Basketball Freshmen Following: Week 15
Penn State has been a team this year that has had many ups and downs. They are a very young and talented team that just needs some experience before they are able to become a true threat in the Big Ten and to make a run in the NCAA tournament come March. Penn State is on a four-game losing streak, losing to Nebraska, No. 14 Purdue, Minnesota, and finally losing a heartbreaker to Ohio State in the final seconds in their home finale. They finish off the season away at Iowa. That game is still no easy feat for the Nittany Lions as Iowa is a strong team.
Penn State is still being led by this huge trio of freshmen, Lamar Stevens, Tony Carr, and Mike Watkins. These guys this season have developed so much compared to where they were at the beginning. They are still a bit inexperienced, but these close games that Penn State had played against ranked teams has helped.
Lamar Stevens is Penn State’s best all-around player on the court. He is the guy that Pat Chambers wants to give the ball to in the crucial moments of the game. On the season, Stevens is hitting 43.2 percent of his shots from the field and averaging about five rebounds per game. Stevens is a solid forward that has NBA strength.
His mid-range shot is golden and he has recently been improving his three-point shot, as he is beginning to take more threes throughout games. Stevens has been trying to keep the team in the game for the past four games, averaging about 14.5 points per game while averaging about six rebounds. His deep ball has struggled though, only making three out of 11 shots. Stevens needs to improve in some more areas, especially his three ball if he wants to make Penn State an elite team in the next three years.
Tony Carr’s role this year has changed a lot. At the beginning of the year, he was more of the passer and distributor of the ball. Now, he is a shooter, who Pat Chambers trusts very much especially in the last few minutes of the game. Carr has hit about 40 percent of his shots this year, which is an incredible statistic for being a freshman.
Over the past four games is where Carr has shown stardom. Carr is averaging 19 points per game and five assist per game. Carr is becoming an incredible shooter from the field and also distributing the ball when needed.
Carr struggles though with his efficiency. While averaging those five assists per game, he has two games with four turnovers. Those turnovers are very costly in these games that become close within the final minutes. If Carr wants to become a threat in the Big Ten, he has to take care of the ball and think through the plays, so he has way more assists than turnovers.
Finally, the big man Mike Watkins has come into his own. Being a redshirt freshman, people didn’t see him getting as much time as he has so far this season. Watkins is playing about 23 minutes a game. Watkins is also shooting 56.5 percent from the field, and averaging eight rebounds and three blocks per game. Watkins has become a massive threat, especially in transition, where he has been able to find space and make dunks or easy lay-ups.
Watkins has struggled the past four games, which could be because he has been banged up playing in the post so much. He had that huge game against Purdue where he had 11 points and 13 rebounds. Throughout the past four games, he has averaged only eight points and about seven rebounds per game. He has gotten into foul trouble in a couple of those games, which has forced Pat Chambers to put in Julian Moore for longer than he hoped he would need to.
Watkins needs to focus on working on his post game and building up more strength in the offseason. If Watkins does that, he could be a top three big man in the Big Ten and could help with getting boards. Watkins also needs to stay out of foul trouble if Penn State has any hopes of winning big games.
This team has come so far from where they were supposed to be. This team will be a dangerous threat in the next three years, given that none of the big three freshmen leave for the NBA. This team in the next few years, has the possibility of winning the Big Ten and making it to the NCAA tournament, a feat that Penn State has not been able to complete in a long time.
Anthony Spada is freshman majoring in security and risk analysis. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.