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Penn State Basketball: By Any Measure, Talor Battle Is Penn State's Best Ever

by on February 28, 2011 10:05 AM

By Kevin Wesley

Not all of his statistics are that impressive. For example, in nearly four seasons with the Nittany Lion basketball team, Talor Battle has blocked a total of 10 shots. Really, it’s like he wasn’t even trying.

The rest of his career box score, of course, tells a decidedly different story.

On Tuesday, Battle will take the floor for his final regular-season home game (although maybe not his final home game, period; an opening-round NIT date at the Bryce Jordan Center still looks like a strong possibility). He’ll be joined by classmates Jeff Brooks, David Jackson, Andrew Jones and Steve Kirkpatrick, the members of a senior class that, until this season, had been regarded by many as a disappointment. Their combined contributions in 2010-11 have mostly negated that assessment. But the exception is Battle, for whom “disappointing” is a word that has never applied.

Listed at six feet and 170 pounds when 5-foot-10 and 155 is probably closer to the truth, Talor Battle will finish his career as the best player in Penn State basketball history. This is statistically undeniable, and only theoretically in question by any other criteria. With at least three games left to play (and at least a fourth all but guaranteed), the senior guard needs just 60 points to break the all-time school scoring record. He will do it in about 30 more games than Jesse Arnelle needed to score 2,138 points back in the early fifties, but then, Battle also will have done it while about six inches shorter, 60 or 70 pounds lighter, and (we’ll assume, based on the quality of modern Big Ten guards) against much tougher competition on a nightly basis.

Battle also has 500 assists, and he’ll finish third on the Penn State career list in that category despite never playing alongside a dominant scorer. (Apologies here to Jamelle Cornley, a terrific, underrated player and one of this writer’s favorite Nittany Lions, but not in fact a “dominant” scorer.) He’s also got 594 rebounds, which will place him in the top 20 on the Penn State list; sure, he’s played a lot of minutes, but again, he’s not even six feet tall.

Steals? He’ll finish seventh.

Three-pointers made? Currently third, with an outside chance to finish second, and a way-outside chance to top that category.

Starts? Battle is at 124 and counting. That’s already a school record.

He will finish having led the Nittany Lions in scoring in each of his four seasons. He led the team in assists his first three seasons (sophomore Tim Frazier paces the Lions in dimes this year). And last year, Battle led Penn State in rebounding—did we mention his height?—a feat that made him the only player in the nation to lead his team in points, rebounds, assists and steals.

He is the only player in school history to score 500 points in three consecutive seasons.

And with six more rebounds, Battle will become just the third player in Division I college basketball history to total at least 2,000 points, 600 rebounds and 500 assists in a career.

The numbers don’t tell the whole story, of course. The numbers don’t account for the cold-blooded 25-footers Battle regularly knocks down from his favorite spot in front of the Penn State bench. They don’t speak for the clutch shots he’s made in game after game the past four years. They don’t acknowledge the leadership of a hard-working, clear-eyed young man whose focus has inspired teammates whose talent hasn’t always been able to return the favor.

Talor Battle may never play in an NCAA tournament game, though a win Tuesday night against No. 3 Ohio State would go a long way in keeping that dream alive. If he doesn’t, he’ll go down as one of the greatest four-year players never to make the Big Dance. It would be a shame, but it shouldn’t diminish all that he’s done.

Penn State basketball fans, understand that you’ll see bigger, stronger players, and you’ll see more talented athletes. But you’ll probably never watch a better career in blue and white than the one Talor Battle is about to wrap up. Appreciate it while you can.

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