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Penn State Basketball: Early On Freshmen Seem To Pass Eye Test

by on July 29, 2016 2:00 PM

Penn State guard Shep Garner smiles a lot to begin with.

But ask him about Penn State's freshmen class, all of whom have arrived on campus and started practicing, and he smiles even wider. 

"It's good," Garner said last week not far from a picnic table surrounded by those freshmen. "The competition, it's great at practice, you can't take a practice off, everybody pushes each other and that's great, that's going to make us a better team. So as long as everyone comes to play every day we'll be better for it."

So far Penn State hasn't yet made these freshmen available to the media, the idea being that the first few months of college are hard enough without being interrogated. The result is a simple eye test and asking everyone else what they think about having a roster deep enough and talented enough to push anyone for a starting spot.

Without the benefit of actually seeing them play, Tony Carr is a long guard deceptively taller than Garner himself. Lamar Stevens is muscular and looks nearly ready for the Big Ten. Joe Hampton is large and probably a bit of work in the weight room from where he needs to be, and Nazeer Bostick somewhere between Stevens and Carr.

All told they certainly look the part.

But can they live up to the hype?

"The chemistry with us, the way that we play, it doesn't take long for us to understand each other," says Josh Reaves, 2015's standout freshman turned sophomore veteran. "I was able to watch a couple of their games in high school and see who does what better in different places so it definitely really helped. As far as the hype they had coming in here, they have a really good chance of living up [to it].

"It's a lot different since we don't have any seniors, so our approach as returning players has to be at a whole different level. We're just trying to take them under our wing and teach them how to play Penn State basketball. It's mostly just keeping people out of your head, not letting all the critics back home get to you. It's just playing for us, playing for each other that's the biggest thing. Telling them the lessons we learned during the year, as much as I can do to help.

"Just the fact that we have pieces that can play multiple positions, that's big. Just the competitive level, I haven't been in anything like this since I went to Oak Hill. Someone is ready to take your job at any moment and coach isn't afraid to tell you that and that's what he's there for, to push you to become a better player or someone else to become a better player."

Of course, ask coach Pat Chambers about these freshmen and he's optimistic, but perhaps expectedly cautious about acting like the national title is just a formality.

"Man, they're setting a very high bar," Chambers said with a laugh upon hearing what Reaves and Garner had to say about their new teammates. "And that's good. We do, we have some depth, we have some talent, we have some skill, guys are working hard. Nobody wants to give up an inch. But we still have a long, long way to go. We have a lot of things to iron out."

In the end it won't be for a few more months before anyone has an idea of what these freshmen truly look like, and truth be told, the moment they finally all hit the court together could be one of the bigger moments on Penn State's athletic calendar this year.

Does it lead anywhere in 2016? That remains to be seen, but nobody is holding back when it comes to praising the potential this team has. Even if it's still maybe a year from actually reaching it.

Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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