Bon Jovi Rocks Penn State's World

The band is taking over the Bryce Jordan Center for the next eight days, leaving the Nittany Lions with extremely limited access to their home court.

For Penn State basketball coach Ed DeChellis, it sure seems like Bon Jovi will never say goodbye.

The rock group's “Live 2011” tour tips off at the Bryce Jordan Center Feb. 9. What's more, the band was scheduled to take over the main arena at the BJC Tuesday for a week of practice leading into the North American leg of the tour.

And that means DeChellis' Nittany Lions, who call the Jordan Center home, will have one opportunity to hit the floor in the main arena until Bon Jovi clears out following its show. PSU faces Michigan at the BJC Sunday, and won't even have the luxury of a Saturday practice in the main arena to prepare for that game.

So while campus and town may be buzzing over the super group setting up shop in Happy Valley, in DeChellis' eyes Bon Jovi is not wanted -- dead or alive.

“It doesn't matter who it is,” he told before practice Monday. “I don't care if it's my granddaughter coming in to see Disney on Ice. It's a problem for us in mid-February … not to be able to use your home facility for that many days in a row when you're trying to make your run.”

Heading into a game at Illinois Tuesday night, the Nittany Lions are 12-8 overall and 5-4 in the Big Ten. A recent hot streak featuring upsets of three ranked opponents at the Jordan Center has put them in contention for their first NCAA Tournament bid in a decade.

If DeChellis is living on a prayer, it is that he'll be able to keep the troops at the top of their game despite the facility disruption.

“It affects us when we can't get into our practice facility a day or so before the game, to get used to the background and used to the shooting,” he said. “But I can't control that. What I can control is getting the guys ready to play.”

The Penn State women's team is in the same predicament. Typically, the Nittany Lions and Lady Lions alternate working out in the main arena and the “South,” or practice gym. Now they must share the South Gym most days. With certain athletes from both teams taking evening classes, it makes the scheduling that much more difficult.

So each will have to spend at least one day practicing at the nearby Intramural Building, the university's primary facility for pickup basketball.

All-Big Ten guard and team leading scorer Talor Battle would rather practice in the main arena at the BJC. As far as the other locales are concerned, he'll give it a shot.

Battle and DeChellis at the Bryce Jordan Center.

“It's not going to affect us at the end of the day,” Battle insisted. “It's a hoop and a ball. There is one objective, and that's to put the ball in there. I just like practicing in the (BJC) much better.”

Added forward David Jackson, “To certain guys it does make a difference, because they like getting in a rhythm and shooting where they're playing. To me, it's not really a big deal. I'm fine so long as we've got a ball and a court and a basket.”

These sort of problems for the Penn State basketball programs pop up every year because the athletic department does not manage the Jordan Center. The school's housing and food services department runs it and the athletic department actually rents space. And that means the basketball programs sometimes must take a back seat to other events.

Usually -- upcoming examples are the THON charity event, a job fair and a Harlem Globetrotters show that will all take place before the end of the hoops season -- the basketball programs have significant lead time to adjust. And the disruptions do not last more than two or three days.

However, DeChellis did not learn about Bon Jovi's eight-day takeover of the main arena until December.

“We brought it up and questioned it, and never got any further than that,” DeChellis said.

Many players on the team had a question of their own when they heard a rock group would be taking over the BJC: Bon Who-vi?

“I couldn't tell you who Bon Jovi is,” Battle said. “I asked someone the other day and they laughed at me. I know the name, because I've heard some rappers saying it in their lyrics -- you know, 'Rock and roll like Bon Jovi.' So I guess it's a rock and roll group.”

“I don't know too much about 'em,” Jackson added. “I've heard they're a pretty good group. I'm sure there are a couple of guys on the team who listen to them.”

The only Nittany Lion who will fess up to that also happens to be the only Jersey boy on the team. Forward Billy Oliver is from Chatham, N.J., a 45-minute drive from Bon Jovi frontman Jon Bon Jovi's hometown of Sayerville.

“I was actually going to go to a concert at the new Giant's Stadium last summer, but then I ended up having to be back here,” Oliver said. “So I missed out on that one. I might try to see if I can find a ticket for this one.”

And if that doesn't work out, he has a plan to perhaps get halfway there.

“If they're out (in the main arena), I might sneak out and watch them practice or warm up,” Oliver said. “I think live music is one of the coolest things. For me, it would be cool to see them play.”

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