Pickett chose the Nittany Lions over Oregon State, although Michigan, Gonzaga and Baylor were all involved late into his recruitment.
“I really just trust coach [Micah] Shrewsberry,” Pickett told ESPN. “I love the vision, the direction he’s taking, how he wants to play. Him and coach [Adam] Fisher were really on me this whole recruiting process.
“Coach Shrewsberry was just showing me different things, how they want to play offensively, how he coached at Purdue. He worked with Kyrie Irving and Isaiah Thomas. He wants to get up and down, spread the floor, play pick-and-roll with a lot of shooting. He also talked about getting me off the ball a little too, help create for my teammates, get other people shots.”
Pickett, a 6-foot-4 point guard, was one of the best mid-major point guards in the country over the past three seasons. He won MAAC Player of the Year honors in 2020 after averaging 15.1 points, 4.6 rebounds and 6.0 assists. Pickett also put up significant numbers as a freshman in the 2018-19 season, averaging 15.8 points, 4.6 rebounds and 6.7 assists.
Due to a hamstring injury and multiple COVID-19 pauses, Pickett’s numbers dipped this past season, with averages of 12.9 points, 6.3 rebounds and 4.8 assists. But he had 23 points and eight assists in the regular-season finale against Canisius, then went for 13 points, eight boards and five assists in a MAAC tournament loss to Iona.
“I started the season really well, then had a hamstring injury. I’m perfectly fine now,” Pickett said. “This gives me a whole summer to work. And hopefully there’s no COVID pauses next year.”
Shrewsberry was hired last month as the new head coach of the Nittany Lions, replacing Jim Ferry, who served as the interim head coach this past season following Pat Chambers’ resignation in the fall. Shrewsberry had spent the last two seasons at Purdue following five years with the Boston Celtics under Brad Stevens.
Penn State lost a few key players to the transfer portal, but Shrewsberry convinced Seth Lundy (10.1 PPG) and John Harrar (8.8 PPG) to return to State College, and also landed Gardner-Webb transfer Jaheam Cornwall, who earned first-team All-Big South honors this past season.
“We’re just trying to change the culture. Winning. I want to compete for a championship,” Pickett said. “The guys returning, it’s a fresh start for them. They were in most games, they kept it close. They want to [prove] they can play at that level. The people coming in, we want to show we can play on that type of stage. I want to compete and help a program win.”
Pickett is ranked No. 21 in ESPN’s transfer rankings.