When it comes to the best Penn State basketball players of all time, there isn’t much of a discussion.
Talor Battle is certainly in the top five. Over the weekend, Battle reached the 2,000-point milestone in the Nittany Lions’ lopsided win over Northwestern.
In today’s edition of Morelli OnLion, we’ll take a closer look at Battle’s milestone. We’ll also take a sneak peek at Penn State’s foray into Division I-A hockey.
Let’s start with Battle.
Although the Penn State men’s NCAA tournament hopes appear to be fading with every conference loss, senior Talor Battle has been the bright spot for the Nittany Lions. Battle notched another milestone on Sunday afternoon at the Bryce Jordan Center, eclipsing the 2,000-point mark in PSU’s 65-41 win over the Northwestern Wildcats.
The monster bucket came on Battle’s second trey of the afternoon at the 13:17 mark of the first half. The afternoon belonged to Battle, who led the Lions in scoring with 19 points. He was 7-of-9 from the field and 4-of-5 from three-point land.
While Battle was pleased that he reached the milestone, he said that he’d trade the 2,000 points for one thing – an NCAA tournament berth.
“I would trade every one of those points to get to the NCAA Tournament, just to give ourselves the opportunity to be on national television, to be in the spot light for real, and allow them to see all of us as individuals play,” he said. “Because, you know, we’re kind of forgotten about in my opinion sometimes, so for us to be on the national scene, and for guys to be seen, and Penn State as a university, be seen on CBS and things like that would be a great feeling, so hopefully we can get there.”
While Battle and Nittany Nation can hope, the tourney seems unlikely. The Lions simply have too many bad losses. Penn State is now 13-11 overall, 6-7 in the conference. To make the tourney, Penn State needs to embark on a serious run – something that hasn’t happened very often in the DeChellis Era.
However, Battle appears to have the right attitude.
“It’s one game at a time,” Battle said. “We can’t beat Ohio State or Minnesota before we beat Northwestern today, so that’s the more important thing. Instead of looking down the line, we just want to focus and worry about the next game, and that’s it.”
‘A Great Day for Hockey’: Part I
Morelli OnLion takes a closer look at Terry Pegula’s big-time contribution, which will bring Division I hockey to Penn State.
On August 25, 2010, Joe Battista received a text message that would change the athletic landscape at Penn State.
It read: jst sgnd agrmnt, gr8 day 4 hky in Hpy Vly!
The text came from Penn State alumnus Terry Pegula, who was committing to the largest private gift in the university’s history – $88 million to build a hockey arena and establish NCAA Division I men’s and women’s hockey programs.
“I have that date (Aug. 25) etched in my mind,” Battista said. “I will never forget that date.”
It was truly a dream come true for Battista, who coached Penn State’s club team, the Icers, for 19 years.
“When I first met with Terry five years ago and we had our first conversation about Division I hockey, I never thought this day would ever come,” Battista said. “Somebody needs to pinch me. I still can’t believe what has happened. The smile has not left my face. I’ve been sky high ever since.”
It certainly didn’t come easy.
For years, the talk of hockey becoming a Division I sport at Penn State was just that – talk. Varsity hockey existed from 1939-1946. However, after that, hockey disappeared in Happy Valley for nearly 30 years until the early 1970s, when Battista and his friends convinced the university to resurrect hockey as a club sport. In the years that followed, Battista would coach the Icers to six American Collegiate Hockey Association national championships.
Battista would move on to lead the Nittany Lion Club and the Icers would enjoy continued success. However, he still dreamt of having Division I hockey at Penn State. That thought never left his mind.
Then along came Pegula.
“This whole project started in 2006 when I had dinner with Joe Battista. I said to Joe, ‘Why doesn’t Penn State have a Division I hockey program?’ Joe quickly began to inform me that money doesn’t fall out of the sky from Harrisburg for schools like Penn State to do projects like this,” Pegula said. “He told me it would require a large gift, followed by subsequent gifts, the building of a state-of-the-art arena. And bingo, Penn State is Division I. I said, ‘Well Joe, why don’t I work with the athletic department and see what we can do? Maybe I can help you raise the money for this thing.’”
All of a sudden, Battista’s dream was very much alive. Pegula graduated from Penn State in 1973 with a bachelor of science degree in petroleum and natural gas engineering. He is the founder and former president of East Resources, Inc., a privately held independent exploration and development company based in Marshall. He started the company in 1983 and built it into one of the largest privately held companies in the United States. The company, which drills for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale formation, was sold earlier this year to Royal Dutch Shell PLC for $4.7 billion.
Although Pegula had been considering the gift since 2006, there were a couple of factors that slowed down the giving process. First of all, Pegula faced limited availability while running his company. That made for a difficult negotiating process. Also, the financial commitment to build a hockey arena was “substantially higher” than he had initially anticipated.
“There were two difficult moments. You know what happened to this country in the fall of 2008 … the banks shut up their lending ability, our economy dropped and that affected us very severely,” Pegula said. “That caused a rather significant delay when you think we started talking in the fall of 2006. That was four years ago. So you wonder what took so long? Well, that was one of the things that happened.”
When his company was sold to Royal Dutch Shell in July, it opened doors for Pegula.
“It obviously made it a lot easier. It was a very significant deal. It made it instantly possible,” Pegula said. “We were negotiating the agreement before the sale finalized. When you do a deal as big as what we did, it’s actually the biggest deal in Appalachian gas and oil history … you’re busy doing that.”
Battista wants to make it clear that none of this would be happening without the gift from Terry and Kim Pegula.
“This has been a 32-year dream. None of it would be possible without Terry and Kim,” Battista said. “It’s their shared passion for both Penn State and ice hockey that made this possible. It’s in their blood.”
Chris Morelli is a writer/editor who lives in Centre County and covers Penn State athletics. He is also a regular on “Sports Central,” which airs on ESPN Radio in Altoona and State College. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, be sure to check out Morelli OnLion on Facebook!