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Penn State Basketball: Five Things To Know Prior To Season Opener Against Albany

by on November 11, 2016 2:00 PM

Penn State opens its regular season tonight against Albany in an anticipated debut of a freshman class that is widely regarded as the best in program history. With that aside there are a few things to know heading into the season opener if you haven't been up on all the random bits of news during the offseason.

So here are five things to know before Friday night's 7 p.m. tip.

1. Injuries

Penn State will play the first few games of the season without two familiar faces. Guard Josh Reaves and forward Payton Banks are both out with lower body injuries, Reaves injured has leg in practice and is expected to miss at least three games. Banks pulled his hamstring a few weeks prior to the opener and has been slow to recover and not forced back into action. Neither injury is expected to matter in the long term, but you aren't wrong to realize two familiar faces aren't suiting up Friday, but don't worry, they'll be back soon.

2. Hampton

Once the best recruit to ever commit to Penn State, Joe Hampton transferred from the program just days prior to practice starting. Pat Chambers per program policy didn't offer much explanation up for the departure aside from "personal reasons." Early reports indicated that Hampton was, expectedly, behind slightly from a physical standpoint as he recovered from an ACL injury and got up to speed in the weight room. All told this loss isn't as big as it once looked like it would be, but if you're looking for Hampton at the BJC, you won't find him there.

3. Watkins

At 6-foot-9 it appears that Mike Watkins is everything Penn State has been missing in a big man. He's athletic, he's long and he runs the court and knows how to use his feet. He isn't the second coming of Shaq but if he stays out of foul trouble he's going to be a player you'll notice right away on both ends of the floor. Watkins has done well in the classroom after being declared ineligible last season and ought to be well on his way to a full season of impressive play.

4. Tempo

It isn't just Joe Moorhead running and up-tempo offense this year as Penn State looks to utilize a whole host of athletes to run the court and to do it fast. The Nittany Lions aren't a great shooting team, but Lamar Stevens, Nazeer Bosticki, Tony Carr, Shep Garner and a healthy Josh Reaves give Penn State a whole stable of players who can get to rim and finish in transition. How athletic this team is on the court against good teams is to be determined, but it's safe to say this might be the best bunch of pure athletes Penn State has had on the court at the same time. The goal is 80 points a game and so far it certainly seems possible.

5. Tony Carr

He's your starting point guard which moves Shep Garner off the ball for the time being. As always the point position will have some amount of rotation involved but for now it's the Philly freshman running the show up top. Not as physically impressive as Stevens or Bostick, Carr is still the best finisher of the bunch and managed to get praise from Reaves early on for his court vision making passes "I had never seen before." Big Ten defenses won't be so easy, but Carr seems to have the tools and will probably get a leash long enough to learn how to use them.

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