Penn State Basketball’s Sophomore Trio
A year removed from a season that seemed to shift the narrative of Penn State Men’s Basketball from helplessness to hope, the sophomore trio of Tony Carr, Mike Watkins and Lamar Stevens look to drive the force on a 2017-18 campaign that is searching for its first NCAA Tournament bid since 2011.
Although last season ended with a 6-12 conference record and a blowout loss to Michigan State in the Big Ten Tournament, Watkins, Carr and Stevens gave a look at a possible new era of Penn State basketball. The three now sophomores combined for 35.6 PPG, which is nearly half (49.4 percent) of Penn State’s total PPG on the season (72 PPG).
Starting point guard Tony Carr provides size at this position being 6-foot-5. Tony Carr is an example of Penn State basketball’s “Philly Pipeline” as he was a four-star recruit from Philadelphia. Carr averaged 4.2 APG in his freshman season, which was seventh in the Big Ten. Carr also was Penn State’s leading scorer, averaging 13.2 PPG. Carr’s 2016-17 season earned him the Big Ten All-Freshman team and an honorable mention for the media’s all-Big Ten team.
During the off-season, Carr took tremendous strides to setup an even more successful 2017-18 season. Carr added 25 pounds of muscle to even further increase his size mismatch at point guard. Penn State’s addition of freshman Jamari Wheeler was also huge in pushing Carr to improve his speed and agility during practice throughout the offseason. Carr will be a player to watch in the Big Ten this season, as he looks to one-up his impressive freshman year.
Mike Watkins provided a needed presence under the hoop last season. Watkins was unable to play his true freshman year due to being academically ineligible for the 2015-16 season. As a redshirt Freshman in the 2016-17 season, Watkins overwhelmingly led the Nittany Lions on the glass with 8.7 RPG. Opponents were terrorized by Watkins in the paint as he was seventh in the country in blocks, totaling 90 on the season.
Watkins will lead a Penn State front court that will include fellow sophomore Lamar Stevens. This season, Watkins will most likely start at center. Watkins will be of great benefit if Virginia Tech transfer Satchel Pierce will be productive off the bench. This would allow Coach Pat Chambers to, when in foul trouble, sit Mike Watkins and save him for the second half.
Watkins has not played in the first couple of exhibition games, nor did he make the trip to the Bahamas during the summer. This was due to what Coach Chambers calls an “in-house” issue. Watkins will be very important for Penn State for their physicality and dominance in the paint this season.
Rounding up the sophomore trio driving Penn State this season is Lamar Stevens. Last year, Stevens brought incredible intensity to a young Penn State team. Stevens seemingly did it all for the Nittany Lions. Stevens ranked second for Penn State in field goals, free throws and rebounds. Stevens progressed as a scorer in the second half of last year’s conference schedule. In Steven’s last 11 games, he averaged 16.1 PPG.
Stevens suffered a severe ankle sprain early in in the preseason during practice. He played in both of Penn State’s exhibition games, however, not at 100 percent. Stevens will probably see less minutes in the opening stretch of the season than he’s used to. His playing time will definitely return to its usual size when Stevens is 100 percent healthy.
With a year of experience under the sophomore trio’s belt, they’re poised to take significant strides in year two. Combined with a play-making Josh Reaves and senior sharpshooter Shep Garner, the 2017-18 team will be electric to watch this season.
Christian Katt is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.