Basketball Freshmen Following: Week One
Pat Chambers has worked tirelessly since arriving at Penn State to add energy into a basketball team in a football town. This has been an uphill battle, but Chambers passion and desire for his job has slowly started turning the program around.
A big boost was added to Chambers’ team when he was able to bring in his top recruiting class as Penn State’s head basketball coach. Within that class were three players from Roman Catholic High School of Philadelphia. Roman Catholic may soon be renamed Penn State Prep School as there are now four former players on the roster including starting guard Shep Garner.
Chambers was also able to add a player from Oak Hill Academy, which is well known for churning out premier basketball talent. Joe Hampton has since left the basketball team, however Chambers success in recruiting is a positive sign for the sake of his program.
Also a part of this star studded freshman class is redshirt freshman Mike Watkins, who is a 6 foot 9 inch forward and has emerged as the starting center for the Nittany Lions. Alongside Watkins in the starting lineup is 6 foot 7 inch forward Lamar Stevens and 6 foot 3 inch point guard Tony Carr. Stevens and Carr were teammates at Roman Catholic and travelled to Happy Valley to play for coach Chambers along with Nazeer Bostick.
When Penn State opened their season against Albany, it was clear this team may go through some growing pains. Any team starting three freshman are going to have a learning curve no matter the skill level. Even teams known for recruiting players who only stay one year such as Kentucky often do not hit their stride until January or February.
Too make matters even more difficult, there is not one senior to be found on this roster. Penn State will also be missing one of their more experienced players from the previous season in Josh Reaves. The sophomore will miss a few games in the beginning of the season due to injury.
While the team struggled especially on defense without Reaves, the freshman did not disappoint, with Carr having 14 while both Stevens and Watkins added 10. Carr also added four assists and three rebounds. Watkins led the team with seven rebounds and also added two impressive blocks early in the game showing he could emerge as a defensive force in the paint.
Next up for the youngsters was in-state foe Duquesne. This game was Lamar Stevens’ time to shine. He finished with a game high 24 points to go along with six rebounds, five assists, and two blocks. Maybe most impressive for Stevens was his maturity and composure at the free throw line, making 12 of 13 free throws on the night.
Carr was not to be outdone finishing with 20 points of his own along with four assists and then - perhaps most surprising - seven rebounds. Watkins was no slacker himself pouring in 15 points from inside and once again dominated on defense with five blocks.
These three freshman were a key reason for pulling out the victory as more established players struggled. Shep Garner only contributed six points to the cause and the bench did not help matters either, chipping in eight points total.
Against Grand Canyon, the freshman continued to showcase their talents. Lamar Stevens once again led the team in scoring with 19 points on the night. He continued to impress from the free throw line finishing 5-for-5 on the night. Carr and Watkins also turned in solid outings. Carr turned in 10 points along with six assists. Watkins contributed nine points and added three blocks to the winning cause. But most impressive was Nazeer Bostick who made his first appearance of the year. In 17 minutes of time he was able to score seven points and prove he will be a valuable asset throughout the rest of the season.
This coming weekend will give the talented freshman their first big time matchup. They will face off against the Duke Blue Devils, who are one of the most talented teams in the country. While Pat Chambers put together his best recruiting class while at Penn State, Coach Mike Krzyzewski may have put together his best class while at Duke. This includes Harry Giles, the number one overall recruit in the 2016 class. Joining him is small forward Jayson Tatum, point guard Frank Jackson, center Marques Bolden, and forward Javin DeLaurier, all ranked in the ESPN 100 rankings for recruits. So far in Duke’s early season, the only one of these freshman to make an immediate impact is point guard Frank Jackson. Giles, Tatum, and Bolden have all been sidelined with injury. Coach K has told reporters that he does not want to rush any of his star freshman back too soon from injury so his team will not be nagged throughout the season.
When Penn State matches up against Duke this weekend, all eyes will be on the young freshman from both sides. If Penn State’s youngsters can exceed expectations, The Nittany Lions could keep it close with the star studded Blue Devils. This will be a common theme throughout the year for Pat Chambers. He will need his freshman to perform if he wants his team to start to rise in the Big Ten. Hope has started to find its way into the Bryce Jordan Center and the freshman class lead the way.
Brian McLaughlin is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him email firstname.lastname@example.org.