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Penn State Basketball: Josh Reaves Shows Why It Just Takes Time

by on January 07, 2016 6:00 AM
University Park, PA

Josh Reaves ran to his left with his arm stretched out as far as it would go grasping for the ball.

He missed the pass.

A second later Reaves was back three steps to his right, contesting the shot as a Minnesota player took the ball and launched it in the air. For most there was nothing worth noticing, Reaves frequently finds himself in passing lanes, he more often than not finds himself with the ball headed in the other direction.

But it really speaks to something more.

Of all the things that have made Penn State's heralded freshman guard an impressive watch, it's his athleticism that jumps out to you the most. Followed perhaps in a close second by his calm demeanor and his basketball IQ for a kid not far removed from high school. Most players simply don't recover from a missed steal, in most cases that Minnesota player rises up uncontested.

Not with Reaves.

Having an athletic player in Division I hoops doesn't exactly sound the alarm bells, but it's something you can't really teach. You can have the smartest players in the world but you can only make them so fast, so quick, and only so good. Penn State basketball has always faced the same issues as Herb Hand and the Penn State offensive line. You can only make the players you have so good.

I still have no idea how good this particular Penn State team will be. Payton Banks is light years better than I thought he would ever be, Brandon Taylor is practically a different player at this point and Shep Garner has found a Talor Battle-esque way of turning cold shooting performances into clutch shot making.

This year it will be defense it seems that dooms the Nittany Lions from making major strides in conference play, that and the occasionally poorly time scoring droughts. Either way, even if this edition of Penn State basketball doesn't take the step forward with wins and losses, Reaves is truly the embodiment of why that might change sooner rather than later.

Simply put, better players are on the way. If Tony Carr, Lamar Stevens, and Nazeer Bostick can impact Penn State the same way Reaves already has, that's the kind of progress you notice from Day 1. Add in UConn transfer Terrence Samuel, who by all accounts could start today if NCAA rules allowed it and you have a team with a lot of talent. Don't forget Shep Garner, Banks, and Julian Moore, all returning a year older and wiser.

The point isn't to say that this season doesn't matter. Penn State has already proven it's capable of taking a punch and responding. That by its very nature makes this season interesting enough to follow.

The point is, however, that for the first time in a long time -- or perhaps ever -- you can see what good recruiting does for the product on the court. Chambers is quickly going from coaching okay players up to a level where they can compete to taking players who are already competitive and making them better.

Will it be enough? Only time will tell, but the hard work is finally paying off and Reaves is the first sign that it really can make a difference.

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