Though we're in the thick of football season with big games against Michigan and Ohio State coming up, let's not forget about the other team that won our hearts last spring with an improbable run through the NIT tournament, the Nittany Lion men's basketball team. Yesterday was media day at the Bryce Jordan Center, so there is a lot to talk about the team today. Next week I plan on rolling out some preview posts of the team. It seems like a good time to do it since we're playing justNorthwestern. But for today here is a little basketball flavored Nitt Picks to get your mind thinking ahead.
The first thing you need to know is that thanks to the NIT run last spring, Ed DeChellis is rocking a three-year contract extension this fall. Cue the generic quote of endorsement from Athletic Department official.
"We are very excited about the significant progress our men's basketball program has made under Coach DeChellis and are thrilled that he will continue to lead the program into the future," athletic director Tim Curley said in a press release. "Ed and his staff have brought tremendous work ethic, passion and energy to the program and the Penn State basketball community."
But enough about nasty details of money and contracts. Let's talk about the team. Talor Battle will be the unquestioned leader of the team, and it's a role he is embracing.
There is no doubt that the excitement level for this team is higher than I have ever seen it in the preseason. Ticket sales are at an all-time high. But some people debate whether Ed earned this extension. Afterall, in six years he has yet to take a Penn State team to the NCAA tournament. On the other hand, anyone can see that progress has been made and winning the NIT is more than anyone could have dreamed just three or four years ago. But this much is known: In order for Ed to get another extension in 2012, he will have to take this team to the next level. Now that he won the NIT, just going to the NIT isn't going to cut it anymore.
Battle said being the leader is still a work in progress, and every day things get better for him as he adjusts. Aside from being a good communicator, the junior said keeping the energy high is something else he wants to do.
"All of the guys are looking up to me," Battle said. "So it's my job to try stay positive as much as I can even if my shot's not falling. That's been the toughest adjustment."
Battle played a lot of minutes last year, and now with Stanley Pringle gone one would think those minutes may go up. Which is why it's important true freshman Tim Frazier is (cue cheesy pun) ready for battle.
"Tim (Frazier) is exciting," Battle said Monday at the team’s media day. "Super-athletic and really quick. In some ways it’ll be similar to playing with Stan. He doesn’t shoot as well as Stanley right now but as far as getting out in transition and baskets and someone running with me, he’ll be right there."
The other big loss is Jamelle Cornley who served as the heart and soul of the team the past two years. Billy Oliver will hope to take over a lot of Mel's vacated minutes. Though he can't repace Cornley's heart, he might be able to replace some of his production.
The forgotten man in the Penn State lineup, redshirt freshman Billy Oliver, reported to the season's first practice Friday and showed coaches and teammates signs of the player he could be when healthy.
Finally, last Saturday the team put on a fun exhibition that featured a three-point shooting and dunk contest.
Cammeron Woodyard defeated Edwards in the final round to win the 3-point shooting contest and Frazier narrowly edged Jones in the dunk contest. The 6-foot-1 freshman, who threw down a two-handed jam on a breakaway in the scrimmage, windmilled home a ball that he caught off the bounce to earn a score of 36 from the judges. The 6-foot-10 Jones drew points for dressing up as football coach Joe Paterno but his bland final-round dunk couldn’t score enough points to pass Frazier.
We'll leave it at that for now. Like I said, I plan to do a few more in depth posts next week so I'll save some for that. For now just click on the media day link in the opening paragraph. There's lots of good reading there.