges his knee isn't quite 100 percent yet, but he said he's ready to get back into games as he works toward full recovery.
He rejoins a Lions front court with a lot of new faces. Junior captain Oliver remains in place, but redshirt freshman Jonathan Graham and true freshmen Peter Alexis and Patrick Ackerman will all be vying for playing time at the four and five spots.
With all that turnover, it's not clear what Borovnjak's role will be as the season progresses. His early contributions have been modest, as he added just four points and three rebounds in Penn State's 70-55 win against Hartford on Saturday at the Bryce Jordan Center, but Chambers is already offering some high praise, and is hopeful about his future in Blue and White once he's finally back to full strength.
"He can do a little bit of everything," Chambers said. "He can rebound. He can knock down the mid-range jumper and he has a very good vision for passing. Once he starts to trust that knee, I think we have a five-man for our future."