Young guards emerge in Big 10 backcourts Print
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Friday, 30 January 2009 10:57
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 STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) -With a spring in his step, Talor Battle dodged an approaching crowd in the gym and hopped on an exercise bike.
The Big Ten's leading scorer is as elusive in practice as he is during a game.
Good thing Battle has so much energy - Penn State's lightning-quick point guard needs it every night in a conference brimming with backcourt talent.
``Got my wind back, my legs, 100 percent,'' said Battle, who had been nursing a sore groin. The Nittany Lions are in the midst of a weeklong break before their next game Sunday at No. 9 Michigan State.
There, Battle, who leads the Big Ten in overall scoring at 18.5 points per game, will face Spartans sophomore counterpart Kalin Lucas, the top scorer in conference games at 18 points per game.
rt this season.
``Last year, a lot of these young players were players that all got thrown into it quite a bit,'' Michigan coach John Beilein said. ``It was probably too early to be throwing them into the magnitude they were in.
``Now it pays off when you give them the opportunity to learn,'' he said.
Sophomores guards are shining throughout the league, including:
-Minnesota's Al Nolen. The Big Ten leader in steals (2.2 per game) has helped revive the Gophers this season.
-Purdue's E'Twaun Moore. The Boilermakers' leading scorer (14.2 ppg) has been a constant presence on a team that has stayed in the Top 25 despite injures to key players Robbie Hummel and Chris Kramer.
-Illinois' Demetri McCamey. The leading scorer (12.5 ppg) on an Illini team off to a 17-3 start and a No. 19 ranking in the Top 25.
``If you take any one of those guys off those teams, their team is a little different,'' Penn State coach Ed DeChellis said. ``If you take Kalin Lucas off Michigan State, I don't think they're as fast, I don't think they've got the explosive power on the perimeter. Same thing if you take Talor off our team.''
Imagine what the Big Ten's guard corps would have looked like this season if Eric Gordon hadn't left Indiana after his freshman year for the NBA.
the Big Ten this season, going back and forth as the league's top scorer.
The 6-foot-5 Harris hasn't shot well of late, hitting just 8-of-31 from the field over his past three games, though he bounced back with 22 points in a loss Wednesday at Ohio State after hitting 10-of-11 from the foul line.
Beilein isn't worried about the shooting given that his guard is contributing in other ways. Harris grabbed 12 rebounds against the Buckeyes, his second straight double-digit rebounding game.
Battle, too, can fill up the stat sheet.
Besides leading his team in points and assists, Battle is second on the Nittany Lions in rebounding (5.5 per game), impressive given his 5-foot-11, 165-pound frame.
``He's a competitive kid,'' DeChellis said. ``He wants to prove to people he's one of the best people in this league, especially at that position.''
College rosters get new wrinkles all the time, with teams getting complete overhauls every four or five years at the most because of players graduating. The influx in young, promising backcourt talent is in part due to the natural cycle of schools restocking their rosters.
But coaches also must cope with losing some top recruits, such as Gordon, to the NBA after just one season.
uard Danny Morrissey, a virtual college basketball graybeard as at age 24. ``Now, from what I see, they're getting younger'' and better, he said.
With recruiting so competitive and talented players often eyeing the NBA, teams must keep landing quality players even if there might be a glut of talent at a certain position, said Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan.
``In recruiting, you try to get them when you can ... You can't kind of sit there and say, 'We've got this point guard who will be here for three years,''' Ryan said. ``I don't think you can have enough good guards.''

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