Penn State Men’s Basketball Looks to Build Upon NIT Championship
The Penn State Men’s Basketball program is coming off its most successful season since 2010-11, the last time the Lions made the NCAA Tournament. The Nittany Lions (26-13 overall, 9-9, 6th in the Big Ten), who were arguably the biggest snub of the NCAA tournament, finished the season by thumping Utah 82-66 to win the school’s second NIT Championship.
There’s plenty to be excited about in Happy Valley, and all signs point to Pat Chambers’ team taking the next step this year. Let’s take an early look at the 2018-19 PSU Men’s Basketball roster.
The Lions lose two seniors, Shep Garner and Julian Moore. Garner’s production will be tough to replace. He gave the Lions 32.8 mpg in his senior year and averaged 11.4 ppg and 2.1 rbg while shooting an impressive 44% from the field and 43% from beyond the arc.
Garner averaged double digits in his sophomore, junior, and senior seasons for PSU, and was a key piece for the Lions during their NIT Championship run.
The Lions also lose Tony Carr to the NBA. Carr, a Sophomore, was Penn State’s biggest weapon on offense, averaging 19.6 ppg and 5.0 apg. Carr was instrumental in Penn State’s NIT run, giving the Lions 37+ minutes in each of the five NIT games, and scoring 17.4 ppg throughout the tournament. He’s projected to be mid to late first round pick.
Although Carr’s early departure hurts Penn State this season, it should help the program in the long run. The Nittany Lions have not had a player selected in the NBA draft since 1999.
Josh Reaves: Reaves will be the senior leader of the 2018-19 Lions. He did it all for Penn State last year, averaging 10.6 ppg, 5.1 rpg, and 3.1 apg. But where Reaves really makes his mark is on the defensive end. How far the 2018-19 Lions go will depend a lot on the senior’s ability to produce on offense and be a leader on the defensive end.
Lamar Stevens: The 6’8’’ forward has put together impressive seasons in his first two years in Happy Valley, the latest culminating in the NIT MVP. Stevens gave the Lions 15.5 ppg and 5.9 rpg in just over 33 minutes per contest as a Sophomore.
Stevens figures to be one of the Lions go-to options on offense next year, and has the potential to be the program’s second NBA draft pick in as many years.
Mike Watkins: Watkins, who missed the last nine games of the season due to a right knee injury, was PSU’s leading rebounder despite playing only 26 mpg. Even though some speculated Watkins might depart PSU for the NBA, he will return to Happy Valley for his redshirt junior year. At 6’9’’, 254 lbs., Watkins has the size to be a force in the middle for the Lions.
Who Coming In?
Penn State signed two four-star recruits from the 2018 class. SG Myles Dread, the 29th ranked SG in the 2018 class, gives the Lions some depth at the guard position. Dread put up 14.1 ppg and shot 42.9% from three point range in his senior season, earning the 6’5’’, 205 lb. wing Gatorade Washington D.C. Men’s Player of the Year honors.
The Lions also bring in the 28th ranked PG of the 2018 class, Rasir Bolton. Bolton, who had several Division-I offers including a handful from the ACC, is a 5’10’’, lightning quick PG who could contend for the starting spot after Nazeer Bostick’s decision to transfer.
Bolton can play either PG or SG, which gives Chambers options in a rotation that already includes Reaves and Jamari Wheeler.
Penn State also adds Izaiah Brockington, who decided to transfer from St. Bonaventure following his freshman year. However, per NCAA rules, Brockington will have to sit out the 2018-19 season.
With a solid core of experienced veterans to go along with a talented incoming class, Pat Chambers enters his 8th season as the Nittany Lions’ Head Coach with high expectations. If history is any indication, though, the Lions should be one of the 68 teams playing for the National Championship in 2018-19.
Since the NCAA Tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985, 17 NIT champions made the NCAA Tournament field the following season. It would be the program’s first appearance in the NCAA Tournament since 2011.