As college basketball teams across the country start practice, players are battling each other for spots in their teams’ rotation. The same is happening at Penn State, but not in the way people would expect.
Barring any significant injuries, the starting lineup for the Nittany Lions will be Tony Carr, Shep Garner, Josh Reaves, Lamar Stevens and Mike Watkins. Penn State’s three guard lineup was used extensively last season as swing man Payton Banks split starting reps with Reaves. The most important position battle comes in the post as Satchel Pierce and Julian Moore fight to be Watkins’ backup.
The redshirt sophomore out of Philadelphia proved to be worth the hype last year as he finished third in the Big Ten in field goal percentage and second in blocks. One problem is that he cannot play the whole 40 minutes and the Nittany Lions do not have a quality backup big man.
The Case for Moore
Julian Moore seems like the player that should have the edge in the competition as he has been a factor in Pat Chambers’ rotation over the past two seasons, averaging 14.9 and 15.5 minutes per game in those seasons, respectively. An athletic big man with good instincts on the glass, he struggles with finishing around the basket as many of his attempts rim out.
Moore’s post game has been inconsistent as he is capable of providing a good spin move or a solid jump hook, but gets his feet caught under him or he gets called for traveling. His length as a rim protector have always been there, but he struggles with foul trouble. In an early season game against Duquesne, he picked up four fouls in seven minutes. Coach Chambers will need Moore to spend more time on the court if he wants his star big to play well throughout the season.
The Case for Pierce
Satchel Pierce transferred in from Virginia Tech last season, having to sit out due to NCAA rules. His time with the Hokies, though, was uneventful as he only managed to score 101 points in two seasons. Pierce also struggled with foul trouble as he fouled out four times in his freshman season.
His 7-foot, 266-pound frame gives Chambers the big body in the post that can bang in the Big Ten. His biggest asset might be at the free throw line where he shot 29-43 from the line over his time at Virginia Tech. Pierce’s limited sample size is like a blank canvas as there is potential for him to break out as a key player.
Big men have been a problem for Penn State in the past as Jordan Dickerson, Donovan Jack and Moore all have had time at the pivot position before Watkins. His defensive intensity is evident as his 90 blocks were good for second in the Big Ten and his post game shows potential. Watkins has a reliable jump hook and spin move, but needs work on his mid range game to become an all conference player.
Watkins’ heavy workload means a capable backup is needed to give him a breather. Moore and Pierce are Penn State’s most viable options, but both of them have foul problems and a somewhat limited experience. The Nittany Lions need one of them to break through or else it will be a long season on the block.