First and foremost, if you think Pat Chambers and the men’s B-Ball squad are all happy and content cutting down those nets on the hallowed grounds of Madison Square Garden, think again. Chambers said from the outset of last week’s Big Ten Media Day that anything less than a trip to March Madness would be considered a complete failure and a step in the wrong direction.
With that said, it’s easy for basketball to get lost in the shuffle here in Happy Valley, especially while WE ARE in the midst of the king of Penn State athletics: football. I didn’t even mention Russ Rose and Penn State women’s Volleyball as they seek another title to add to their impressive collection. There is also men’s hockey with championship dreams, claiming third place as the hottest ticket in town, behind football and wrestling. Under normal circumstances, men’s basketball usually just plods along unnoticed until sometime in early January when king football finally wraps up for another long off-season. It is what it is and Chambers understands that even if it doesn’t make it any easier to get where he’s trying to take our program, there is extra buzz and excitement as the princes of the hardcourt keep climbing.
Two players are gone from the team that cut down nets as the NIT Champs. They also happen to be two of the Nittany Lions’ most prolific scorers in the program’s history; Mr. Smooth himself, Tony Carr, who became Penn State’s first player in over a decade to hear his name called in the NBA Draft when the New Orleans Pelicans selected him early in the second round and three-point ace, Shep Garner, widely regarded as the main cog in bringing this newfound Philly-pipeline to the BJC. We also bid farewell to big man Julian Moore.
Mr. Do Everything power-forward, Lamar Stevens and the King of Electricity, Josh Reaves, both return to lead the Nittany Lions on their quest for bigger stages. Sophomore speedster, Jamari Wheeler and a trio of highly regarded freshmen Myles Dread (DC-area Gatorade Player of the Year), Myreon Jones (the 81st ranked player in 247/Sports composite rankings), and Rasir Bolton (a member of the 2018 Adidas Team Uprising AAU National Champions) are all tasked with replacing the sneakers and huge legacies left behind by Carr and Garner. Not an easy task to say the least. In the paint, Jon Harrar and seven-footer Satchel Paige, both key players during last year’s tournament run, hope to pick up where they left off this past spring.
And then there’s the curious case of Mike Watkins. Plagued by injury and off-court legal troubles, his status for this upcoming season has yet to be determined. The subject was broached at the team’s on-campus media day and Pat Chambers wore his heart on his sleeve when he made a plea with everyone that would listen to ‘give the kid a chance,’ alluding to his tough upbringing on the hard-nosed streets of Philly. It’s a subject we’ve seen before in football but not one we’ve seen too often on the hardcourt. I, for one, am pulling for the guy and hope that Chambers can make a difference whether he suits up again for us or not. Obviously if he does, we’d be better off but then again, we cut down those nets when our backs were against the wall last spring. With all of that being said, the 2018-2019 Penn State men’s basketball squad has every intention of climbing and being a participant in March Madness when it rolls around next year!