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Penn State 2017-18 Preview: Mike Watkins Headlines a Youthful Frontcourt

The young Nittany Lion frontcourt looks to inject some youthful energy into Pat Chambers’ seventh season at the helm.

NCAA Basketball: Penn State at Nebraska Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

In the weeks leading up to the 2017-’18 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 the Penn State Nittany Lions. Penn State’s cavalry of big men will feature familiar faces as well as a couple of new ones.

'BTPowerhouse Preview' - Penn State Frontcourt:

  • 2016-’17 All-Big Ten Qualifiers: None
  • Key Departures: None
  • Additions: Trent Buttrick & John Harrar
  • Top Player: Mike Watkins

There will be familiar faces in the starting lineup for head coach Pat Chambers. With last season’s rotations featuring a heavy dose of underclassmen, the Nittany Lions have gained valuable experience and should be ready to have their roars heard in the upcoming Big Ten season.

Starting Rotation

The Nittany Lions return one regular starting big man in redshirt sophomore, Mike Watkins. The Philadelphia native featured in all 33 games last season and started 24 of them. His successful rookie year earned him two Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors on top of setting the Penn State freshman record for total rebounds in a season with 267 and setting the Big Ten Tournament record for most blocks in a game with eight against the Nebraska Cornhuskers.

Watkins lead the team in rebounding an astounding 21 times throughout last season while contributing 9.7 points per game and 2.7 blocks per game. His blocks per game average placed him ninth nationally in that category.

Bench Rotation

Who are the next guys in whenever Watkins needs to be spelled? Look for the two incoming freshman, Trent Buttrick and John Harrar to get some run and gain valuable experience.

Buttrick will look to spread the floor and create spacing for the Penn State guards and wings to do their things. Harrar brings a physical mindset to the floor and as a former prep football star he is not afraid to bang it up in the post.

The old man of the frontcourt is graduate student, Julian Moore. Moore has been with Penn State his entire career and is looking to expand his role on the team in his final season. In 15 minutes a game last season the six foot ten inch big man nabbed three rebounds a game.


Watkins will lead the charge in the paint and continue being a nuisance for opposing teams on the glass. His robust 91.8 defensive rating will shine through as his role increases and is primed for a breakout year. If the unheralded freshman can make an impact alongside Watkins, the Nittany Lions will have a solid foundation to build the future around.