When Scarlet and Gray walked off the floor in the semifinals of The Basketball Tournament last summer, there was one glaring hole on their roster at the point guard position.
Fan favorite Aaron Craft had fouled out, and the Buckeye alumni squad didn't have a true point guard to replace him after the game went to double overtime.
This year, Scarlet and Gray got their man, even if he isn't a Buckeye.
Scoonie Penn's squad added former Penn State star Talor Battle this summer to back up and play alongside Craft, a move that fills the one hole Scarlet and Gray had. The Buckeyes tried to add Battle last summer, but the former Nittany Lion was already committed to playing for another team in the tournament.
After some recruiting by former Ohio State great Evan Turner, who serves as an assistant coach for Scarlet and Gray, Battle said he was excited to join the Buckeye alumni squad.
"It's cool, I have just been busting their chops about us winning three times last year," Battle said of Penn State's success against Ohio State last season. "Evan is one of my best friends. He was actually at my wedding. So he just told me I was playing and I didn't really have a choice."
Battle, now 29 years old, retired from his professional career overseas in February, citing injuries as his reasoning for hanging up his sneakers. He is less than 10 years removed from his final season at Penn State, when he led the Nittany Lions to the NCAA Tournament, two years after winning the National Invitational Tournament as a sophomore.
Last summer, Battle played for Armored Athletes and lost to the same team that knocked out Scarlet and Gray, Team Challenge ALS. Now part of a team that has a No. 1 seed and is expected to at the very least get back to the final four, Battle said he likes Scarlet and Gray's chances of getting back to the semifinals and perhaps winning it all.
"I think we got a good chance. Add a couple pieces with the size that we got, I just think the camaraderie of being around each other is big," Battle, who is in Columbus practicing with the team, said. "These guys have been around each other for years and that matters. Adding a couple pieces like myself and some other people, hopefully we can win it."
Penn, a former point guard himself, is excited about adding Battle, giving Scarlet and Gray another option at guard alongside Craft.
"He is going to be a big addition to the squad. He is battle-tested. We know he can score," Penn said of Battle. "We know Craft is a defensive, lockdown guy, but bringing in another guy to handle the ball and be a point guard, that will be big for us because we lacked that last year."
Despite not playing with the team last year and being a Nittany Lion, Penn said Battle fits in just fine with Scarlet and Gray because of his relationship with Turner and the other players on the team.
"The reason he works is because he knows these guys," Penn said. "Talor has been here before and played with these guys so it's OK. We can have some honorary Buckeyes."
As for putting on the Scarlet and Gray uniform, Battle – who has worn dark blue and white to both practices open to the media – said he is OK with it.
"I am never a traitor, but I am playing with my friends for a good prize so it's a good thing," Battle said of wearing the Ohio State colors. "I know all these guys and have spent a lot of time here, but I am still Penn State. They still bust my chops because I never beat them in college, but they are all great. It's just friendly fire. We are all here for one thing and this is just to win."