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Penn State Nittany Lions benefiting from Josh Reaves' development

The freshmen guard isn't posting gaudy scoring numbers, but his all-around prowess is both helping the Nittany Lions and giving them hope for the future.

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Josh Reaves’ arrival at Penn State was always going to be highly anticipated. From the moment the 4-star shooting guard verbally committed to the Nittany Lions in July 2014, fans were already anxiously waiting for the day he’ be throwing down some of these dunks in blue and white. The fact that he was a part of the highest rated recruiting class in Penn State history only heightened Reaves’ hype.

But then things got even more interesting. Projected starting shooting guard Geno Thorpe transferred over the summer, and fellow 4-star freshman Mike Watkins wasn’t cleared to play by the NCAA. Not only was Reaves now expected to start right away, but his development seemed likely to be scrutinized even more.

Throw in the fact that Reaves wasn’t exactly going to be surrounded by elite players at Penn State, and it’s clear that this was not an easy position to be in. But just one month into his college career, Reaves is already surpassing expectations.

So far, the 6’4" shooting guard is averaging 25.2 minutes of playing time per game and has started every contest. While he’s averaging just 6.1 points, he’s proven to be the jack-of-all-trades player with averages of 3.9 rebounds, 1.2 blocks and 1.1 steals per game.

Reaves is clearly still in the process of developing and things certainly haven’t been easy. After all, the Virginia native is shooting an ugly 32 percent from the field and has scored in double digits only once.

You’re probably wondering how exactly Reaves is surpassing expectations with such low numbers. Really, it all comes down to one word – defense. Reaves has been terrific on that end so far, which has been huge for Penn State.

When he first committed, Reaves was touted as a potentially tenacious defender, a guy who could shutdown scorers while still being able to force turnovers. Really, he sounded a lot like a hopefully more offensively talented Thorpe, a role he found himself thrust into when the former Nittany Lion departed the program.

Ten games into the season, Reaves has done a good job filling that role. While he definitely hasn’t faced his toughest competition of the season yet, the freshmen hasn’t backed down when playing man-to-man and has proven capable of getting both steals and blocks.

More importantly, he seems to be making serious progress at a good time with the Big Ten schedule starting in just two weeks. Reaves looked fantastic in the Nittany Lions last two games, registering eight points, seven assists, 10 rebounds and four steals against Canisius before scoring nine points to go with five rebounds and three blocks against Louisiana Monroe.

Both the games were wins for Penn State, and the Nittany Lions will need more all-around brilliance from their freshmen shooting guard if they want to win consistently in conference. At the very least, fans will get to see just how far along Reaves is when he faces backcourts like the ones at Indiana, Maryland and Michigan State.

Reaves is still just a freshman and is nowhere near done developing. But while he still needs to work on his offensive game and consistency, his play lately has been a major positive for the Nittany Lions.