Being one of about 50 PSU basketball fans on the planet, I felt like I should do my own little preview on the upcoming season, especially considering none of the other PSU bloggers save for Black Shoe Diaries gives more than a passing mention about the program.
Last year, the team was coming off an unprecedented NIT berth and was returning all of its key players minus Travis Parker, a player that while a key loss was thought to be balanced out by our returning players and one or both of the newcomers, DJ Jackson and Andrew Jones contributing.
By now, you all know that didn’t turn out to be the case as both newcomers ended up redshirting, and the returning players could not come close to building upon the previous year’s success as the offense resembled that of a middle school team while the defense was about as existent as a sober kid at a Cancun beach party.
I’ve decided to split this thing into two parts: Part One will focus on the players, while Part Two will provide the schedule/season outlook.
THE BOYS ARE BACK IN TOWN (Key Returnees)
Geary Claxton – The second-best returning scorer (16.3) and top returning rebounder (8.3 rebs) in the Big Ten, he is arguably one of the most athletically gifted kids in PSU history and is Mr. Do Everything on this team.
Jamelle Cornley – The most firey leader on this team, he’s 6’4” but plays like he’s several inches taller. Like Claxton, he was an impact player as a frosh (becoming PSU’s first Big Ten Freshman of Year award winner) and has only continued to assert himself as a bonafide Big Ten forward. Is out for the next couple weeks with a knee injury but will likely be back by the end of November, if not sooner.
Mike Walker – A sharpshooter and a bit of daredevil when it comes to his perimeter shooting, whether it’s a fadeaway three pointer or a pull up three pointer on a fast break, he’s helped inspire a new catch phrase amongst my friends and I, the “Walker Shot.” Walker’s off to a hot start this year, lighting up Slippery Rock in the exhibition.
Danny Morrissey – The other sharpshooter on the team, he too was on fire from downtown in the exhibition. He’s also the team’s Personal Jesus as he’s sacrificed himself many times by taking charges. Look for Danny to continue to be Danny and fire away.
Brandon Hassell – Showed flashes of brilliance at times last season (The home game against Indiana) but allowed himself to be pushed around for the most part during the Big Ten season. He dressed up as Apollo Creed during the “Dinner and Dunks” open practice held for students and season ticket holders, which was a pretty bold statement on his behalf…Unless of course, he was dressing up as Apollo from Rocky IV.
Joonas Suotamo – Part of the Euro Invasion of 2005 along with Nikola Obradovic and the recently-departed Milos Bogetic. Was fittingly dressed as Ivan Drago during the “Dinner and Dunks” ceremony the other week, as that was the first person I thought of when I saw his mug on the official team webpage. Probably won’t see too much action unless we suffer some injuries up front, but if he does get in the game he will break you…
Nikola Obradovic – The only reason I put him on here was because he looks a tad bit like a Serbian Ralph Macchio. I also recommend yelling out “NEEEECOLA” (like in those “Ricola” cough drop commercials) whenever he hits a 3-pointer during garbage time as it is guaranteed laughs every time.
David “DJ” Jackson (NOTE: This was written prior to the start of the St. Francis game) – Had his season cut short last year after a stress fracture forced him to medically redshirt after just three games. Another athletic stalwart who was hyped as a hidden gem for our coaching staff, it sounded as if he was tearing it up in practice this pre-season before that same leg that he suffered the stress fracture in started to get sore again and was held out of the exhibition. Think of him as PSU basketball’s answer to Abe Koroma: Nobody knows how long he will be out, or if he will even be back, but we are all crossing our fingers and praying that he does so we can see this kid live up to his potential.
Andrew Jones III – The real “Mystery Man” on this team. Was redshirted last year because he wasn’t big enough and the staff felt he had NBA potential if developed properly. Since last year, he’s packed on 30 pounds and will be splitting time with Hassell at the center spot. He was very foul-happy against Slippery Rock but I can excuse it since it was his first collegiate game, if he can get his clutching/grabbing/hacking under control though, he can be fairly productive.
NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK (Key Newcomers)
Talor Battle – The “Battleship” as a certain poster on the PennStateHoops.com forum calls him. Under 6-foot but super-athletic with a good shot and most importantly he can penetrate the lane which will free things up for Walker and Morrissey (or whoever is out on the perimeter). It will seem like a breath of fresh air when this kid or Stanley Pringle is running the point. Did I also mention that he can dunk? His picking of a Slippery Rock player’s pocket and subsequent two-handed throw down was a very fitting way for this kid to score his first collegiate points, even if the stats say it never happened.
Jeff Brooks – 6’8” small forward, was yet another hidden gem DeChellis and company have managed to find. We stole this kid straight out of Louisville and by the time Rick Pitino and Tubby Smith came after him, it was too late. From what I saw in the exhibition, he’s raw but very athletic with plenty of “upside” as Jay Bilas likes to say. He needs to pack on a little more weight if he’s going to be able to bang with the Big Ten post players. Otherwise, the sky’s the limit with this kid.
Stanley Pringle – Like Mooch Jackson before him did for cornrows, Stanley Pringle will go down in PSU history as the first player to sport dreadlocks. Much like Battle, he’s around 6-feet, super-quick, and has the ability to penetrate the lane. I hope he’s got his mid-range game down because he’s not going to have the luxury of being able to drive for layups like he did against Slippery Rock when he faces Big Ten-caliber competition. Was also the slam-dunk contest champion at “Dinner and Dunks.”
Once he pops, you cant, you can’t, stop.
Schyler King – Didn’t do anything notable in the exhibition but from what I’ve read in practice reports he’s a good shooter and pretty athletic. Look for him to be coming off the bench to spell someone for a few minutes at the shooting guard/small forward positions. One look at his name also tells me he must have “mad ups” so that’s another reason to be excited for him.