If I asked for the five longest-tenured coaches in the Big Ten, (and you weren’t, you know, reading a post entitled “2010-2011 ITH Season Preview: Penn State Nittany Lions) would it take less than 10 minutes to realize Ed DeChellis is on that list? What’s that? You knew that? Oh. Well it took me 10 minutes.
Either way, isn’t that sort of baffling? Ed DeChellis, he of the 200-216 career record, he who has been to exactly one NCAA Tournament — with East Tennessee State in 2003, the same year he made the switch to Penn State — has been in his job longer than Matt Painter at Purdue or Thad Matta at Ohio State.
It was never made clear to me how DeChellis was a good call for Penn State, beyond his links to the program as an assistant under Bruce Parkhill. His record at ETSU (proud alma mater of Kenny Chesney, by the way) was rather underwhelming, with the lone NCAA appearance counting as one of his four winning seasons in seven years in Johnson City.
All this historical rambling is a way of covering for the fact that there’s not much to talk about for the Nits this year. Outside of the outstanding Talor Battle, Penn State returns no scorers that averaged better than 10 points per game last year. Andrew Jones brings experience down low, but a senior who averaged just six and five last year in the post hardly breeds optimism.
There’s some hope in the freshman class, particularly with point guard Taran Buie. Half-brother of Talor Battle, Buie was recruited by the likes of Georgia Tech, Maryland, Syracuse and Xavier, and it’s certainly plausible that Buie and Battle could create a rather dangerous backcourt together. (Buie hasn’t quite been on his best behavior, though, in recent months.)
Realistically, that’s probably Penn State’s best hope, for better or for worse. Battle is a lethal scorer that can hurt opponents from almost anywhere on the court. In fact, it’s probably fair to say Battle is the Big Ten’s best pure offensive player. He’s also proven rather tough, playing through various maladies last season when his team needed him.
Buie’s bio page on the Penn State website calls him “one of the most highly sought after recruits in Nittany Lion basketball program history,” which is probably apt. What that means, though, is that he’s going to have to shoulder a heavy load early, because unless DeChellis knows something we don’t and is just full of surprises, Penn State is awfully short on talent. The only other player who could break 10 points per game, based on past results, is senior forward David Jackson.
The bottom line: Realistically, it’s probably another year in at or near the bottom of the Big Ten for Penn State.
Quotable: “We are very happy and excited to have Taran joining our team,” Penn State coach Ed DeChellis said, speaking about Buie’s commitment. “With his brother, Talor, being here and that relationship, we feel like he has been a part of our Nittany Lion family for awhile now and fits in perfectly with what our program is all about. We are thrilled he has decided to bring his considerable athletic ability and basketball skills as well as his competitiveness and drive to our program.”