By Paul M. Banks
Battle has played every minute but three in big ten play, and currently leads the Nittany Lions in scoring, rebounding, assists, minutes, and steals. “Guys have been keying in on me defensively, I heard Bruce Weber all game yelling wherever I was at, I felt like he was guarding me,” Battle told me following a 54-53 loss to the Illini.
On his way to setting a new school record for assists (and the 5th highest point total) in a season, Battle led the nation in minutes played last season. I asked Battle about his conditioning required to pull this off. “I train really hard best as I can in the off season, but no player can be as efficient at they want to be for a 40 minute game regardless of how conditioned you are. I think at the end of the game it takes some sort of toll on my shots, but that’s no excuse,” the Naismith, Wooden and Cousy Award candidate said.
The Cousy award is given to the nation’s best collegiate point guard each season, and I asked the award finalist who his favorite player at the position is in the league. “My favorite point guard in the NBA is probably Chauncey Billups. Not that I try to play like him, but his nickname is Mr. Bigshot and I just love that about him. He takes the big shot and usually hits it, so that’s the kind of guys I look up to,” Battle responded.
If Battle makes All-Big Ten again this season, he will become the first Nittany Lion in history to be named All-Conference twice. He pretty much does everything for the Nittany Nation as he is well ahead of the scoring pace set by the school’s all-time points leader, Jesse Arnelle. (Yes, Jessie Arnelle that is your PSU all-time scoring leader) With six more rebounds Battle will become just the fourth player in Penn St. history to accrue 1,000 points, 400 rebounds and 300 assists. As one of just seven players in the nation last season to average better than 15 points, 5 rebounds and 4.5 assists last year, should he stay on his current paces he will become the first Big Ten player in history to ever score 1,000 points, 600 rebounds, and 600 assists.
Rivalry with Illinois
As Battle is in the midst of his third season, he’s already experienced some classic games against the same team: Illinois. “I played Illinois 6 times, and we beat them twice by one, they beat us by one tonight and as a freshman Chester Frazier hit a lay-up to beat us by one in the big ten tournament, and I think we beat them by three or four and then again by two. So every time we play Illinois it’s such a close game, and I’m sure they’re as happy as can be right now because it’s the first time they beat us here in awhile,” Talor articulated about the rivalry.
No player in Penn State history has scored more points during his first seasons than Battle, and he’s done a lot of that scoring damage on the road. Before January’s loss in Champaign, Battle’s Nittany Lions had won three in a row at Assembly Hall.
“I think it’s a lot easier playing on the road because you’re a lot more focused, you’re not going to class and all that stuff, it’s just basketball, and you got nothing to lose,” Battle said.
At Big Ten Media Day, Battle was asked if any single game in his career has stood out as his most memorable. Of course, a contest with the Illini came up. “The Illinois game at home last year I think I shot like 6 for 14 from the field, and with 23 seconds left on the clock, I hit the game winner on ESPN kid in such an important game. Those things you dream of as a kid.”