Talor Battle -- by any measure the best player in Penn State hoops history -- is graduating this spring. His half-brother, Taron Buie -- who many Penn State fans hoped would take the Nittany Lions' backcourt reigns in the post-Battle era -- was released from the team after an oft-troubled freshman season.
This spring, Penn State fans looking at their new, thinned-out backcourt had reason for serious concern. Did Nittany Lions coach Ed DeChellis have a guard capable of consistently competing at a Big Ten level? And if not, how much longer could the embattled DeChellis -- who reached his first NCAA tournament in eight years at the school in 2011 -- keep his job?
Those concerns will linger with DeChellis throughout the season, or at least until Penn State proves it can maintain whatever slight momentum was gained this past March. (Or, you know, until someone at Penn State actually notices basketball.) But there was some rather excellent long-term news for DeChellis and Penn State fans this weekend. According to the Harrisburg Patriot-News, former Dayton guard Juwan Staten will make his new home in State College, Pa., where he will transfer and sit out a year before retaining his final three years of eligibility beginning in 2012-13.
Staten, as you likely know, was the most highly touted prospect of former Dayton coach Brian Gregory's occasionally disappointing tenure. Staten was an ESPN top 100 recruit ranked No. 12 in the nation at the point guard position in the class of 2010. Despite those accolades, his freshman season was mostly mediocre. Staten averaged 8.5 points and 5.4 assists in 29.1 minutes per game. His shooting percentages -- 39 percent from the field, 60 percent from the free throw line, 15.4 percent from beyond the arc -- made him an inefficient scorer, and his reputation for chemistry issues with teammates and his coaching staff made the eventual separation an occasionally acrimonious one.
In other words: Staten is a talent. He's also a risk. This will not be new information to DeChellis, who was in desperate need of Staten's talent regardless of the rather sizable baggage the sophomore will pack for his arrival in Pennsylvania.
The question is whether Staten actually knows what he's in for when he arrives at Penn State. Speaking with the Patriot-News, Staten described Penn State's style as such:
“They play fast. It looked like the players play loose, like the coach allows them to play their game.”
Part of that statement is correct; DeChellis does allow his players, particularly his guards, to control much of the offensive action when the ball is in their hands. Part of that statement is also incredibly wrong: Penn State isn't fast. In fact, at 60.4 possessions per game, the Nittany Lions ranked No. 341 in the nation in adjusted tempo in 2011; only Cal Poly, Stephen F. Austin, Wisconsin and Denver were slower. (Remember Penn State's 36-33 win over Wisconsin in the Big Ten tournament? That score is what happens when two teams this brutally slow stop hitting their jump shots. It may or may not have set the game of basketball back 50 years.)
In other words, Staten may not be quite as familiar with Penn State's style as he thinks.
Still, it's far too early for the Penn State fan to fret over such things. At the end of the day, Staten is as talented a recruit as any the Nittany Lions have landed in the DeChellis era, if not more so, and he arrives at a crucially important time for the program. There's not much that can dampen this sort of good news, at least not yet. But when Staten finally takes the court in a year? Well, we'll see.