If Penn State basketball flourishes under Pat Chambers over the next few seasons, historians will likely look back to this year’s freshmen class as the catalyst for the uprising. However, that would be overlooking the impact of the 2015 class that gave us Josh Reaves, Davis Zemgulis, and Mike Watkins. Although Watkins has yet to step on the court in an official game, the other two showed enough glimpses in their freshmen campaigns to make you think that they can have a big impact on the program’s future.
As a four-star recruit out of Virginia’s Oak Hill Academy, Reaves was expected to make his mark on the team right away, but he only scored six points in the opener against VMI. Instead, it became apparent that Reaves was going to make most of his bones on the defensive end, as he wrapped up that debut with five rebounds, three blocks, and two steals in just 26 minutes.
The rest of the season went a lot like that, with Reaves leading Penn State in steals per game and finishing behind only Jordan Dickerson in blocks per game. Despite a mid-season bout with mononucleosis that caused him to miss six Big Ten contests, Reaves saw his offensive game develop as the year went on. He finished with just 6.4 points per game but achieved double-figure scoring in three of his last six games, including 13 points in the regular season finale victory over Illinois.
Role for 2016-17
Reaves’s athleticism was apparent from the very start with his ability to disrupt opposing offenses, but towards the end of the 2015-16 campaign, he started to use his abilities more aggressively on offense. Saying that the his jumper is a work in progress is putting it kindly, as Reaves went just 3-for-39 from three-point range last year. However, he showed that he can convert on floaters and layups when he takes matters into his own hands on offense.
There’s a spot in the starting lineup waiting for Reaves this year thanks to his defensive ability and experience relative to the incoming freshmen. Plus, Pat Chambers’s desire to play at a fast paced could open up some more transition opportunities at which Reaves excelled last year. What Penn State fans are really looking for, though, is for the sophomore to improve his jump shot and overall offensive game to become a serious threat on both sides of the floor. If that doesn’t happen, Reaves could lose playing time to one of the incoming freshmen guards. If it does, though, he could develop into one of Penn State’s most valuable players.