2008-09 Penn State Basketball Preview: #92
Penn State Nittany Lions
Overall Rank: #92
Conference Rank: #8 Big Ten
2007-08: 15-16, 7-11, 7th
2007-08 postseason: none
It seems like every year Penn State is on the verge of something good. This time we might actually mean it. Coach Ed DeChellis is bringing in talented youngsters and has plenty of experienced players ready to step up. Yet, we have been here before…many, many times before. The Nittany Lions should be able to make an NIT run in a conference that has a few pretty bad teams, but the fans might still consider that a disappointment. In reality, it is the next step towards bigger things in the future. But we have been there before too.
The big loss is Geary Claxton. The wing led the team with 17.5 points and 8.4 rebounds per contest. However, he only played in 16 games due to an injury and the team got some valuable experience learning to play without him. For most of his four year career in Happy Valley Mike Walker has been the sharpshooter off the bench. His consistency was an issue at times, but he did play his role quite well. Forward Brandon Hassell kind of got lost down the depth chart much of last year. He did earn seven starts, but the team has enough depth to make up for his loss and the absence of little used Schyler King.
Billy Oliver will help fill in the depth at the forward spots. For a 6-8 forward, Oliver has a surprising amount of perimeter skills. He can handle the ball and stretch the defense out to the three-point line with his outside shooting ability. Oliver has a ton of potential and can even block a few shots, but he might need a little time to adjust to life in the Big Ten. Penn State needs a little depth on the perimeter and Chris Babb and Cammeron Woodyard will do just fine. Babb has a nice looking stroke and will score from just about everywhere on the floor. At 6-5, he has good size for his position. Woodyard is also 6-5 and this is a team that is in desperate need of size on the perimeter.
Who to Watch:
That is because Talor Battle is 5-11, Stanley Pringle is 6-1 and Danny Morrissey is 6-3. Battle lived up to his hype during his freshman year and averaged 10.2 points and 3.2 assists per game. And, despite being the shortest of the backcourt players, he is the best rebounder of the group as well. His ability to push the ball up the floor and control the tempo of the game is vital to the success of the Nittany Lions. With a year of starting experience under his belt, Battle could be on the verge of a huge sophomore season. Pringle can play at either guard spot and had a solid debut season for Penn State. Yet, more importantly, the senior brings with him fans that dress up like Pringles cans and that is what college basketball is all about. Morrissey’s shooting numbers went down quite a bit last year, but the senior is still a good three-point marksman. Whether he is starting or coming in off the bench, Morrissey can be a game changer when his shot is falling.
Jamelle Cornley is an experienced player and the 6-5 senior will have to be a leader on the team this year. Even after averaging 12.1 points and 6.0 rebounds last year, Cornley still has room to improve those numbers as he attempts to replace the production of Geary Claxton. The question is whether or not the rest of the forwards can effectively compliment Cornley. David Jackson, Andrew Jones and Jeff Brooks all started at least a dozen games as freshmen, but are they ready to step up and play a bigger role on this team? If Penn State wants to go big, three of them will be on the floor at a time. Having the 6-5 newcomers who can help out at the small forward spot will give the unit some depth, but the pressure will be on Jackson, Jones and Brooks to do more than just grab a few rebounds and commit fouls.
Projected Post-season Tournament: none
Projected Starting Five:
Talor Battle, Sophomore, Guard, 10.2 points per game
Stanley Pringle, Senior, Guard, 6.9 points per game
David Jackson, Sophomore, Forward, 5.8 points per game
Jamelle Cornley, Senior, Forward, 12.1 points per game
Andrew Jones, Sophomore, Forward, 4.0 points per game