As I’m sure you are all aware of, in the last few days there have been a few departures from the basketball team. Not surprising were the announced graduations of Andrew Ott and Adam Highberger. What caught most PSU fans off guard were the announced transfers of promising players, Chris Babb and Bill Edwards.
With the official release from Ed DeChellis and the Sports Information department, I think it’s safe to assume that the transfer train has left the station. As usual with such happenings, numerous unsubstantiated rumors were running wild around the internet. Taran Buie, who has had one hell of a strange year at State College High, was rumored to be expressing interest in getting out of LOI. That turned out to be false. Buie has endured so many strange rumors this year that it’s gotten to the point where anything out of State High now I’ll just believe to be more small town gossip. If there’s anything we have learned from the Battle/Buie family, it’s that their family comes first above all else. Buie’s family is here, he’s not leaving (at least not in the near future). It also appears that Cammeron Woodyard and Tim Frazier, subjected to their own rumors, are also staying with the program.
At first thought, this is nothing like the end of the Jerry Dunn era, which many frustrated fans will have you believe. The ‘family’ motto of the program has constantly been mocked the last 24 hours. I think that couldn’t be further from the truth.
- Adam Highberger – It’s unfortunate that his injury-riddled career is going to end, as he was pegged as one walk-on who DeChellis thought he could become a contributor. But if you know anything about the schooling and standards required to become a dentist, Highberger’s career aspiration, you would know that moving onto dental school far outweighs playing spot duty for this basketball program. I wish Adam well.
- Andrew Ott – The Villanova transfer is graduating with a business degree, but he still had a year of eligibility remaining. However, I think DeChellis and the coaching staff made the right decision in this case. If we want to reach NCAA goals next year, we needed to bring in another big man who can compete at this level. Ott was a serviceable backup in most cases, but he’s not the guy who’s going to win us ball games. We needed his scholarship (since we had none opening, or so we thought). His playing time significantly decreased towards the end of the year, and I think that was ED’s message to Ott. Yeah, Ott had a shoulder injury at the beginnning of February, but he was definitely healthy to play down the stretch and didn’t. Edwards and Borovnjak took his minutes. Ott might not be leaving on good terms, but this happens all the time across the country in college basketball. Scholarships are sacred and if you’re only averaging 10 MPG with 3 PPG with a degree in hand, you’re going to be shown the door. I wish the Ottzilla well.
- Bill Edwards – I’ve always had the suspicion that Bill never was really 100% certain with his decision to come here. It’s always hard to closely follow the recruitments of PSU recruits, since we usually don’t land too many big name players. But with how long Bill drew out the process (he decided roughly a week until the spring signing period was over), I just felt he didn’t know where he wanted to go. He kept saying how he was hoping for a bigger offer, and it never came, so he probably settled for Penn State. There were rumors that he didn’t like State College and those were probably true. It’s disappointing to see him go, because I think he could’ve become a heckuva player here. I wish Bill well and look forward to following the rest of his career.
- Chris Babb – Now this is the biggest surprise. I know Chris has been homesick. It’s gotta be tough when your home and family are 1500 miles away. People don’t realize how little basketball players get to go home. All the major holidays during the school year are during the season (Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Spring Break). Then, they are on campus working out on their own for at least the second summer session, if not both. Throw in the fact that it snows in October here compared to his Arlington, Texas home, and I don’t think Chris’ decision to transfer had anything to do with the players or coaches. However, one must question, would Chris have transferred if we went 9-9 in the Big Ten this year instead of 3-15? Losing certainly breeds frustration and unhappiness and the tough year could’ve made Chris realize how much he misses home. I wish Chris well.
I don’t think these departures signal anything like the end of Jerry Dunn’s era. Players were leaving back then because they were upset with the coach. There was no team chemistry and it was just one huge mess. As of right now, I think it’s clear that the fan base is understandably a far bigger mess than the cohesiveness of the program right now. Talor Battle’s quote in the release further credits that belief.
“I know my teammates and myself are really looking forward to next season and have some things we want to achieve,” said Battle. “I’m looking forward to a really good off-season with the guys who want to be here and I love the guys we have coming back and think we can reach the goals we have set.”
Nonetheless, the departures of Babb and Edwards certainly are alarming for the health of the program. I don’t think their reasons for leaving are anything to get worked up about, but there are some serious holes now in the scholarship table. While the losses certainly aren’t good, I don’t think they cripple PSU’s chances next year (and they cannot be used as an excuse!). We do lose some experience and are going to have to rely on Marshall and Buie to step in right away. I think they’ll do just fine meshing with Frazier, Battle, and Woodyard’s games, though. We all know the backcourt wasn’t the issue this year, and I don’t believe it’ll be an issue next year. This year’s squad lacked the penetration/slasher ability at the 2-guard. Buie and Marshall will provide that, but now we’re lacking perimeter threats. Woodyard and Battle can’t carry it on their own. Another shooter would be beneficial, IMO.
The biggest loss of Babb and Edwards is the fact they were going to be the upperclassmen on the 2011-2012 squad. They were suppose to carry the torch during a ‘rebuilding’ year after Battle’s class graduates. There was already tremendous pressure on DeChellis and staff to deliver on the supposed 5 scholarships for 2011. But now, he has to fill 5 more scholarships for 2011-2012 (and hopefully keep current verbals, Trey Burke and Peter Alexis), 3 of which are available for next year. With so little talent so late in the recruiting game, DeChellis’ future depends on who he lands with these scholarships. A huge mistake in DeChellis’ regime was handing out three scholarships in the 2005 class to European players who never produced anything (Milos Bogetic, Joonas Suotamo, and Nikola Obradovic). This program cannot afford such a blunder again.
However, I’m not sure what we can really expect on the recruiting trail anymore. All the momentum gained from the 2009 NIT championship has been lost with our crappy year this season. We were getting so close to rounding out some stability and class balance, but it’s crumbled a bit with these transfers. Looking at the recruiting calendar, after tomorrow DeChellis will only have another 10 days or so of a contact period in April. Spring signing period runs from April 14th-May 19th. The odds of the staff bringing in the quality of talent in so little time is slim-to-none. But that’s what faces the program right now. I think they should only focus on filling two scholarships right now for next year, a big who can play and a perimeter shooter (preferably JuCos for the sake of class balance). Take another big if you’re positive he can play. They cannot afford to gamble on kids at this point. If you have to save another ship for the 2011 class, so be it.
So now it’s time to scour the internet to find any tidbits we can of who PSU is after. Some names for 2010 are Majok Majok, JuCo Dwight McCombs, Eric McKnight, and Brice Kofane (Buie’s AAU teammate). Although, I don’t think any of those kids have ‘high’ interest in PSU. Hopefully we get some positive news on the recruiting front in the next month…