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Battle Tested

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Talor Battle decided to come back for his senior year at Penn State after flirting with the idea of turning professional last spring.

Last season was a major disappointment for the Nittany Lions, as they followed up an NIT championship season--in which they went 27-11--with a complete meltdown that saw them finish 11-20 overall and dead last in the Big Ten with a 3-15 mark. There wasn't much good news in Happy Valley and the idea that his team might lose their best player had to make for a rough few weeks for coach Ed DeChellis.
When the news that his 6'0" 170-pound all-league point guard was returning, for what should be a record-breaking season, it had to be just about the best news the embattled coach got heading into this potentially make or break year.
Record-setting?
Most definitely for Battle. He's already looked upon as one of the best to ever ball at the school with little hoop tradition. If he can somehow lead his last team to a post-season berth--any post-season berth--he'll be seen by everybody as the program's most accomplished player ever. But just to prove the point, listen to some of these numbers.
The two-time All-Big Ten selection stands just 613 points shy of eclipsing Penn State's 55-year-old career scoring mark of 2,138 set by All-American Jesse Arnelle in 1955. In addition to that, the unbelievably consistently strong rebounder (both for his size and position) needs just 25 rebounds to become the first Penn State player ever to log at least 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 400 assists in his career.
Battle talked about his pro aspirations and what the process last spring was like for him.
"It was a great experience," he said, "I went to Portland and worked out."
But the kid from Albany admits to having been a bit awed.
"It was nerve racking when I first walked into an NBA facility, but at the same time it was a great learning experience," he said. "I shot the ball really well but didn't play as well as I really wanted to. I sat and spoke to them and they predicted where I'd be drafted or if I'd be drafted at all. It just puts things into perspective. I went back to school and really dedicated myself to the gym and trying to get better."
Jim Clibanoff is an independent NBA scout who works with several NBA teams as a resource for evaluating talent; he also does work for European clubs. Clibanoff says it was a solid decision for Battle to come back and talked about what he might need to improve on to get a shot in the NBA.
"Evaluating him as a pro point guard prospect has been kind of difficult because he's forced to carry so much of their offensive load," Clibanoff says, "but having said that he does a pretty good job of distributing the ball without committing a lot of turnovers. It may be hard to re-wire him into a pass-first guy and he'll have to prove his worth in the spring post-season venues, although a sparkling season might open the door to a possible second round berth."
Clibanoff marvels at Battle's rebounding, especially at his generous 6'0" listing.
Another scout, Rodger Bohn, who writes for SLAM Magazine among others, says Battle will need to show one discernible skill to have a chance in the NBA.
"I need to see him in the pick and roll more," says Bohn. "Just about everything at the pro level starts with the pick and roll or pick and pop, so he needs to show teams he can make good decisions in that particular area. But that's all in the future.
Penn State got off to a good start in 2010, and hoping the 10-11 season continues to mirror their NIT championship run from two years ago and not last year's debacle. Either way you can expect Battle to have a major impact in any success DeChellis' squad enjoys.
NBA player or not, Battle's the best Penn State's ever had.

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