In a season that left a lot to be desired, Mike Watkins proved to be deserving of the excitement many fans had coming into last year. The forward gave Penn State the kind of advantage the Nittany Lions had lacked for a number of years, and he only stands to get better with a season under his belt.
What he did last year
Watkins had a monster season in his redshirt freshman campaign. He finished in the top 10 in blocked shots per game at 2.73, giving him a Blk% of 11.7. He broke the Penn State freshman record for double-doubles with eight, and also set a Big Ten Tournament record for blocks with eight in the opening around against Nebraska.
Watkins’ presence was felt when he was on the field, as he altered shots on defense while making his own on offense. The Nittany Lions looked like a completely different team when Watkins had to step off the floor due to foul trouble or fatigue. Speaking of, fouls was one of the weaker aspects of his game last season, and something he needs to continue to work on as he goes on his quest to become one of the best big men in Penn State, and even Big Ten history.
Watkins had somewhat of a challenging offseason, having been unable to make the trip to the Bahamas for undisclosed reasons. From all accounts, Mike has overcome the issues he had during the offseason, and is ready to put it all behind him and step back on the court. Here’s Pat Chambers on Watkins’ offseason work and how he’s learned from his experiences:
As far as Mike, I think he’s learned valuable lessons. He knows there’s a standard here at Penn State to be a student-athlete and he’s adjusted well off the court, obviously, but on the court, he’s done some really good things. In the weight room, he’s done some really good things. He’s had a great beginning to the semester, really clear-headed. Just doing every little thing we’re asking him to do and that’s what it’s about. Learning from your mistakes.
What to expect this year
Watkins has the potential to become even more dominating in his second season as a Nittany Lion, mainly due to the depth at the position created by Satchel Pierce’s eligibility. The redshirt junior could spell Watkins with little drop-off to the rest of the team, which will allow Watkins to stay fresh for longer periods of time, and, as long as he can stay out of foul trouble, continue to create havoc for opposing teams on both sides of the ball.
Like other Nittany Lions, Watkins has reportedly added 20 pounds over the offseason, which will allow him to better battle with the other bigs in the Big Ten. This is what an extra 20 pounds looks like, by the way:
Lastly, here are some words by both Satchel and Mike about how they make each other better.
Mike Watkins was one of the most anticipated additions to the Penn State roster, and for good reason. Now that he’s bigger, smarter, and more experienced, he’s poised to have the kind of season we have rarely seen for a Nittany Lion big man.