Basketball Freshmen Following: Week Ten
The last month of the regular season is the most chaotic time of the year. Many teams will cement their ticket to the NCAA Tournament, while several others will be right on the bubble in need of a strong close.
For the young Penn State basketball team, it is no different. Right now the Nittany Lions currently stand at 12-11 and are 10th in the Big Ten conference standings. A tournament bid at the moment seems farfetched, but an NIT tournament berth is still realistic.
These last eight games in the regular season for Penn State will go a long way in determining its postseason fate. Much of their success so far this season has been contingent on a trio of freshmen, so if Pat Chambers and company are expecting to build momentum heading into the offseason, these guys will have to turn in a few big performances.
Tony Carr has stepped in at the point guard position and has had a solid rookie campaign. Carr had his best game of the year against Indiana on Wednesday, scoring 23 points and dishing a career high 14 assists. He has scored in double figures in four of his last five games, including a career-high 24 points in the Lions’ previous meeting against Indiana.
Carr has shown many flashes of potential, but there are a few things he could improve upon heading into his sophomore season. First off, he needs to improve on his field goal percentage, as he is only shooting 36% from the field. He should also look to increase his assist to turnover ratio and have more games like his most recent against Indiana. Carr does shoot the ball well from the outside and is solid defensively. If he can show improvement in the two categories above, he has a chance to be a big time player for the Nittany Lions.
Lamar Stevens has also been terrific as a freshman for Penn State. One could make the argument that he is actually the best all-around player on the team this season. He shows great versatility on both ends of the court with the ability to guard multiple positions and play both inside and out. Stevens scored a career-high 26 points against Indiana on Wednesday and did so in a variety of ways.
Stevens has an outstanding mid-range game and excels at putting the ball on the floor and finishing above the rim. Like Carr, Stevens could also improve his assist to turnover ratio, as he actually averages more turnovers than assists. For Penn State to take the next step as an offensive team, they will have to cut down on turnovers and average more assists as a team. Stevens should make it a priority to help in that department. He also needs to extend his range as a shooter so he can develop into a reliable three-point threat. He’s another guy with a very bright future if he can show improvement in these areas.
Mike Watkins, a redshirt freshman, has been a viable option on the block for the Nittany Lions. His biggest issue has been foul trouble, which has caused Pat Chambers to sit him on the bench in favor of Julian Moore more than he would like. When Watkins has played, however, he is an outstanding rim protector and pick-and-roll player on offense. In just 22 minutes per game, he’s also averaging almost nine rebounds per contest. Watkins is shooting an efficient 56% from the field, but he needs to improve his free throw shooting, where he only shoots 64%. He should also look to expand his post game further and add an occasional face up jumper as well. The potential is there for Watkins, but he needs to refine his skillset in order to develop into a star.
Penn State’s last freshman who should see increased time next year is Nazeer Bostick. He’s undersized, but he’s a good all-around athlete and defensive player. For him to be a significant contributor, he has to improve his jump shot, but the Nittany Lion staff will likely spend a lot time working with him in that area this offseason.
Penn State has a promising core of freshmen that will lead this team for years to come. The talent may not be translating into immediate success, but the best has yet to come in Happy Valley.
Will Desautelle is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.