For the first five games of the season, Penn State’s Josh Reaves was stuck on the bench.
The Nittany Lions guard couldn’t play due to a leg injury, the second medical setback he’s endured in his career. Last season, he missed six games with mononucleosis.
He wasn’t allowed to travel while he was out with mono, but he was with the team for every game this year and acted as another coach.
“I like to be vocal,” Reaves said. “I like to tell my teammates what we can do to win. That’s pretty much what I did, and it kept me in higher spirits than I was last year.”
Reaves made his season debut in the starting lineup, in his sixth appearance of the year, against Pittsburgh last Saturday. The Nittany Lions (6-5) went on a four-game winning streak when Reaves returned from injury before losing their last two games.
They’ll look to get back on track against St. John’s (5-6) at Madison Square Garden at 11 a.m. Sunday.
Reaves was set to start going into this year after a productive offseason, working to gain weight and become more explosive. He was also more aware of keeping his body rested heading into his sophomore season.
But he went down with a leg injury just before Penn State’s opener against Albany.
After sitting out the first five games, Reaves is averaging 6.3 points and 5.0 rebounds in six games.
“I’m just trying to get back into the rhythm of things, and my teammates have really been helping me,” Reaves said after Penn State’s win over Wright State. “I’ve been getting into the gym a lot more, working on conditioning.”
Penn State coach Patrick Chambers went with Reaves in place of Payton Banks in the starting lineup against Pittsburgh, looking to get the same type of boost the guard provided in the second half of the team’s win over George Washington.
“He’s long, he’s athletic, just use what God has given you,” Chambers said. “And that’s why we wanted to give him that opportunity.”
Reaves grabbed seven rebounds and had two steals in 17 minutes in the second half to help the Nittany Lions overcome a nine-point halftime deficit against the Colonials.
His teammates could see his passion and intensity.
“He looked like a monster out there,” guard Terrence Samuel said two days after the win over George Washington. “I was imagining myself on the opposing team, and I’m like, ‘Wow, this guy’s crazy. He’s screaming on the court.’”
Reaves has been a playmaker for the Nittany Lions since his return.
But he’s still working to find his rhythm.
“He’ll get there,” Chambers said. “... That was only his sixth game.”
Notes: Sunday’s game is part of the Madison Square Garden Holiday Festival. After the Penn State-St. John’s game, Rutgers (10-1) will take on Fordham (5-6) at 1 p.m. ... Penn State has five players averaging double figures in scoring. Shep Garner (14.5 points per game), Lamar Stevens (12.1), Tony Carr (11.2) and Mike Watkins (10.2) have started all 11 games. Banks (11.7) has started nine games. ... Banks came off the bench and scored 13 points in the loss to Pitt. ... St. John’s is coming off a 74-73 loss to LIU Brooklyn.
Penn State at St. John’s
When: 11 a.m. Sunday
Where: Madison Square Garden
TV: FS1 (65)
Radio: WQWK 1450