Watkins must meet PSU standards in order to play

Men's Basketball

UNIVERSITY PARK — Penn State basketball will need a strong interior this season to compete with their sizable Big Ten opponents. Forward Mike Watkins’ failure to get up to speed off the court is making that interior development difficult.

While the Lions took on Bloomsburg in a preseason matchup, the 6-foot-11 redshirt sophomore watched from the sidelines.

“I just want to see him at a level academically, basketball-wise, socially,” coach Patrick Chambers said following the exhibition. “Obviously, there’s a standard here that we’re going to hold him to, but he is doing a great job of checking a lot of boxes right now.”

When asked if it was related to an injury related, Chambers said that the situation was “in-house.”

This isn’t the first time Watkins has been sidelined because of similar reasons. Watkins failed to meet the off-court standards of Chamber’s program earlier in the year. During the team’s international trip to the Caribbean over the offseason, Watkins was left in the states.

The trip served as an opportunity for the team to develop better chemistry on and off the court.

“We’re going in the right direction and we’re really connected,” senior guard Shep Garner said. “I think this is the most connected team I’ve ever been a part of.”

Chambers noted that Watkins was making progress academically and socially to bounce back from a rocky offseason. Watkins echoed the coach’s claims that he was getting his social and academic life in order.

Even though progress was being made, it clearly wasn’t enough to have Watkins be a part of the roster in the preseason.

Forward Satchel Pierce, who sat last year due to NCAA transfer rules, fulfills the big man role in Watkin’s absence.

Watkins was an integral part of the team on both sides of the court last season. He led the Big Ten in blocks for most of the season and added length to the interior on offense.

Chambers is hopeful that the Watkins situation will be under control soon.

“He’s closer and closer to being back,” Chambers said. “I’m hopeful he’ll be back this week.”

The sooner Watkins can handle his off-court issues, the sooner the interior can develop in-game chemistry. The Lions will face Campbell in their season opener on this Friday.