High motor guys will always find their way into their respective rotation, and will ultimately leave their imprint on the box score in one way or another. Points may not come as a premium, but getting rebounds to help create scoring opportunities for others, blocking or altering shots and even setting screens to get shooters open are the staples of energy guys across the country.
Finding quality, skilled big men with a tireless work ethic is not an easy task. When a prospect fits that bill, and is conveniently located in the school's backyard, there is no other choice but to make him a priority. For Pat Chambers and the Penn State Nittany Lions, Mike Watkins elected to stay local and bring his high motor to Happy Valley.
The Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (Phelps School) product comes into his freshman season as a four-star recruit by ESPN and the 90th-ranked senior in the 2015 class. The 6'8", 245-pound forward brings a strong basketball IQ on the defensive end and has a propensity for blocking shots.
His high motor and relentlessness allows him to anchor a defense and protect the rim at all costs. Watkins' best defensive attribute is his on-ball defense which usually translates into blocked or altered shots. Possessing quick feet is a plus for Watkins, as they allow him to rotate on defense and alter shots as a weak side defender. As alluded to in the introduction, Watkins maintains a high level of intensity throughout the duration of games. His never-ending motor will be very beneficial in late game situations, as he'll be less prone to be the fault of defensive lapses in crucial, game deciding minutes.
Areas for Improvement
Offensively, Watkins is far from a finished product. The majority of his points will come from easy put backs and dunks, as his low post game is severely limited. Watkins relied heavily on his length and strength to over-match opponents for offensive rebounds and put backs. There is a very smooth free throw shooting stroke to work with, so if Watkins can develop some post moves and become more assertive on the low block, his offensive capabilities will drastically increase.
Watkins will need to become more fundamentally sounds when it comes to blocking out. The former Phelps School standout never consistently sought contact and put a body on somebody in order to secure a rebound. Playing smaller competition allowed for him to get away with that, but in the Big Ten that will not be acceptable to Chambers and his staff.
To go along with developing a post game, Watkins will need to enhance his upper body strength in order to finish through contact at the next level. With a rather slight frame, Watkins found himself unable to complete and-one opportunities and capitalizing on being the biggest guy on the court.
Pat Chambers got himself a steal, as Watkins brings a strong work ethic and raw offensive skill set that is still developing. There could be significant playing time in Watkins' near future, especially if the Nittany Lions fall out of conference contention late in the season.
Watkins was a monumental commitment for Penn State. It was the sign of a quality player seeing potential in the home state school and seeing a chance to thrive at home. Immediate results may not come for Watkins, but with a work ethic like Watkins', good things may come sooner rather than later.