I’ve come to the rash conclusion that Penn State basketball is cursed: We go from winning back-to-back road games and playing with a level of confidence not seen in years, to blowing a 16-point second half lead at home in front of a larger-than-normal crowd, and then seeing one of the best players in PSU hoops history end his career prematurely in an uninspired blowout loss at home. It’s an absolute roundhouse kick to the face for long-time fans such as myself.
I’ll never forget a few years ago, when I saw Geary break out as a freshman in the Big Ten. The alley-oop dunk he threw down against Michigan at the BJC will forever be entrenched in my mind as it marked the first time since the magical Sweet 16 run of the Joe Crispin days that we had seen a PSU team successfully execute such a play. The guy was an athletic specimen the likes of which had not been seen in a long time: He was only 6’5″ but very quick and had pogo sticks for feet to go along with his freakishly long wingspan. That wingspan allowed him to block shots of guys several inches taller than him and more importantly, to out-rebound them. When Jamelle Cornley arrived the following year, the two immediately clicked together on the court as an undersized, but bruising frontcourt. Geary was (and still is) a rather quiet guy when it came to getting pumped and firing up his teammates but that’s where Jamelle came into the picture, he was the yin to Geary’s yang, the more vocal of the bunch.
A picture that will always be ingrained in my mind…
We all knew this was going to come to an end someday, we just didn’t expect it to happen this soon, this way. Our dream scenario consisted of someday seeing Claxton and Cornley as upperclassmen, with the proper supporting cast in place, leading PSU to the NCAA Tournament.
Unfortunately, that dream will never come into fruition and it almost makes me want to cry because a guy like Claxton certainly deserved a happy ending to his career here at PSU because he easily could have spurned us for an established program. You see: Geary was from Connecticut and as a senior in high school, UConn offered him a scholarship provided that he attend one year of prep school.
Think about it for a second: If Jim Calhoun offered you a basketball scholarship at a storied program like UConn, most of you would probably be willing to do whatever he tells you to do in order to get the schollie. Geary however, was not one of those types, the kid wanted to play college ball sooner rather than later, and with Ed DeChellis desperately searching for replacement scholarship players after driving out several of Jerry Dunn’s dead wood during his first year, he found himself the recipient of a scholarship to play immediately at PSU and to help start a new winning tradition. While the latter part didn’t occur, Geary will likely be forever grateful that somebody out there believed in him that much. And we, the fans, will be forever grateful as well for choosing to believe in us when he had barely any reason to do so himself.
This injury also creates a few compelling storylines for the rest of the year:
- Will this team continue to scrap and give it their all every game, fighting and clawing their way towards what are now very grim-looking postseason prospects? Or will they tumble down the rabbit hole like they did last year during their 13-game losing skid?
- How will the key bench players (Brooks, DJ, Jones, Pringle) respond? Can they step up to help fill the statistical crater left behind by their fallen comrade?
- Ed DeChellis: Does Tim Curley cut him a break at season’s end if the team does in fact, slip-slide towards another dismal finish?