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February 11, 2012
Lions win, but lose Oliver
On the same afternoon the Nittany Lions put an end to a five-game losing streak behind a 67-51 thrashing of Nebraska at the Bryce Jordan Center, the Penn State men's basketball program still managed to suffer a loss.
Billy Oliver, a redshirt junior forward and one of the team's three co-captains, made an unexpected announcement following the game at the team's post-game press conference.
Seated next to his other captains, Tim Frazier and Cammeron Woodyard, Oliver said that as of Thursday, he had decided to conclude his career on the hardwood due to ongoing complications from concussion-like symptoms and migraine headaches.
"It is by no means a light decision. It took a lot of thought," Oliver said. "A couple weeks now I've just been thinking, but it's the right decision. I'm happy that I made it. There is a sense of relief that a decision has been made, and now it's just time to move on from here and accept it."
Oliver's history with concussions, twice during his freshman season, then the lingering effects of those concussions that kept him out for most of the 2009-10 season, proved to be simply too much to overcome, even though he started the first 19 games of this season. The reappearance of the symptoms just days before Penn State's match-up with Illinois on Jan. 19, however, forced him out of action for all but a brief appearance against Iowa and Michigan State.
As Oliver explained after Saturday afternoon's win, he plans to remain with the program in a role similar to what a graduate assistant would do.
"I'm still going to stay with the program, be at practice and games and the like," he said. "Next year, I'm going to be hanging around with a medical scholarship, more of an office job. It's a decision that I put a ton of thought into. I got these guys supporting me and my parents talked to coach countless times and it seems right, more importantly for the team.
"It's selfish for me to go out there if I'm not going to be able to give 100 percent with my history with my head and worrying about problems with that to not give to the team because I know they for me no matter what give 100 percent for me. I am not continuing basketball but I will be around."
Oliver is on pace to graduate with his second degree this semester, giving him degrees in finance and economics, and has plans to pursue a master's degree next year.
For teammate Tim Frazier, losing Oliver on the floor is already proving to be a difficult transition.
"It's pretty emotional. Billy means a lot to me and means a lot to this team. He's been there through everything," Frazier said. "For him to step back, it's just very emotional and a sudden change that hurts but you know that he's a brother of mine. He's still going to be here next year and he's still going to be the same Billy Oliver that we love and we cherish and we laugh at every day."
Head coach Patrick Chambers was equally complimentary.
While holding his son Ryan in the post-game press conference, Chambers said that he'd like his own son to turn into the type of person that Oliver has become.
"He's such a great kid with bigtime character. I was saying, I hope Ryan someday ends up like Billy Oliver, because Billy is that type of person," Chambers said. "He gives you everything he has every single day. He works hard in the classroom, I mean, he's just an unbelievable person. And when he can't get over the hump or can't get over it, it hurt all of us.
"Billy and I talked for two days, very emotional talks. I talked to his mom one day, a very emotional talk. I told the team last night, an extremely emotional talk. And, to just regular people and regular fans out there, the job becomes very hard during those times. I just think the world of him. When you think about the future, when you think about Tim getting all this experience next year, and how he could help us, selfishly, basketball-wise. But, now he's going to help us in a different way."
Saturday afternoon, the Nittany Lions would not need Oliver's help against the visiting Cornhuskers.
In front of a reported 13,103 fans for Coaches Vs. Cancer day at the BJC, the Nittnay Lions (11-15 overall, 3-10 Big Ten) carried a 36-26 lead into the half before opening it up in the second half, eventually leading by as much as 20 points before earning the 67-51 win against Nebraska (11-13, 3-10).
Once again, Frazier was outstanding, leading the Lions with 23 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists on 7 of 9 shooting from the floor.
According to Chambers, it's just the beginning of what he's come to expect from his future All-Big Ten point guard.
"For me, he's done it all year. He's done it all year in ways that unfortunately we can't even talk about," Chambers said. "In the locker room, his work ethic, and I'm on him. I'm probably on him the hardest because I know he gives more and I know how much better he can get, which is scary. He's only going to continue to get better, because he's humble and he's hungry. His mom has done a great job."
Frazier's 23 led the way, but 14 and 12 point contributions from Woodyard and sophomore guard Jermaine Marshall, respectively, helped propel the Lions pas the Huskers.
Shooting a lights-out 57.9 percent from the floor in the first half, and 52.3 percent for the game, the Lions managed to maintain a comfortable lead while stifling any and all attempts at runs by Nebraska.
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