Analyzing the Roster Shakeup

March 21, 2010

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…


High Percentage Shots

February 15, 2010

You all can make your own opinions about the information laid out on this post. This is simply a possession-by-possession offensive breakdown of PSU’s 65-54 loss to Michigan State. The entry pass count is obviously how many times PSU threw an entry pass into the paint to somebody posted up with their back to the basket. The center touches count is how many times Andrew Jones or Andrew Ott touch the ball on each possession.

Editor’s Note: If you don’t want to spend the time reading this novel, you should just scroll down to the end and read the final counts.

Possession #1 – 7 passes around the perimeter leads to a badly missed 3 from Babb. Nobody posted up once to call for the ball. Entry Pass Count – 0. Center Touches – 0. Shot Clock Usage – :28 seconds

Possession #2 – Jeff Brooks receives the first pass and drives into the lane. His penetration forces Derrick Nix to help, leaving Andrew Jones open on the low block. Brooks sees it and passes the ball. Jones fumbles the pass out of bounds for an unforced turnover. Poor execution on both players’ account. EPC – 0. CT – 1. SCU – :09.

Possession #3 – Ball screens and dribble handoffs for 20 seconds. Nobody posts up once. Battle is left with the ball 30 feet from the hoop. His forced drive marked the first time the ball crossed the 3 point line. He doesn’t even make it past the foul line before he loses the ball. Turnover #2. EPC – 0.  CT – 1. SCU – :28.

Possession #4 – Miscommunication on MSU’s part leaves Chris Babb with the ball at the wing and an open baseline. Good recognition by Babb to drive and draw the foul. He made 1 of 2 at the line. EPC – 0. CT -1. SCU – :14.

Possession #5 – Another questionable switch by MSU leaves Kalin Lucas on Jeff Brooks. Brooks actually posts up, which leads to the first entry pass by PSU. Good recognition by the team on the mismatch, but Brooks misses the shot because of good help defense by Nix. EPC – 1. CT – 1. SCU – :21.

Possession #6 (Transition) – Battle, probably bored from the last 5 possessions, forces a 2 on 3 break. He gets caught underneath after he drives it all the way to the hoop, but right when it looks like he’s about to pull it back out, he makes a crafty spin move and puts up a reverse lay up. He misses, but David Jackson grabs the offensive board and lays it back in. Good job by Brooks and DJ crashing the boards. Poor job by MSU getting back and boxing out.

Possession #7 (Transition) – A mishandled MSU pass leads to a steal by Chris Babb, who recognizes Battle running down the court. Battle makes a pretty over the shoulder catch and slams it home.

Possession #8 – After some more Battle/Babb/Jackson exchanges around the perimeter, Brooks attempts to post up again. However, he does so roughly 10 feet away from the hoop and ends up receiving the pass about 17 feet away on the wing (not an entry pass). Brooks aggressively (or recklessly, depending on your perspective) drives the baseline against Durrell Summers. Summers knocks the ball out of bounds with 14 seconds on the shot clock, a blessing considering Brooks was going absolutely nowhere with the ball. The inbounds play was pass the ball back to Brooks, who’s 30 feet away from the hoop. Brooks catches the ball and motions for Battle to come get the ball. This exchange somehow takes 5 seconds. Talor Battle now has the ball 30 feet away with 9 seconds left on the shot clock. He looks to the coaching staff for direction, another 3 seconds wasted. After realizing he is on his own, he calls David Jackson out for a screen, but DJ slips and Battle feeds him the ball out of the double team. DJ has the rock near the top of the key about 22 feet away with less than :03 on the shot clock (which is audibly known by the student section). He has enough room to put up the shot, but he somehow thinks he can make another pass to Ott underneath. Shot clock violation. Turnover #3. EPC – 1. CT – 1. SCU – :35 seconds.

Possession #9 – Brooks drives this time from the corner on Draymond Green, a much better match-up. He gets into the lane and makes a nice kickout pass to David Jackson, who nails the 3. EPC – 1. CT – 1. SCU – :09.

Possession #10 – Battle forces a three early in the possession off a ball screen from Jackson. Poor shot selection from Talor, as he airballed the shot. EPC – 1. CT – 1. SCU – :08.

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PSU 70 Penn 55

November 15, 2009

You gotta love season openers. For many of us diehards, we had to wait a long 7 and a half months. Football tried to fill the void, but failed horribly. A terrible schedule/conference provided undeserved victories, which raised unrealistic expectations for this team, and it just led to disappointment, confusion, and an awkward ’emptiness’ feeling. This might be the most unsatisfying 10-2 season in the history of football (assuming they win in EL next week, which is a complete toss-up IMO).

It didn’t help that this has been by far the most optimistic I’ve been for a Penn State basketball season since the Crispin era. With the positive end to last season, along with the uncertainty of how this team is going to be this year, I was just a little excited to get the season started on Friday. I was so excited to see basketball that I completely forgot how awful these early games are. It’s not a Penn State thing. It’s evidenced throughout college basketball. It takes a week or two for teams to get into the flow of the season and start playing competent basketball. It really makes you wonder why the hell the Selection Committee puts as much stock in these games in March. It’s all about the body of work, don’t you know.

So I would have to say the Penn game wasn’t too revealing to how PSU is going to play this year. Or maybe it was a significant sign that this is how we’re gonna be and I’m just in denial.

We all knew Talor Battle is going to produce the most, but if he’s counted on to do this much for PSU to win a game, it’s going to be a long season. Talor had a phenomenal game – 27 points, 10 rebounds, 4 assists. He consistently broke Zach Rosen’s ankles with some incredible hesitation steps and some ridiculous craftiness in the lane. Talor could always score in the paint, but the way he did Friday made me think he did really improve over the summer. He did whatever he want against the Quakers and it was a joy to watch. I particularly enjoyed his 1 on 5 drive that put PSU up 61-49, capping off a mini 7-1 run that put the game away with 4 minutes to go.

It was a choppy game, because the officiating crew couldn’t swallow their whistles. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many offensive fouls called in one game. It wasn’t unfair or one-sided, it just really kept the game from getting into any sort of flow. Three of PSU starters picked up 2 fouls in the 1st half – Drew, DJ, and Babb. That allowed for DeChellis to play 11 guys at least 5 minutes each in the first half. It was nice to see the new guys get so much time, but there was little cohesion among the ever-changing lineups. Battle was the only constant during the game.

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PSU takes it to UM

January 21, 2009

PSU survived a dreadful first half (How on earth were we up 7?), put together probably the best 15 minutes of basketball I have ever seen PSU play in league play, and went on to blowout UM 73-58 last night.  It was 72-46 with less than 4 minutes to play.

I’m not a UM hater like most PSU fans, but this game was fun. The football streak got all the headlines the last few years.  Of course, no one knew (other than myself) PSU had lost 11 straight against UM before last season’s 69-61 victory at the BJC.  But UM was terrible last season, and while it was a relief to finally beat them, I still wanted that satisfying beating of the Wolverines.  I certainly got more than that last night against a UM team that was ranked 4 days ago.

Although the first 10 minutes certainly didn’t start out that way.  Just a mere 3 minutes into the game, PSU had turned the ball over on their only 3 possessions, while UM had already grabbed 3 offensive rebounds.  Why UM crapped the bed those first 10 minutes is beyond me.  They had so many clean looks and straight up bricked them all.  Maybe it was the tightness of the rim, but PSU put that hypothesis to rest when they nailed 7 of 10 from 3 at the same basket in the 2nd half.  Those early UM bricks won PSU the game, because even if they only hit like 3 or 4 more of their 16 3pt attempts in the 1st half (they only made 2 for a futile 12.5%), PSU would’ve been facing a double digit deficit early in the game.

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Review of the Season Thus Far

December 26, 2008

Penn State has concluded their non-conference schedule on the season and have 5 days until they kick off the real season with Northwestern at the Jordan Center.  So now seems like a great opportunity to do some analysis of what exactly is going on with the men’s basketball team.

Coming into the season, Penn State in Ed DeChellis’ 6th year, finally had some legitimate expectations. It’s a shame it took 6 years, but with what appeared to be a really young conference and PSU returning 7 players (5 of whom were first year players, including 4 freshmen) who won their last 5 Big Ten Home games (including 2 against ranked teams), winning success in the conference seemed more than possible, it became expected.  Talor Battle seemed poised to become one of the best point guards in the conference, despite his poor shooting %’s last season. Stanley Pringle, despite his library incidents, showed glimpses of what he could be with that blazing speed, leaving fans hoping for a significant improvement in his game that most JuCos seem to undergo from their junior to senior seasons.  David Jackson made huge plays down the stretch of a few of those Big Ten wins, showing the ability to fill the statsheet and hopefully becoming a consistent 8-10 PPG scorer.  Jeff Brooks had a strong last 2 games despite looking lost his whole true freshmen season. With his body and skill set, a lot of people expected Brooks to become more like the top-100 recruit he was pegged.  With the addition of Lewis Preston to the coaching staff, Andrew Jones was expected to lose some of that rawness in his game and become more of a contributor inside.  Jamelle Cornley had healed up after his injury-riddled junior season, hungry for some success after a rather unfulfilling 3 years here.  Danny Morrissey also returned for his senior season, providing a legitimate outside threat for the Lions.  With that returning core, PSU was also getting 3 true freshmen and a Villanova transfer.  Ott provides some depth inside, Babb and Woodyard gave PSU some size and athleticism at the 2, and Oliver was the only fall signee, expecting to be able to contribute in the frontcourt.  There was enough returning talent for a tournament run.

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PSU 83 Lafayette 55

December 22, 2008

The team returned to the court for the first time in 8 days, clearing the hurdle that is Finals Week.  Lafayette is another dud who really had no business being on our schedule, but they were a nice squad to get our swagger back after the last 3 unimpressive home games (Temple, Army, Mt. St. Mary’s).  PSU struggled a bit offensively in the first half, going into halftime with just a 7 point lead (36-29).  However, they exploded in the second half,  looking like the team that put up 85 points in Georgia for the first time since that game.  Lafayette did all they could to boost PSU’s defensive numbers, shooting a ridiculous amount of 3’s.  Of their 58 shots from the field, 36 of them were from behind the arc (62%).  What’s even better is they only connected on 8 of those tries (22%).  While I would love to boast PSU’s defense, Lafayette shot some terrible shots and missed quite a few open looks.  But then again, what do you expect when you play the 303rd team in the RPI index?

Andrew Ott was finally eligible to play in his first game since transferring since Villanova.  Coach DeChellis had been saying for what seems like forever that Ott would be a guy who could do the little things, like defense and passing out of the post.  Ott showed today that he clearly won’t be any sort of offensive presence in the paint.  That’s OK, I guess, because I don’t think anyone was expecting him to be, but we really need to address our lack of an inside game for the coming years.  He made a great pass to Brooks out of a double team for what should’ve been a dunk, but Brooks fumbled the pass.  His defense was pretty uninspiring, however, and that was disappointing.  He left his feet when he shouldn’t have and didn’t really show much quickness or good footwork.  He’s not very athletic, but it’s obviously too early to tell what he’ll really bring for the Big Ten season. It must be understood that Ott has played 4 games of organized competition in the last 2 and a half years (redshirted at ‘Nova his first year, played 4 games before transferring).  He’s got a lot of rust to knock off.  It is nice to bring a 6’10” body off the bench, though.

Chris Babb had his best game as a Lion so far, finally connecting from long range.  He hit two of three from behind the arc and finished with 8 points in 14 minutes.  You could clearly see his confidence grow after that first one fell down. It was the most comfortable he’s looked on the season. Cammeron Woodyard also looked good scoring 9 points in just 11 minutes.  I really have no idea why these guys haven’t garnered more playing time this season, especially given the opponents we have played.  They haven’t looked terribly bad for the most part and it would be nice if Ed would try to develop a deeper rotation than 7 guys for Big Ten play.  They get lost on defensive rotations often, but what freshmen don’t?  These guys need to learn and develop because we’ll probably need to count on at least one of them for the Big Ten season because……

Danny Morrissey is really, REALLY hurting.  He re-aggravated a knee injury that he sustained a week ago (I guess in practice? I don’t remember him suffering a legitmate injury, he just always seemed to be in pain since the season’s started). He wrenched his knee near the scorers’ table when he got trapped and lost his footing.  He didn’t return.  He’ll most likely sit out for the Sacred Heart game, but he’ll probably be ready for NW on New Years Eve.  Regardless, his knee problems are going to linger throughout the season, and I really don’t think he can give any more than 15 MPG during Big Ten play. We’ll really have to screen effectively to get him open, and we’ll see if he’ll be able to man-up Big Ten guards.  He had trouble doing that when completely healthy…

Stanley Pringle looked great, leading the team with 17 points on 8-11 shooting.  His ankle injury against Temple is an afterthought.  Jamelle was patient and finished with 16 points (7-8 from the floor).  Talor, once again, nearly finished with a triple-double, recording 11 points, 10 rebounds, 8 assists, and 4 steals.  He only played 33 minutes today!  David Jackson is still in his mini-slump (I’ll address this in another post in the future).  Jeff Brooks continued to be disappointing as well.

The behemoth that is Sacred Heart will be invading the BJC on Tuesday night for the last tune-up before what looks to be an awesome Big Ten season this year!  (Who would’ve thought the Big Ten would be the #1 rated conference, despite not having one team in the top 15 in the polls?)

Season Expectations

November 6, 2008

This is a pretty big year for Penn State basketball.  For the first time in a long time, we’ve accumulated a quality core of young, balanced talent.  I’ve never witnessed a point guard in a Penn State uniform as dynamic as Talor Battle. He’s obviously the captain of this ship and will have the biggest impact on our success this season and beyond. He single-handedly won us a few games and he proved he is the definition of clutch. He’s a gamer that just wants to win and will do everything in his power to do so.  He’s only a sophomore, yet he’s been elected captain by his teammates. It’ll be interesting to see him go head-to-head with Kalin Lucas, Trevon Hughes, and E’Twaun Moore as to who’s the best PG in the conference.

Jamelle Cornley is finally healthy for the first time in a long time.  His whole season last year was a struggle.  It all started in October during the intrasquad scrimmage, where he banged up his knee.  He then came back prematurely for the OSC disaster and was fighting the knee the rest of the season.  Add in a shoulder injury, a tooth through his lip, and a black eye, and he just never could get on track last season.  Well, he’s ready to go for this season.  It’s his senior year.  He’s always left everything on the court and never backed down from anyone his first three years here, but it’s all or nothing now.  I can’t wait to see him tearing it up on the low block again.

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