Since 2000, the Big Ten conference has been loaded with elite talents and some of college basketball’s greatest players. Fans have seen numerous Big Ten players earn All-Americans and National Players of the Year honors during that time.
But who have been the best?
With the offseason in full swing, BTPowerhouse has decided to sit down and break down the Big Ten’s greatest players since the start of the 2000-’01 season. We will be taking a look at each program and how it fits into the league.
This time, we will look at the greatest players from the last 17 seasons for the Penn State Nittany Lions. Please note that this evaluation only looks at college contributions at the particular school. It does not include a player’s contributions at another school or at the professional level.
Brief Program Recap Since 2000:
However, before we jump into the discussion regarding Penn State’s greatest players over the last 17 seasons, let’s take a second to recap what the program has done during that time frame. After all, 2000 may not seem that long ago, but there are kids literally on the verge of graduating high school who were born then. As such, it’s probably worth a quick recap.
-Basic Stats Since 2000
- NCAA Tournament Appearances: Two
- Winning Seasons: Four
- Big Ten POTY Winners: Zero
- Consensus All-Americans: Zero
From a historical perspective, Penn State is one of the Big Ten’s weakest programs. Despite 121 seasons for the Nittany Lions as a program, the team only has nine NCAA Tournament appearances and one trip to the Final Four. There are certainly some bright spots, but there’s no denying that Penn State’s historical achievements can’t quite hold up against college basketball’s elites.
Over the last 17 seasons, Penn State has largely complied with that historical average. The team only made two NCAA Tournament (2001, 2011) appearances and has struggled to maintain consistency. Notably, Penn State had four seasons where it failed to win even 10 games.
Since Patrick Chambers took over, Penn State has continued to struggle to make the postseason and contend in the Big Ten. In fact, his strongest season with the program likely came in 2014-’15 and the Nittany Lions went 18-16 overall and 4-14 in Big Ten play. Chambers now enters the 2017-’18 season on the hot seat as he looks for his second winning season with Penn State.
Penn State’s Mount Rushmore Since 2000:
-Talor Battle (2008-2011)
As mentioned above, Penn State has only made two NCAA Tournament appearances since the start of the 2000-’01 season. In an amazing achievement(?), Penn State has had twice as many seasons with fewer than 10 wins than seasons where the team was been part of the Big Dance.
But one of those bright spots came in 2011, when Penn State pulled off a miraculous Big Ten Tournament run and made the field. And that run came almost solely as a result of Talor Battle, which helped to earn him a spot on this list.
Battle spent most of his time on underwhelming Penn State teams, but averaged 16.5 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 3.9 assists per game during his career. His numbers were particularly impressive as a senior when he averaged 20.5 points per game.
There’s little doubt that Battle is best remembered for pushing Penn State past Indiana, Wisconsin, and Michigan State in the 2011 Big Ten Tournament and into the NCAA Tournament. He played 40 minutes in all three games and scored nearly 50 combined points in the latter two games. That run earned the Nittany Lions an NCAA Tournament bid, which would be the program’s only trip to the Tournament in 16 seasons.
-Joe Crispin (1998-2001)
Although the vast majority of Joe Crispin’s career came before 2000, he did play one season after 2000, making him eligible for this list. And that eligibility makes Crispin an easy pick for Penn State’s Mount Rushmore of players since 2000.
During his career, Crispin put up some incredibly impressive numbers. All told, he finished with 1,986 points, 485 assists, and 308 made three-pointers with the program. He also averaged 19.5 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 3.3 assists per game as a senior. Those numbers were good enough to earn him first team All-Big Ten honors in that season.
However, the most noteworthy achievement of Crispin’s career was getting Penn State to three postseasons in his four-year career. The Nittany Lions made it all the way to the Sweet 16 in 2001 and qualified for the NIT in both 1998 and 2000. That’s undeniably one of Penn State’s best postseason runs since the early 1950s. As such, Crispin will go down as one of Penn State’s greatest players of this era.
-Tim Frazier (2009-2014)
Depending upon your viewpoint, Tim Frazier could very well have been Penn State’s greatest player since 2000. Well, his raw talent and statistical contributions warrant his name in the discussion at least. However, even if you aren’t convinced that Frazier was the program’s best player of the modern era, he certainly deserves a spot on this list.
Simply put, Frazier’s career totals are mind boggling. He finished with 1,543 points, 641 assists, and 522 rebounds. During the 2011-’12 season, Frazier averaged 18.8 points, 6.2 assists, and 4.7 rebounds a game. He finished with 4,132 career minutes and averaged over 30 minutes a game in four seasons*.
Unfortunately, there is one major asterisk on Frazier’s career numbers. Despite playing in five separate seasons, he never once made the NCAA Tournament, or even the NIT. It’s unfair to pin an entire team’s performance on a single player, but it does raise some questions as to the merit of Frazier’s statistical contributions. In particular, one has to wonder if he would have put up similar numbers on better teams.
The good news for Frazier is that many of these questions have been answered by his success in the NBA. He was an outstanding player for the Nittany Lions that simply never had enough around him to demonstrate in a national spotlight.
-DJ Newbill (2012-2015)
Like Frazier, DJ Newbill’s total contributions as a Nittany Lion are incredibly impressive. In just three seasons, he finished with 1,812 points, 482 rebounds, and 288 assists. During his final season, Newbill averaged an impressive 20.7 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 3.1 assists per game.
Simply put, if Newbill had begun his career at Penn State—he transferred from Southern Miss after one season—he could very well have ranked among its best in career contributions. Along with those statistical achievements, he also earned All-Big Ten honors in each of his three seasons.
But, also like Frazier, Newbill never got to play on a team that went to the NCAA Tournament or the NIT. In fact, Penn State had just a 44-55 (.444) record during his three seasons with the program. Newbill’s total contributions warrant his inclusion here, but it is something to keep in mind.
Honorable Mention: Sharif Chambliss, Geary Claxton, Jamelle Cornley, Jermaine Marshall, Brandon Taylor.
* - Frazier only played in four games during the 2012-’13 season due to injury.