COLUMBUS, OH - JANUARY 25: Sasa Borovnjak #21 and Ross Travis #43 of the Penn State Nittany Lions crowd around Jared Sullinger #0 of the Ohio State Buckeyes to provide defensive pressure in the first half on January 25, 2012 at Value City Arena in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
After successfully returning from a devastating injury in 2011-2012, the Nittany Lions' junior forward will look to break out this coming year.
SB Nation Pittsburgh is profiling the Penn State basketball team's major contributors from last season, highlighting positives they can build upon and negatives they can work to improve this summer as they prepare for the 2012-2013 season. Today, Sasa Borovnjak
When Sasa Borovnjak averaged 1.8 points and 1.1 rebounds in limited time as a freshman in 2009-2010, there was hope he could become a regular contributor on the 2010-2011 team.
An ACL injury in the summer of 2010, however, knocked him out for the season and put him on the road to what would be a long recovery. By the beginning of 2011-2012, Borovnjak still wasn't completely recovered from the injury, but he managed to start the season with his teammates and make it through the season injury free.
It was an encouraging development in what was an otherwise dismal 12-20 campaign in coach Pat Chambers' first year at the helm. Now, Borovnjak will look to build on the foundation and become a staple in the post on both ends of the court beginning with his junior season.
What He Did Well
-Borovnjak was one of only four players to play in all 32 of Penn State's games last season. That's spectacular, given that he was coming back from a violent knee injury. If he can be similarly durable this season, it should help the front court considerably in withstanding the blow of losing Billy Oliver to retirement.
-Borovnjak led the team with a .566 shooting percentage last season, which is excellent in his first season back from injury. The problem? He didn't really take enough shots for that to be consequential, finishing with an average of just 4.3 points per game. Simply put, Borovnjak needs to stop deferring to guys like Tim Frazier and Jermaine Marshall as much as he did last season and start attacking the basket himself. This is especially true considering the games he shot most tended to be the games he shot best. He was 7-7 from the field for 15 points against Ole Miss on Dec. 4, 5-5 shooting for 10 points against Mount St. Mary's on Dec. 18 and 4-4 from the floor for eight points against Purdue on Jan. 5. Heading into this season, Borovnjak knows he can make shots. Now he just has to make more of them.
What He Can Improve
-The biggest key to Borovnjak showing improvement from last season will be his learning to trust his surgically repaired knee from the get-go. There were times, especially early last year, when he was tentative and not going at 100 percent. That's certainly understandable, given the devastating nature of his injury. He should be ready to go at full speed from day one this season, though, which should allow him to be a lot more aggressive and dangerous for the Lions.
-Four Penn State guards, Frazier, Marshall, Matt Glover and Cammeron Woodyard, all averaged more rebounds per game than Borovnjak's 3.1 last season. Sure, that's a testament to excellent production from the back court. However, over Penn State's last seven games last season, Borovnjak grabbed a total of just nine rebounds. With Woodyard, Glover and fellow forward Oliver now out of the picture, Borovnjak has to step up his production or Penn State will fall of significantly in a rebounding game that kept it competitive last season.
-Like his teammate Jonathan Graham, Borovnjak could use some work on the free throws. He shot just .486 from the charity stripe last season. If he can bump that up over .500 and close to .600, that will be a nice improvement that should help his offensive game.