In the weeks leading up to the 2016-’17 college basketball season, BTPowerhouse will be releasing its preview series breaking down each Big Ten team. These will come in a set of series previewing the overall team, the team’s backcourt, wings, and big men, and the team’s schedule. Each post will take a look at its top in-depth and give predictions on the upcoming season.
Today’s edition of the ‘BTPowerhouse Preview Series’ will focus on the frontcourt for Penn State. Pat Chambers will need to replace his entire frontcourt from within if he wants to compete in 2016-2017.
'BTPowerhouse Preview' - Penn State Frontcourt:
- 2015-’16 All-Big Ten Qualifiers: Brandon Taylor
- Key Departures: Jordan Dickerson, Brandon Taylor, Joe Hampton
- Additions: None
- Top Player: Julian Moore
Gone before he even really got there. Head coach Pat Chambers thought he had found a fit on the block. An athletic player with a big body who wasn’t going to clog the floor. After losing his entire starting front court, coach Chambers had a lot of eggs in the Joe Hampton basket.
Unfortunately for Chambers and the Nittany Lions, the 6’ 8” 250 pound power forward decided to leave the school for what is being called personal reasons. The former three star big man committed to Penn St. in 2014 but decommitted after the Nittany Lions 3-15 season. He re-upped his commitment in 2015 but tore his ACL and missed his senior season at Oak Hill Academy. There were rumblings about Hampton’s readiness to play for his freshman season and now the Nittany Lions are without an incoming freshman capable of playing in the frontcourt.
The Nittany Lions are going to need redshirt freshman Mike Watkins to be the player they wanted Hampton to be. Fans didn’t get to see Watkins last season. He will be getting his first action this season and will have a large workload right out of the gates. The 6’9” big man will likely play the five, but is more suited to be a true power forward. Still, it never hurts to have an athletic former four star recruit guarding the paint.
Watkins is very athletic and his strength seems to be in transition. He runs the floor very well and has great awareness of where he is on the floor. He is able to catch a lob in two-on-one situations. He also works the baseline. Watkins tape shows his an ability to post players up and work with his back to the basket. If he can develop a set of post moves, he has the touch to become a scoring forward for Penn St.
Moore is one of the only returning frontcourt players on the 2016-2017 roster. He has seen an increased role in each season. This year will be his biggest. Moore came off the bench in 19 of the 31 games he played last season. Coach Cambers got valuable minutes out of Moore, who shot 45 percent and pulled down 3.3 rebounds per game.
Moore provides a great amount of length to the interior. Unlike Watkins, he is very effective in the pick-and-roll game. Defensively, Moore is able to guard three positions. He is not seen as a rim protector but may need to step up when defending bigger bodies this season.
This will be the most anticipated Penn St. hoops season in a long time. Unfortunately, the lack of depth in the frontcourt could hinder the Nittany Lions down the stretch. The Big Ten is full of talented big men. The average height of Purdue seems like it’s 6’10”. In reality they have seven players who stand at 6’6” or taller. Wisconsin’s front court is going to feature last years Big Ten Freshman of the Year Ethan Happ and this years favorite of Big Ten Player of the Year Nigel Hayes. Michigan, Michigan St, Indiana and Ohio State have all added size in the off season.
Luckily Penn St. is just trying to get into the tournament and can develop big men capable of playing in this league. Their key to success will be beating up on the bad teams and hanging with the good ones. While it is a long shot, if Penn St. can secure a signature win over a one of the Big Ten’s elite and string together a good record, they will be in the mix to hear their name called on selection Sunday. A lot will have to happen for Penn St to make their first tournament appearance since 2011, this year will be a building block.