Nittany Lion Hojo On The Go

FOS has learned that the Big Ten's leading rebounder intends to leave the Nittany Lions. There is no word on where he might go.

On March 10, shortly after Penn State had been dispatched by Ohio State in the first round of the Big Ten tournament at the United Center in Chicago, Nittany Lion junior forward Aaron Johnson was asked if he was completely certain he'd be back for his senior season in Happy Valley.

“Yes,” he replied.

Somewhere between then and now, however, the Big Ten's leading rebounder had a change of heart. When reached by phone at noon today, Johnson said he was leaving PSU, but offered no further details at the time.

“A release will be out at 6 o'clock tonight,” Johnson said. “I'm not going to talk about it until it's official.”

The timetable changed after FOS broke the story. Just before 3 p.m., Penn State issued a statement saying Johnson had requested and been granted his release.

“At the end of this past season, I spoke with Aaron to discuss his future with the program,” second-year PSU coach Ed DeChellis said in the statement. “Following our discussion, both Aaron and I came to a mutual understanding that it would be better if Aaron continued his basketball career at a different institution.”

"Coach DeChellis and I sat down following the season to discuss my future here at Penn State," Johnson said. "We came to the conclusion that I would pursue my basketball career elsewhere."

It is not clear where he will go. He will have to sit out one season under NCAA transfer rules if, as expected, he stays in Division I. He'll then have one year of eligibility remaining.

If he wants to stay in the Big Ten, conference rules will require him to pay his own way at whichever school he lands.

Johnson is the sixth player to leave the program since DeChellis took over in the spring of 2003. A seventh, Sharif Chambliss, announced his decision to transfer just before former coach Jerry Dunn stepped down under pressure that year.

Johnson's 9.9 rebounds per game paced the Big Ten in 2004-05. He scored at an 11.8 clip, second best on the team. He was much stronger in both areas during the non-conference portion of the schedule, as the 6-foot-8, 255-pounder's production fell off when Big Ten foes familiar with his style focused their defenses on him.

Johnson joined Penn State as an invited walk-on in 2002 and went on to lead the team in rebounding that year. He earned a scholarship the following season. He closes out his Nittany Lion career with 743 points and 596 rebounds.

A few minutes after Penn State closed its 7-23 season with the defeat to the Buckeyes, Johnson admitted the losing was getting to him, and “my emotion for the game is not where it used to be when I was a freshman and sophomore.”

Johnson's departure leaves Penn State with only two post players on the roster — junior college transfer Travis Parker (a starter last season) and athletic true freshman Brandon Hassell.

The Lions received a letter of intent from Ohio combo forward Jamelle Cornley in the early signing period and have commitments from European big men Joonas Suotamo and Milos Bogetic for the late-signing period.

DeChellis now has three more scholarships available.

While in Chicago, DeChellis was asked if he was confident the rash of transfers that have impacted the program had stopped.

“I don't know, a lot remains to be seen,” he replied. “I just want guys who want to be here. If guys feel like this isn't the place for them, I'll help them go somewhere else. … We just won seven games. It's not like we won 20 games and everything is rosy. When you don't win, there are a lot of question marks.”


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