Penn State got tuned up for the start of the basketball season last weekend with a pair of exhibition games against Patriot League foe Lafayette and Division II’s Bloomsburg. The results were solid enough, as the Nittany Lions came away with a 102-80 victory at Lafayette and an 84-67 win at home against Bloomsburg. However, not many Penn State fans were able to see the team in action due to the games being off television. Here are three important things that could impact the Lions when the regular season begins this Friday.
1. Nazeer Bostick scored in double digits for both games, with a total of 23 points
Last year, Bostick wasn’t ready for showtime right away, and when he was, he went down with an injury. This season, he’s a potential breakout guy with the Lions looking for scoring production off the bench. Pat Chambers has praised Bostick’s athleticism and defensive ability in the past, but in the exhibition games, he showed off his offensive skills as well by shooting 9-for-18 between the two contests with a pair of three-pointers. Here he is in transition against Bloomsburg.
Buckets like that aren’t going to come so easily once the competition heats up, but Bostick’s ability to finish like that should give him some confidence as he works on his half-court game.
2. John Harrar played significantly more than Trent Buttrick
Jamari Wheeler will likely be the freshmen with the most playing time this year thanks to his ball-handling skills and Penn State’s need for a backup point guard. What we learned over the weekend is that Harrar appears to be ahead of fellow freshman forward Buttrick on the depth chart. While Buttrick has been praised by Chambers for his shooting, Harrar dominated the playing time over the weekend with a total of 27 minutes compared to Buttrick’s five. Harrar also made a small impact on the box score with eight points and six rebounds. As Chambers explained after the Bloomsburg game, though, Harrar’s value has a lot to do with intangibles.
John is an energy guy, and he plays hard. He has no ego, and he’s just going to go out there and compete. He doesn’t even need to touch the ball, but the guys love him. They’re going to give him the ball. He got up-and-down, did a nice job on the defensive end, he sets amazing screens, but just his juice, his energy, his love and passion for the game. It’s going to be hard to keep him on the bench.
Harrar seems to be that blue-collar type of player that Chambers loves, so it will be interesting to see how much of the court he sees in the regular season opener against Campbell.
3. The status of Mike Watkins is a mystery
Watkins was forced to redshirt his freshman year due to academic issues, and now, after a fantastic debut campaign, it seems those issues have come up again. Here’s what Chambers had to say after Watkins failed to appear in either exhibition game.
Mike’s doing great and working hard. Day-to-day right now. I just want to see him at a level academically, basketball-wise, socially. Obviously, there’s a standard here that we’re going to hold him to, but he is doing a great job of checking a lot of boxes right now, so day-to-day.
Watkins was a big part of what made Penn State so successful on defense last year, so losing him even for a little while would be a big blow. As nice as it is to have Satchel Pierce and Julian Moore for depth, neither guy the shot blocker that Watkins is. Hopefully the big man gets his act to together and is back on the court sooner than later.