Talor Battle wasjust a toddler growing up in Albany, N.Y., when he sat with his mother, DeniseMurphy, and watched her favorite team, the Steelers, play the Oilers in the NFLplayoffs on New Year's Eve 1989. During the broadcast, an NBC announcermentioned that quarterback Bubby Brister had given his mother a black-and-goldCadillac for Christmas. "Talor had been a huge baby, about 11 pounds [atbirth]," Murphy recalls, "and I said, 'This is my Bubby. He's going togrow up and buy me a black-and-gold BMW.'" Brister led the Steelers to anupset victory, and he left Talor with a nickname that has stuck.
Bubby Battle grewup to become a 5'11" point guard for Penn State, and last week in ColoradoSprings he earned a spot on the USA Basketball roster for the World UniversityGames in Serbia beginning on July 2. It was the perfect coda to a sophomoreseason in which he put himself and the Nittany Lions on the national radar.
"How manygame-winners did Bubby have last season?" Penn State coach Ed DeChellis, aspectator at the trials, asked his assistant Kurt Kanaskie, who proceeded tocatalog Battle's big shots: a go-ahead three with 2:14 left against Iowa onJan. 24; a banked-in runner with 0.3 of a second left to beat Illinois on March5; and a game-tying three at the end of regulation against George Mason in theNIT on March 17, followed by eight straight points in the overtime victory thatlaunched the Lions' title run.
Battle was namedfirst-team All--Big Ten after averaging 16.7 points and 5.0 assists, but theseason might have been even more satisfying if not for a scare he got on Feb.6. Penn State had lost at Michigan the night before. At 5:30 a.m. Battlereceived a call from an Albany hospital: Murphy had been admitted with whatdoctors thought was a heart attack. Kanaskie picked up Battle and made thefive-hour drive to Albany with him. Murphy's condition stabilized, and Battlespent the night with his six younger siblings before heading back to campus.But in his next two games—losses to Wisconsin and Purdue—it was clear, Battlesays, "that my head was messed up." He averaged five points, shooting 0for 10 from three-point range. Those two losses helped keep the Nittany Lions,who finished the regular season 22--11, from earning their first NCAAtournament bid since 2001.
The NIT title wasa nice consolation, and after the final win, over Baylor at Madison SquareGarden, Murphy approached another of her Steelers heroes, Penn State alumFranco Harris, in the stands. "Why didn't you nickname him Franco?"Harris asked when Murphy told him her son's nickname. She says she no longerwants the BMW; Talor's presenting her with his all-tournament team trophy thatnight made her happy enough.
Later, Battle's17-year-old half brother, Taran Buie, a highly rated junior guard, climbed ontothe team bus and committed to play for Penn State in 2010--11. Battle will be asenior then, and he relishes the thought of playing alongside his sibling."[Taran]'s my best friend," he says. "That's about more thanbasketball. That's family."
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MATTHEW O'HAREN/ICON SMI (BATTLE)
NITTANY LION KING Nicknamed Bubby after a Steelers QB, Battle led Penn State to a school-record 27 wins and its first NIT title.