At 11-8 overall and 2-4 in the Big Ten, Penn State has struggled with consistency this year. And a quick glance at the stats helps to explain the up-and-down performances.
Once again, fifth-year coach Pat Chambers' squad has no reliable pure post presence. The three men handling the job — seniors Jordan Dickerson and Donovan Jack, and redshirt sophomore Julian Moore — have been all over the place production-wise.
Combined, they are averaging 12.6 points and 9.8 rebounds.
Dickerson has blocked 35 shots (and altered many others), but otherwise doesn’t do much of anything. He has more fouls (60) than points (59) and is averaging just 3.1 points per game.
Jack had his first double-figure scoring effort of the season when he tallied a dozen points in Saturday’s win at Northwestern. But he has about as many fouls (50) as rebounds (51).
And Moore has been wildly inconsistent. He is tops among the post players with three-double figure scoring games. But he has failed to score in five other contests.
All of which begs one question:
How much is Penn State missing true freshman power forward Mike Watkins, the athletic 6-foot-8, 245-pounder who was declared academically ineligible shortly before the season?
“It would be nice to have him,” Chambers said. “Sometimes I even dream about it to fire myself up.”
Watkins’ eligibility issues stem from his high school days, and according to Chambers he’s maintained a GPA of better than 3.0 at Penn State. One key in his on-court development is that he is allowed to practice with the Nittany Lions.
The coaching staff has an “attitude” index it uses to chart every player’s production at practice. It is used to fuel competition, too.
“He wins every day,” Chambers said. “The kid is the toughest kid on the floor. He competes at a level for a freshman that’s crazy. If he doesn’t win attitude, he’s in the top two or top three in points. What does that mean? That means he’s dominating practice.
“He would definitely bring us a toughness that we sorely need right now,” Chambers added.
As much as Watkins’ absences hurts Penn State this year, Chambers has consistently said that making sure the Philadelphia native sets a solid academic foundation is more important for the long haul. Watkins is able to use this season as a redshirt and will still have four seasons of eligibility remaining.
Which means Watkins will be hitting the floor at the same time as the most heralded recruiting class in Penn State history.
“He’s gonna be that much better (because of) this year,” Chambers said. “Though right now, it’s short-term pain for long-term gain.”
Check out the video above to see everything Chambers had to say about Watkins, including the rookie’s reaction to the rest of the PSU post players allowing Maryland’s Diamond Stone to tally 39 points and 12 rebounds in a Dec. 30 win over the Lions.