COBL’s Jeff Neiburg:

The decision for Mike Watkins to attend The Phelps School for his senior year instead of staying at Math, Civics & Sciences paid off in the form of helping Phelps and coach Brian Shanahan capture the first PAISAA state championship in school history.

And the benefits didn’t just stop on the basketball court.

At the Malvern, Pa. boarding school, Watkins also got a taste of what life was like away from home before he heads up to Penn State next fall to begin his collegiate career.

“It prepared me well,” Watkins said. “It prepared me to manage my time and get my homework done.”

The 6-foot-9 Watkins, who’s been committed to Pat Chambers and PSU since June of 2013, may get slotted in the front court rotation behind upperclassmen like Donovan Jack and Jordan Dickerson, but the departure of senior Ross Travis provides an opening for available minutes.

And Watkins has a very good chance and staking claim to plenty of minutes in his freshman campaign.

“I’m going to go up there willing to work as hard as I have to,” Watkins said. “If I do start right away, that would be cool. If I don’t, I understand I just have to work through the process.”

If Tuesday night was any indication, Watkins is clearly ready to play at the next level. He was a force on both ends of the floor, finishing off alley-oops in transition, creating his own shot in the post and causing havoc on the defensive end around the rim.

“I can’t wait to get up there,” Watkins said. “People thought I fell off because my season was over, but I was still working out. I’m just getting better for the next level.”

via Donofrio Classic Report: Tuesday, March 31 | City of Basketball Love.

2016 Offers

City of Basketball Love:

Player of the Year

D.J. Newbill–Sr., Penn State

Newbill’s story is remarkable and well-documented. Once scorned by Buzz Williams and Marquette, he scrambled to find a school late in the recruiting process and played his freshman year at Southern Miss. Following his freshman season, the Philly product was homesick and decided to transfer and commit to Pat Chambers and Penn State. Before donning the blue-and-white, Newbill’s mother passed away and never had the chance to see him play for the Nittany Lions, as beautifully shown in BTN’s The Journey.

And after two very good seasons to begin his PSU career, Newbill’s senior year was flat out remarkable. Despite a career 44-55 record in Happy Valley and only three years in the uniform, Newbill leaves Penn State as arguably the greatest Nittany Lion of all-time….

via 2014-15 CoBL Division I Awards | City of Basketball Love.

Garrett Tucker on Twitter: "2015 PG Jahshire Hardnett will visit Penn State March 27th @jahshirehardnet".

About Patrick Chambers contract extension and why Sandy Barbour was smart to do it |

Dave Jones:

1. Chambers and his staff are showing signs of really being able to recruit.

The class just signed in the fall, including 4-star big guard Josh Reaves and 4-star power forward Mike Watkins and 3-star Lithuanian wing bomber Deividas Zemgulis has the look of a difference-maker. I’m hearing raves about Reaves in particular of the sort I heard about Talor Battle back in 2007 – total package of terrific player and leadership personality.

When your staff puts in the leg work to build relationships up and down the vital I-95 corridor and then that work starts bearing fruit, it’s tough to pull the plug. It would be even a better sign had not Reaves’ Oak Hill Academy teammate Joe Hampton from the 2015 class not backed out of his verbal last month.

2. The Nittany Lions played hard through the end of the season despite the results.

Usually you see some sort of dysfunction by March when a team endures as much losing as Penn State did. But the fact that the Nits played a lot of their best basketball in their last four games says something to how the players at least have bought in to what Chambers is selling.

Penn State went 3-1 from the last regular-season game through three games in the Big Ten tournament. During that period, they really emptied the tank in what could have been viewed as a hopeless situation. Significantly, they did so after Barbour gave Chambers a pair of public votes of confidence, one after the Lions’ worst game of the year – a 60-39 loss at Northwestern.

3. Penn State has not played defense this consistently and well since the Bruce Parkhill era.

That means something because it’s a constant, a base to work from that doesn’t fluctuate. It’s why PSU was so close in so many games.

The Lions were ranked 54th in defensive efficiency among the nation’s 351 Division I teams, 7th of 14 in the Big Ten, by Ken Pomeroy’s tempo-free stats. They did this while playing the fastest pace in the Big Ten.

Strictly speaking, one has nothing to do with the other. But only from a standpoint of personality, you don’t often see a team that plays up-tempo on offense and still locks down every possession on defense.

via About Patrick Chambers contract extension and why Sandy Barbour was smart to do it |

Chambers: Four More Years

Sports Info:

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Patrick Chambers, head coach of the Penn State men’s basketball team, has received a two-year contract extension, Sandy Barbour, Director of Athletics, announced Thursday. The extension will keep him at the helm of the Nittany Lions through at least the 2018-19 season.

“I am grateful for the commitment and enthusiasm for the men’s basketball program Eric Barron, Sandy Barbour and the Penn State administration have shown,” Chambers said. “We are proud of what we have accomplished, but know there is so much more ahead. I think our staff and players have laid a foundation to build upon for years to come.”

The 2014-15 campaign ended with three wins in the final four games, giving the Nittany Lions an 18-16 overall record and the most wins since 2011, a total that has been topped just twice in the last decade. Penn State knocked off No. 5 seed Iowa and Nebraska before falling in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals to fourth-seeded Purdue.

“I support what Patrick is doing and I support his long-term leadership of this program,” Barbour said. “I love the heart with which his team represents the university, Nittany Nation and the community, both on the court with measureable success and improvements and off with a 100 percent graduation rate and active participation in countless community activities. With a core group of returning players and the highest-rated recruiting class in school history coming next fall, the future is certainly promising. I believe with the right support and resources, Patrick can take this program to a level of success which everyone can get behind.”

Penn State started the season 12-1, posting the most non-conference wins in program history by breaking the previous high of 11 set during the 2008-09 season. Then-No. 4 Wisconsin snapped the Nittany Lions’ 10-game winning streak in the league opener Dec. 31, which was the longest for a PSU team since the 1995-96 squad opened the year going 13-0.

The Nittany Lions are expected to lose four letterwinners from the 2014-15 roster, including No. 4 all-time leading scorer D.J. Newbill and third-leading rebounder Ross Travis. The highest-rated recruiting class in PSU history will come on board in 2015-16, however, joining eight returning letterwinners led by Brandon Taylor, Jordan Dickerson, Geno Thorpe and Shep Garner. Garner and Thorpe were the second and third leading scorers down the stretch this season, while Taylor, Dickerson and Donovon Jack all moved into the Top 10 in career blocks while upping the team’s defensive presence.

via Chambers Inks Contract Extension – Penn State Official Athletic Site.

Hitting the trail

Action in Reading last night:

Penn State targets Tony Carr (’16) and Nazeer Bostick (’16) play for Roman.

Bonus: Ross Travis super dunk highlight

via ▶ Big Ten Tournament Highlight: Penn State – YouTube.

No. 2

D.J. Newbill, from Chicago:

Barbour: “Precursor of Things to Come” - Penn State - Scout

In [Penn State AD Sandy] Barbour’s eyes, one of the more impressive things about the PSU program this year is that the Lions have never given up, even during a pair of six-game Big Ten losing streaks. She credits [Pat] Chambers for developing that type of player.

“Those guys would run through a brick wall for him,” Barbour said. “They will fight, and I love all those same traits in him. He is going to fight for me, he’s going to fight for Penn State. I am going to fight for him. That is the kind of relationship that I really enjoy with Pat, and that he enjoys with our entire community. And I think if you can’t get behind that, I’m not sure what you can get behind.”

With that in mind, this week’s run in Chicago did not surprise the athletic director at all.

“First and foremost, I love these guys, and I love this team, and I love the heart with which they have represented the university and Nittany Nation and the community,” she said. “And so I was just happy for them to achieve some success. To see some success and have a lot of folks get behind them. To get people taking about Penn State men’s basketball the last couple days, although it probably ended a little bit shorter than we would have hoped, we are really, really proud of their effort. I think it is a precursor of things to come for Penn State men’s basketball.”

After the Nittany Lions’ run to the quarterfinals in Chicago, Barbour is hoping to spearhead and spark even more interest in the program.

“First of all, I think you have a coach who embodies all of those characteristics that I think the Penn State community is about,” she said. “It’s about toughness and resilience, and values of integrity and character and the things that he demands of his young men on a daily basis. … That is why you want to support and follow Penn State men’s basketball.”

via Barbour: “Precursor of Things to Come” – Penn State – Scout.