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Penn State Basketball: Nittany Lions Sign Historic Class With Top 100 Talent

by on November 12, 2014 11:15 AM

It's rare to see a moment happen while simultaneously understanding its significance.

Usually time has to pass before hindsight kicks in and you can appreciate that moment for what it truly was.

But for Penn State basketball, Wednesday's National Signing Day is a very tangible high point in the program's history. By all accounts a three man recruiting haul gives Penn State the best single recruiting class the program has ever seen, at least in the era of rankings and highly-publicized recruiting efforts.

The men of the hour; two 4-star prospects ranked in the Top 100 or Top 150 of various recruiting services along with a 6-6 shooter with a respectable resume of his own.

It remains to be seen how these players will impact the program during their time at Penn State, but Wednesday is a moment that will help write the next chapter of the Pat Chambers era. If Penn State basketball is going to make a step forward, days like today are moments that will help make that happen. Players are only a part of a complicated equation but they are also the biggest part of the foundation to a successful program.

Even if the biggest questions are still years from being answered, there is still an excitement that surrounds the program and coaching staff as over a years worth of work finally comes full circle. It's a class that took long days and long drives to put together, buttressed by a talented freshman class and a 2016 recruiting class that has already started off with one of the biggest recruits the program has ever landed. Where recruiting success was once measured by single recruits, Penn State can hang its hat on entire classes, something more or less unheard of in previous years.

Penn State basketball fans are well versed in the cautious optimism that can be found at the start of every season, but for once there might just be actual substance behind the belief that things are headed in the right direction.

""I'm just so proud of my staff," Chambers said. "For three and a half years these guys worked so hard at knocking on doors and getting the phone hung up on them and not getting people to respond to them and that is hard to swallow sometimes. But they kept a great attitude they stayed positive and we just saw little victories, small success and if you do that the first yes will finally come, the second yes will finally come. For them to do what they've done is a tribute to their organization and their work ethic."

"It's a monumental day ... for this program, and the history of the program."

The Players: 

4-star PG, Josh Reaves

  • 6-foot-4, 185 pounds.
  • Oak Hill Academy (VA)
  • Ranked 81 on ESPN Top 100
  • Interest from: Georgetown, Miami, Mount St Mary's, Nebraska, Penn State, Temple, Villanova, VCU, Virginia

Reaves is the crown jewel of this recruiting class committing in July of 2014 after a long recruiting process and several stops at Penn State for visits and camps. Reaves has since transferred to Oak Hill Academy, playing alongside 2016 commit Joe Hampton at the prestigious school. Oak Hill is known for producing NBA level talent for past few decades, sending nine players to the league since 2000 and 22 overall since the early 1990s. A few notable alums including Rajon Rondo, Brandon Jennings, Steve Blake and perhaps most famously Carmelo Anthony.

While there isn't any guarantee or even expectation that Reaves or Hampton will turn into a version of Melo, it's far from the worst school to have a pipeline with and Reaves is far from the worst way to start that pipeline.

Chambers on Reaves: “Josh is a high-level player whose versatility on the floor makes him a guy who I expect to be a stat sheet stuffer for us. His athleticism and speed make him an excellent defender, which allows him to get out in transition and attack the rim – where he is at his best.



4-star C/PF, Mike Watkins

  • 6-foot-8, 210 pounds.
  • Phelps School. Philadelphia, PA
  • Ranked 89 on ESPN Top 100
  • *Signed with Penn State early in recruiting process, limited offers at the time (July 2013).

The first commit of the class, Watkins is an elite level shot blocker who only continues to grow on the offensive end of the court. Athletic and long, Watkins has some work cut out for him to develop fully, but a PIAA Class A 17 point, 17 rebound effort in a championship winning effort shows he has the tools to be something special

Chambers on Watkins: “Mike is an elite athlete who will provide us another rim protector. He excels at running the floor in transition and is a phenomenal finisher. It’s great to have another Philly product in our program.”



3-star SF, Deividas Zemgulis

  • 6-foot-6, 220 pounds.
  • St Mary's Ryken (MD)
  • Interest from George Mason, Davidson, San Diego St

A tall outside shooter with inside game, Zemgulis shouldn't be overlooked just because he doesn't bring in the same resume of his two fellow future Nittany Lions. A solid comparison might be to that of Donovan Jack, a player who can play both inside and outside the arc.

Chambers on Zemgulis: “Davis brings us a bigger wing who is a premier three-point shooter with unlimited range. His competitiveness and toughness are things our staff loves about him. His high basketball IQ will help us from day one.”

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