When Penn State hosts its exhibition game Friday night, freshmen Tony Carr and Lamar Stevens will be in the starting lineup.
The Roman Catholic products have both impressed Nittany Lions coach Patrick Chambers.
Carr has played with great pace at point guard going into the season, taking care of the ball and making his teammates better. Stevens has been a “man-child,” commanding double teams and getting to the free-throw line.
Chambers said the freshmen will be joined by guard Shep Garner, guard Josh Reaves and 6-foot-10 center Julian Moore in the starting lineup for the exhibition game against Lock Haven at 6 p.m. Friday. Chambers considered “many” combinations before deciding to go with this group.
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“There’s a little bit of a mad scientist in my head,” Chambers said at his press conference Wednesday. “It’s not about really who’s starting, it’s about who’s playing well together and then who brings us that pop off the bench that we need to be really successful in the Big Ten.”
Chambers said his decision was made a little bit easier with Payton Banks currently out due to a hamstring injury. Banks, who started 31 games last season, will not play in the exhibition game Friday night.
So for now, Chambers will look to guard Terrence Samuel and forward Mike Watkins to bring that “pop” off the bench.
“We could have eight guys starting if Payton was healthy,” Chambers said. “Terrence has earned the right to start, Mike Watkins has earned the right to start and obviously Payton was typically a starter, but he’s been in and out for two weeks.”
Chambers said he considered keeping Garner — who started as a freshman and sophomore — at point guard.
But Carr played well in the team’s scrimmages and consistently ranked among the leaders in the program’s “attitude club.”
“This kid has earned the right to hear his name called out,” Chambers said.
Carr arrived at Penn State after winning back-to-back state championships at Roman Catholic. After both seasons, he was named the Pennsylvania Sports Writers Class AAAA Player of the Year.
Carr described himself as a pass-first point guard.
“I just want to just make it easier for my teammates,” Carr said.
Garner and Samuel are also capable of running Penn State’s offense.
Chambers knows he’ll have to rely on all three throughout the season. And the coach likes what Samuel, a UConn transfer, can provide off the bench.
“Terrence is your guy who’s a little bit of a wily veteran, who’s tough as nails and is going to defend the best player and he’s going to make great plays for others as well,” Chambers said.
Chambers said Reaves has been the team’s MVP in the summer and fall and Moore has been steady. Stevens, a 6-foot-7 forward, adds an athletic presence to the frontcourt.
Chambers said his starting lineup could change ahead of the team’s season opener against Albany on Nov. 11.
But that’s the group he’s going with Friday night.
“I just felt like those five cohesively, chemistry-wise, were really gelling well,” Chambers said.
Banks has been dealing with the hamstring injury for the past few weeks.
Chambers said he returned to practice last week, but reinjured it. The coach said the staff will continue to monitor how he reacts to treatment.
“We will try to get him ready for the home opener next week against Albany,” Chambers said.