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Penn State Basketball: Watkins Set To Return

by on April 30, 2019 1:07 AM

Penn State big man Mike Watkins will return to State College for his final year of eligibility, the program announced on Monday.

“I’m excited to finish my collegiate career as a Nittany Lion,” Watkins said in a press release. “My teammates, Coach (Patrick) Chambers and the staff, and everyone around the program, they have been such a big part of my life and have supported me. I’m proud to come back for my final season and represent my Penn State family.”

Neither Watkins nor Penn State ever officially announced if he was exploring professional opportunities but the Monday evening announcement puts that potential chapter behind both player and program. As of Tuesday, junior forward Lamar Stevens, who announced his intentions to test the NBA Draft waters, has yet to indicate which direction he is leaning. Stevens has until the end of May to decide.

As for Watkins, he continues to be one of the most talented centers the program has seen. A double-double machine and an elite rim protector, Watkins is among the most athletic big men in the conference, and at his best, the nation.

Watkins' career has not necessarily been without its own drama though. The Philadelphia native has had a handful of minor -yet newsworthy- legal incidents and publicly spoke about his ongoing battle conquer his own mental health issues. All of this in the cloud of recovering from an injury that saw him miss Penn State's NIT title run two seasons ago.

Nevertheless, his talent is undeniable.

“We are ecstatic Mike has decided to return for his final season at Penn State,” said Chambers. “Having him back at full strength provides Mike the opportunity to continue in his development on and off the floor.

Watkins ranks in the top 30 of the NCAA’s active career leaders in four categories: blocked shots (13th, 199), blocked shot average (2.24, 19th), field goal percentage (61.7, 22nd) and double-doubles (26, 26th).

All told the Nittany Lions will enter a pivotal ninth year under Chambers with one of its most important assets still on the roster. Monday's news comes -perhaps not by mistake-  not long after the announcement that freshman Rasir Bolton had entered the NCAA transfer portal.

It remains to be seen if Bolton ultimately transfers, and if Stevens opts to return for his senior year.

But if nothing else, Chambers and Penn State will have a talent big man, and that's a start.

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