*Borrowing an idea from Dylan at UMHoops, I’ll be constructing player report cards for all 7 returning scholarship players who saw the floor in the 2008-2009 season over the next few weeks.
- Confidence – Talor has a rare mentality that only the great
basketball playersathletes possess. He simply refuses to let past failures affect how he plays his game. He has shown this confidence in so many games, but no instance was more prevalent than the first round game in the NIT against George Mason. After going 0-7 from in the field in the second half and having failed on the previous 2 possessions to take the lead, Talor Battle still wanted the ball down 3 with less than 5 seconds to go. That’s some serious confidence, my friends. The guy doesn’t shy away from any challenges.
- Clutch – Steve Jones has said that Battle is the best player in the Big Ten with under 5 minutes to play. After watching his late game heroics these last two seasons, I don’t see how you can argue that statement. They call him Mr. Big Shot on the team and he’s proved it on the court. While he’ll always be remembered for his big baskets, he also passed a few assists for clutch buckets, too (most notably the drive-and-dish to Jamelle against IU at home and the drive-and-dish to Andrew Jones against Purdue). If Talor Battle is on the court and the game’s close, you can never count out Penn State.
- Durability – A reason why Battle is here at PSU today is because he broke his left and right ankles in high school, scaring away the big schools. However, Battle has played every game his first two seasons here. More impressive were his minute totals this season. His minutes% was 13th in the nation, while he logged 1,422 total minutes, which is the most of any player in college basketball that has played the last four seasons. Not bad for a guy who stands at just 5’11” and 170 lbs.
- Shooting Efficiency – Talor’s overall shooting percentages jumped from his freshman to his sophomore years (34.5% to 40.2% from the floor, 28.4% to 33.9% from 3). Most of that improvement, however, came from his dominance of the chumps we played in the OOC. His conference shooting percentages actually went down this season (37.2% to 36.3% from the floor, 32.7% to 30.0% from 3). He had his ups and downs throughout the season like every other big-time scorer, but 1.15 Points Per Shot in conference play isn’t anything to rave about (compared to Manny Harris’ 1.26, Kalin Lucas’ 1.28, and Evan Turner’s ridiculous 1.52).
- Foul Shooting – One simple way for Battle to improve his PPS is too simply make more free throws. He just doesn’t shoot as well as he should from the line for a guard, especially for how often he gets to the line. 42.6% FT Rate is a solid figure, but you’ve got to convert at a better percentage than 70%. There’s no reason to leave those points on the floor. It might be possible if he lost the chicken wing and the hesitative release on his shot. Proper free throw mechanics would probably go a long way for Battle. Normally foul shooting woes are mental, but I can’t believe that’s the case with Talor.
- Defense – Talor has too much athleticism to struggle so much to stay in front of his man. However, I’m hesitant to be overly critical of Battle’s D. First off, we switch off so many ball screens as a team that Battle almost never has a chance to stick with who he’s guarding anyway. Also, you’ve got to factor in fatigue. Battle just played so much, and he was clearly exhausted towards the end of the year. It’s clear that Battle’s offense drives his game, so perhaps Talor didn’t exert 100% effort on D in order to have enough to score late in games? Regardless, Battle was responsible for some key defensive breakdowns that really cost us in some games.
As far as individually, other than Battle’s shooting %’s, it’s hard to ask him to improve on other parts of his game. He set the single season assist record with 189 assists and finished 2nd in the Big Ten with 5.0 APG. At 5’11”, he averaged 5.3 rebounds a game. He has a 15.4% individual turnover rate, which is very good. Other than making better use of his shots and improving defensively, his game’s pretty complete at this point in his career. Adding a few extra pounds wouldn’t hurt.
A huge impact to how Talor’s game will develop over the next 2 years will be what Tim Frazier brings to the table. Frazier, unlike Pringle or Battle this year, is said to be a pass-first PG who’s had plenty of experience setting up teammates (having played with two other D-1 recruits). The ideal situation would be Frazier’s able to handle the point, which would not only provide Battle more rest but also allow Battle to play some 2-guard. Therefore Talor wouldn’t have to create every shot for himself and get better looks (which would hopefully boost his %’s). This is all hypothetical, though, until we know what Frazier can do. The final rankings on Frazier are very good, though.
Best Performance of the Year
-@ Michigan State – 29 Points, 11-19 FG, 5 rebounds, 3 assists
This was an easy choice. Talor turned in some great games, but none was greater than his performance at the Breslin Center this season. He completely dominated the Big Ten’s Defensive Player of the Year, Travis Walton, as he led PSU to their first ever win in East Lansing (against the national runners-up, no less).
Final Grade: A
First Team All-Big Ten campaigns will always be an A in my book.