Penn State Nittany Lions
Overall Rank: #125
Conference Rank: #9 Big Ten
2006-07: 11-19, 2-14, 10th (t)
2006-07 postseason: none
Coming off a successful, well successful by Penn State standards, season in 2005-2006, the expectations were justifiably high last year. And the Nittany Lions had no idea what to do when fans expected a .500 season, so they crashed out and went 2-14 in conference play instead. That should put an end to any high expectations. Yet, Penn State has the potential to reach the high expectations of last year, but just a year too late.
The problems were in the backcourt last year and the Lions lose a couple part-time starters. Ben Luber and David Jackson did an admirable job trying to get some production out of the Penn State perimeter, but the overall numbers were still lacking. In the scoring department, Luber had his worst campaign of his four year career in Happy Valley averaging just 5.2 points per game. However, that is more of a testimony to the increase of talent in the program than it is to Luber underperforming, although both were factors. Little used guards Clay Scovill and Maxwell Dubois will not be returning as well, but it is the transfer of forward Milos Bogetic that hurts. The 6-10 forward did not put up big numbers, but was a quality and consistent option off the bench.
Coach Ed DeChellis will need the newcomers to provide some depth off the bench at every position. Talor Battle, an incoming freshman, is the future point guard. The combo guard can do some much needed scoring as well. He has a nice stroke and can do everything the team wants from a point guard. Junior college transfer Stanly Pringle, another combo guard, will be looked upon to fill some of the backcourt holes right away. Penn State found a couple quality, versatile guards and both should be in the regular rotation immediately, although that is more out of necessity than talent, but they could have done much worse than Battle and Pringle. The Nittany Lions picked up highly touted forward Jeff Brooks from programs they have no business recruiting against, including a handful of SEC schools. Hopefully for Penn State fans it is a sign of things to come, but for now the 6-8 Louisville, Kentucky product will be a major asset to the frontcourt. Schyler King, a junior college transfer, is a long, athletic forward who can hit the outside shot. Redshirt freshmen Andrew Jones and David Jackson will compete for playing time. At 6-8, Jones has the size to contribute under the basket right away, but despite the redshirt season he is still a little raw. Jackson, not to be confused with the graduating David Jackson, is an athletic small forward and should see his fair share of minutes off the bench this year.
Who to Watch:
The talent is at the forward spots. Geary Claxton and Jamelle Cornley are extremely undersized, but also extremely tough and hardworking. Claxton led the squad averaging 16.3 points and 8.0 rebounds and Cornley was not far behind in either category, totaling 13.5 points and 6.7 boards per contest. The interior defense can be a problem at 6-5, but the duo is a great asset in the scoring and rebounding departments. However, the team has 6-11 center Brandon Hassell to hang out in the paint. Hassell is surprisingly athletic and strong and with another year of experience, should be able to better handle the opposition’s big man.
Mike Walker and Danny Morrissey are a decent backcourt combination, but even more pressure will be on them without Luber and Jackson. Walker will run the point after averaging 2.3 assists and 1.0 turnovers last year. Morrissey is by far the best outside shooter on the team and any shooting struggles from him will turn Penn State into a single dimension slashing squad. Penn State was better than last year’s record, or at least they should have been. They should be better than that this year too, but maybe losing has just become too much of a habit on the hardwood.
Projected Post-season Tournament: none
Projected Starting Five:
Mike Walker, Senior, Guard, 6.3 points per game
Danny Morrissey, Junior, Guard, 9.6 points per game
Geary Claxton, Senior, Forward, 16.3 points per game
Jamelle Cornley, Junior, Forward, 13.5 points per game
Brandon Hassell, Senior, Forward, 5.6 points per game