former PSAC West Freshman of the Year Stephen Battle is leaving the Gannon team. The Times also received official confirmation from GU that Brandon Belt is bolting as well, but we knew that a couple weeks ago.
Sigh. I'm disappointed about this on several levels:
* I won't go as far as saying Battle was a one-of-a-kind player, but he was special. There weren't too many guys on the Division II level with his combination of size (6-foot-5, 205 pounds), athleticism, and scoring ability. Battle could score off the dribble, in the lane, and on the move. As a true freshman, he averaged 12.6 points and 6 rebounds a game while shooting 56% from the field. And he seemed to get better each week, playing more minutes and making more shots, many of them in the clutch. Remember when Gannon was down 1 at home to Edinboro with 30 seconds left to play -- who did Coach John Reilly draw up a play for? Battle, who nailed a baseline jumper with 10 seconds left to put Gannon up by a point. If he could do that as a freshman, how good could he have been with more experience?
* We never got to see Battle fully mature. A knee injury sidelined him for the entire month of January. His final game as a healthy Knight was one to remember: 20 points on 9-of-14 shooting and 10 rebounds in 44 minutes vs. Seton Hill.
* My last frustration is more global to the Gannon team. I like watching players develop over four years, and I haven't had the chance to see that much lately. Part of the reason Matt Jones is one of my all-time favorite Knights is because of his slow start as a freshman. He didn't even score his first semester in a GU uniform, but at the end of his senior year he was hard to guard. Winning basketball is fun to watch for sure, but player development is just as special a treat in my book.
With Battle (8.6 ppg) and Belt (9.1 ppg) no longer Knights, Gannon must replace its #4 and #5 leading scorers from a year ago. As far as new players, I don't have anything concrete to share with you: the PSAC Letters of Intent web page doesn't list any potential Knights and I've only received one rumor in my email inbox. The rumor is that point guard DeJuan McGaughy, a standout last year at Mercyhurst-North East, is still interested at Gannon but he has offers from some low Division I schools which he and his family are leaning towards.
Other than that, I haven't heard of other players potentially interested in playing for Gannon. And I hope I don't hear about anyone else leaving.