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Penn State Basketball Player Preview: Mike Watkins

The fifth-year senior big man will team up with Lamar Stevens to form one of the Big Ten’s best front courts.

NCAA Basketball: Rutgers at Penn State Matthew O’Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Position: Forward/Center

Height: 6’9”

Weight: 254 lbs

It’s been a roller coaster of a career for Mike Watkins, who first burst onto the scene as a redshirt freshman in the 2016-17 season as a rebounding and shot-blocking stalwart who was also capable of putting up points. Things were going well for Mike until he went on to suffer a season-ending injury in the final month of the 2017-18 season, which turned into an offseason chock full of legal troubles, followed by Mike revealing his struggles with mental health. In 2019-20, he seeks to make sure the final chapter of his PSU career ends on a high note.

What He Did Last Year

Pat Chambers sat Mike for the first several games of last season, as Mike dealt with treating his mental health issues. He would eventually return for the upset win over Virginia Tech that November, but it would take nearly the entire season for Mike to get back into prime basketball shape. Despite the struggles however, he still managed to average 7.8 points per game and 7.4 rebounds per game.

What We Need This Year

Ideally, if Penn State wants to make it into the NCAA Tournament and not sweat it out on Selection Sunday, then Mike needs to be averaging just about a double-double per game. The early returns look promising with his 19-point, 11-rebound performance coming off the bench in the team’s exhibition game against Delaware yesterday. He also needs to avoid getting into early foul trouble like he has in the past, which may perhaps be a reason why Pat Chambers is currently having him come off the bench. He and Lamar Stevens have the potential to be the Big Ten’s best front court, if things come to fruition.

By now, we all know what Mike is truly capable of when he’s healthy (both physically and mentally) and staying out of foul trouble, so if he can do a solid job with respect to those areas, his final year as a Nittany Lion may indeed be his best. It sure needs to be if PSU hopes to be dancing come March, because while Lamar Stevens may be the heart and soul of the program right now, he certainly can’t do it all by himself.