TAMPA, Fla. — The Penn State basketball team has struggled all season to stop athletic guards, losing to the likes of Shippensburg, Stony Brook and Southeastern Louisiana in part because its backcourt surrendered points in droves.
Those keeping score at home noted that Division II Shippensburg's Chuck Davis scored 29 in an exhibition win over PSU. Meanwhile, Stony Brook's Ricky Lucas and Beauford Mitchell combined for 43 in beating the Nittany Lions, and SLU's Daryl Cohen went off for 29 in an upset win at the Jordan Center.
The only PSU player who has shown he can defend well on the wing is junior Geary Claxton, and he is more of a small forward. As for the guards
well, their defense has been downright offensive.
Interestingly enough, there is an athlete on campus who excelled as a defensive guard in high school, leading his team to a PIAA AAAA state title as a junior. His big brother was part of George Mason's miracle NCAA Final Four run last winter, so hoop skills clearly run in the family.
And get this: he is aching for a chance to play for Ed DeChellis' team.
It's just that Jordan Norwood, a starting receiver on the Penn State football team, has not been asked.
That hasn't come up at all, Norwood said here Thursday, as the Nittany Lion gridders prepared to face Tennessee in the Jan. 1 Outback Bowl. I wish it had come up. It is something I'd be open to.
Asked why no one has talked to him, Norwood said, I have no idea. Coming out of high school, I was invited to walk on before I committed [to Penn State] to play football. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I hope they re-invite me.
Norwood said he has not played basketball — even pickup — since last summer because of the football team's 12-games-in-12-weeks regular-season grind. It's been a while, he admitted.
On the other hand, he appears to be more physically prepared to play basketball in a conference like the Big Ten now than he was coming out of State College high school in 2003. He has grown nearly two inches, to 5-10_, which would put him well over 6-foot by the way the basketball program overstates heights. And he has also added some bulk to his frame and checks in at more than 170 pounds.
Norwood has played summer pickup ball with most of the current Nittany Lion hoop players. He is friends with all of them but not particularly tight with any one player.
He gets to as many Penn State home basketball games as he can. He also trys to see older brother Gabe, who is now a senior starter at George Mason.
He also has a younger brother, Levi, who bears watching at State College High. Only a ninth-grader, Levi has grown more than half a foot in the last year or so and at 5-11 is now taller than Jordan. Levi plays jayvee and varsity for the Little Lions, but mostly the former.
Though Levi has created some buzz among those who follow the State High program, Jordan refused to say his kid brother is more talented than he was at a similar age.
I would never say he's better than me, Jordan said. I already have to say he's taller than I am.
As for head-to-head matchups between the two, for the time being don't count on its happening any time soon. Until an offer from the PSU hoop program comes, Jordan Norwood is like to remain a mere fan of the sport.
When I watch basketball now, I just wonder if I could still play, he said with a smile.