Josh Reaves was a big time get for Chambers out of Paul VI HS in Virginia, a school which has become established among the better HS programs in America in recent years. Reaves is a 6’4″ wing whom PSU beat out the likes of Maryland, Georgetown and Villanova among others. He would appears to be a strong early candidate to claim a starting spot for Chambers, perhaps opposite Thorpe on the wing. He’s seen as a high energy athlete, a good wing rebounder and defender. They also think in time he can become a consistent jumpshooter, though it’s probably more realistic to expect the energy/effort/motor parts of his game to show up more consistently early on.
Michael Watkins is another highly regarded incoming player, this one in the form of a 6’8″ 220lbs interior player with high end athleticism. He’s definitely a guy whose early impact will come in ways where his athleticism and strength will show through, as he’s seen as a very raw player offensively right now. So, expect rebounding, shotblocking and transition play out of him. He’s definitely a good bet to earn some kind of rotation role as a freshman, though starting might be a little bit further down the road. Definitiely a high end potential kind of guy, though.
Deividas Zemgulis is a 6’6″ Lithuanian import who played in Maryland last year and has a reputation as a strong deep shooter. The negatives are that he’s reportedly a limited athlete, so not a guy who’s going to get into the lane much, nor is he reportedly a strong defender. Still, this is a team which shot a collective 33% from deep last season and bid adieu to the best shooter they had in Newbill. If Zemgulis can demonstrate early on that his shooting is ready to translate immediately to the collegiate level, I wouldn’t rule out an immediate spot in PSU’s rotation.
Chambers is reportedly still in the mix for a couple of players, as he has one scholarship slot left. Point guard Jahshire Hardnett and big man Johncarlos Reyes are still possibilities but based on what I’m seeing, PSU doesn’t appear to be the likely landing spot for either and I’m not sure either is good enough to make a difference next season anyway.
OVERALL – Despite Chambers’ contract extension, it would seem to me that he’s on the clock in terms of needing to show tangible win/loss progress. He’s established a template for his program IMO…his teams have generally played hard, tried to play fast and overall showed energy and enthusiasm to match their coach’s demeanor. What they haven’t done very much of is win Big Ten basketball games. That has to change.
I think Chambers just pulled in his best recruiting class yet, so that’s an encouraging sign. Reaves is the kind of player they all too rarely get, a legit top 75ish wing who was wanted by the regional powers in that area of the country. The same could be said for Watkins as well except it appears PSU got that one done just by getting in early before he blew up. Those two guys appear to be safe bets to contribute immediately and Zemgulis has a chance to help some as well for a team in sore need of some perimeter production.
Overall, though, it’s difficult to see PSU being improved this year unless some returning players take substantial leaps forward. Replacing Newbill is going to be tough work. I think Reaves will help some but his profile isn’t really that of a guy you expect to come in and necessarily get you 15/game as a freshman. It’ll have to be some of of him and some of guys like Garner and Thorpe and others stepping up their games as well. I think PSU has enough athleticism and enough size to get a handful of conference wins, but the gap between this roster and most of the rest of the league looks pretty substantial still, at least on paper. I like them better than Rutgers but that’s about it.