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Penn State Basketball: Watkins Continues To Shine During Early Season Play

by on December 20, 2016 12:45 PM

Penn State coach Patrick Chambers once joked that he would cry if Mike Watkins had been academically eligible to play during the 2015 season.

It's easy to see why.

Twelve games into the season it's the 6-foot-9 forward -- not a heralded class of true freshmen -- turning heads. Ranked third nationally in total blocks with 40 and sixth in the nation with just over three per game, Watkins has been a force in the heart of Penn State's defense.

Perhaps more importantly, Watkins isn't a one-trick pony. A handful or reliable moves in the post and an eye for rebounds, Watkins is a rare mixture of height and length coupled with athleticism.

"Even back in high school I hated playing against Mike just knowing that he's a great shot blocker that always messes with the guards," Penn State point guard Tony Carr said earlier this month. "When he's not on my team in practice I just try and get him up in the air and hopefully dish it off to the big man or shoot a floater."

Watkins' full potential has been on display more than a few times early in Penn State's season, but perhaps no more impressively than during Saturday's blowout of St John's. In that game Watkins scored 15 points and pulled down 13 rebounds while picking up three blocks and dishing our four assists. The afternoon marked his third double-double of the year and most impressive outing since his near triple-dobule against Wright State, where he had nine rebounds, eight block and eight points in 20 minutes of play.

"He is a great shot blocker and he is probably one of the best that I have seen," junior guard Shep Garner added. "He does a great job at doing his job - he defends, he rebounds and he doesn’t come out of his lane. I also think that he does a tremendous job for our team as a whole."

For his efforts this past weekend it was Watkins taking home Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors, the first individual accolade for Penn State this season. Judging by his early season play, it's safe to assume that it won't be the last for the talented redshirt freshman.

"I know that when I come out here and play," Watkins said. "I come out just like practice and I block shots and get rebounds, which is just a habit of mine."

Not a bad habit to have.

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