Men's Basketball

‘I was wrong’: Penn State basketball’s Mike Watkins discusses legal trouble, mental health

Penn State basketball coach Patrick Chambers speaks about the upcoming season, addresses Mike Watkins

Penn State basketball coach Patrick Chambers talks about the upcoming season on Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2018 at the Bryce Jordan Center.
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Penn State basketball coach Patrick Chambers talks about the upcoming season on Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2018 at the Bryce Jordan Center.

Penn State men’s basketball forward Mike Watkins will “never again” be “afraid” to share his story.

In a story posted to The Black Cager, Watkins discusses how his mental health issues have affected his life.

According to the story, Black Cager Sports Media met several times with Watkins over the past couple weeks to “discuss the role depression and bipolar disorder have played in his encounters with law enforcement.” It’s Watkins’ story, as told to Delgreco Wilson, a friend of Watkins who advises and mentors student-athletes in the greater Philadelphia area.

“For most of my life, my lack of mental health awareness and education has prevented me from honestly engaging the topic,” Watkins says in the story. “Today, I realize that I can play a small role in preventing this problem from persisting, especially among young Black men from tough inner-city backgrounds. We don’t talk about depression, anxiety and suicide in the ‘hood.’

“That is really unfortunate and needs to change.”

Watkins discussed disciplinary issues in high school.

“I was clearly suffering from undiagnosed and unaddressed mental health issues during this period,” he said. “However, I had begun to internalize the notion that I was a ‘bad’ kid. In many ways, I was unconsciously trying to live up to that reputation.”

Watkins said basketball became a possible way to a better life, but later brought him no joy after his best friend died in his arms.

“Each time I thought about it, it was if it just occurred… the tears, the pain, the raw emotion became inescapable,” he said. “I locked myself in my room. I didn’t want to be around my friends and teammates. Basketball brought me no joy. I started lashing out at my coaches and academic counselors. I tried to dull the pain with alcohol.”

The story comes a few days after news broke that Watkins was charged with disorderly conduct on Oct. 1, as first reported by The Daily Collegian. According to State College police, Watkins punched a man in the face on Sept. 29 after being confronted about cutting to the front of the line at McDonald’s.

When asked about Watkins at Penn State men’s basketball media day on Tuesday, Coach Patrick Chambers said: “We’re trying to help and guide, we’re trying to give the kid a chance. Let us do our due diligence, let us give the kid a chance. If not, he’s going to wind up back on the streets.”

Watkins has had other trouble with the law. He was charged with possession of marijuana paraphernalia in June, as previously reported. According to, Watkins was also charged for smashing a window at Baby’s Burgers and Shakes in September 2016.

He addressed the most recent incident in the piece, saying: “Recently, my behaviors have once again been the focus of media attention. I was wrong. I impulsively made another poor decision. I truly regret placing President (Eric) Barron, Athletic Director (Sandy) Barbour and Coach Chambers in a position where they are called upon to explain their feelings about my poor decision-making. They have done nothing but helped me through very trying times. In return, I have failed to uphold my end of the bargain.

“I publicly apologize for bringing negative attention to Penn State University.”

Watkins said he’s been working through his issues with “wonderful” mental health professionals, but says “I have good days and I have bad days.”

He said he was hospitalized in June after expressing suicidal thoughts.

“While I have improved in a lot of ways, every day is a struggle,” he said.

Watkins went on to say that he loves Penn State and that the school saved his life.

“Because I enrolled at Penn State I am a better man,” he said.

Read the full story here: