Nittany Lions Have Unfinished Business

At PSU Basketball Media Day, DeChellis said he expects improvement after last year's NIT title run. So be it if the preseason magazines expect otherwise.

Penn State men's basketball coach Ed DeChellis says he doesn't much care that most preseason magazines pick his team to finish in the lower echelon of the Big Ten this year.

After his Nittany Lions won the NIT championship with a school-record 27 wins last winter, DeChellis is worried less about what outsiders are saying about his program and more about showing continued improvement. And that means taking the next logical step -- the team's first trip to the NCAA Tournament since he arrived six seasons ago.

“We've got unfinished business,” he said during PSU Basketball Media Day at the Jordan Center Monday. “We have work to do. … There's a football coach here who says you get better or worse, you don't stay the same.”

All-Big Ten guard Talor Battle, a high-scorer who will be counted on to provide more leadership this season following the graduation of Jamelle Cornley, Stanley Pringle and Danny Morrissey, admits that he is in tune with the preseason prognostications.

“I see the magazines where they have us picked ninth or 10th [in the Big Ten] again,” he said. “It's definitely motivation. But at the same time, you don't blame them for having their opinions.”

In Battle's view, it is critical to build on the success of 2008-09 to help change the perception of the program.

“It's very important,” he said. “We need to have another successful season so it's not one of those one-hit-wonder things.”

DeChellis stressed that he not counting on any one player to replace Cornley, the charismatic power forward who helped muscle the Lions to the NIT title. In terms of production, he thinks junior big men Andrew Jones, D.J. Jackson and Jeff Brooks will all have to step it up. He wants them to be better leaders, too.

And Battle intends to make a real impact in that area, as well.

“Now that Jamelle is gone, all the guys are looking to me,” he said.

Though the Lions had only four practices prior to Media Day, DeChellis liked what he had seen of his freshman class.

“They're a high basketball I.Q. group,” he said.

High-rising guard Tim Frazier is poised to replace the speedy Pringle when DeChellis wants to go with a smaller, quicker backcourt. Frazier will also spell Battle at point guard after the latter led the NCAA in minutes played last season. DeChellis expects them to give opponents headaches on both ends of the floor.

“Tim can really put a lot of pressure on the ball and so can Talor,” DeChellis said.

Another rookie, 6-foot-6, 235-pound Bill Edwards, is also vying for playing time in the backcourt. He has a good handle for his size, can shoot and do damage off the dribble. Add in 6-5 sophomores Chris Babb and Cammeron Woodyard -- both of whom, like Edwards, can play small forward -- and there are clearly some interesting mix-and-match opportunities.

“We have a lot of possibilities, which is fun at this time of year,” DeChellis said.

Along those lines, when asked how close he is to establishing a starting lineup, DeChellis bristled. With the season-opener against Penn set for Nov. 13 at the BJC, he has plenty of time to worry about that. Besides, when it boils down to it, figuring out who starts and who doesn't usually sorts itself out.

“I don't decide who plays,” DeChellis said. “Players decide who plays.”

Click below to hear the entire audio file from DeChellis' press conference.


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