For Billy Oliver, a Reluctant Goodbye
Billy Oliver’s best night as a Penn State basketball player came at the Jordan Center five weeks ago, when he scored a career-high 21 points in the Nittany Lions’ blowout win over Purdue. The game was memorable for being coach Patrick Chambers’ first Big Ten victory, but more so for Oliver’s stunning shooting display: all his points came on three-pointers, on which he shot 7 for 11 on the night.
Oliver won’t have any more big nights for Penn State. After the Lions’ 67-51 win Saturday over Nebraska, the redshirt junior forward announced his playing days were over. Still bothered by lingering effects from multiple concussions suffered during preseason workouts his freshman year, Oliver was emotional but certain Saturday when he told reporters he was retiring from basketball.
“It seems right for me, and more importantly, for the team,” Oliver said. “It’s selfish for me if I am not going to be able to go out there and give 100 percent with the history of my head, and I am worried about problems with that. I don’t want to do that to the team, because I know they give 100 percent. So, I am not continuing basketball.”
Oliver, who had one year of remaining eligibility, played just 58 games since arriving on campus in 2008 after a terrific high school career in Chatham, N.J. He redshirted as a freshman after twice suffering concussions in the preseason, and missed all but five games in 2009-10 while suffering from exercise-induced migraines. He played only sporadically over the past month while symptoms recurred, and after consulting with doctors and his family, made the call on his career.
The good news: Oliver will remain with the team next season on a medical scholarship, and he’s scheduled to graduate in May with a degree in finance—no surprise for a guy who earned a place on the Big Ten all-academic team. By all accounts, Oliver is a smart, personable young man who should do just fine without basketball. We’ll be rooting for him.
Beyond Oliver’s announcement, it was actually a pretty good weekend for the basketball program. There was that convincing win Saturday over Nebraska, and there was the news that Brandon Austin pledged to join the Nittany Lions next fall. Austin, a 6-foot-6 junior at Philadelphia’s Imhotep Charter High School, is rated by ESPN as the 12th-best small forward in the class of 2013.
Ryan Jones, senior editor