Last season, Penn State needed a spectacular season from point guard Tim Frazier just to finish with a 4-14 Big Ten record, which was tied for last in the conference. Heading into the 2012-13 season, head coach Pat Chambers is pretty confident that things will improve for the NIttany Lions. A big reason for that is that Southern Miss transfer guard D.J. Newbill will be ready to go after sitting out the 2011-12 season per NCAA rules.
"I think we're going to have the best backcourt in the country!" said Chambers in a March 19 press conference, "You heard me, in the country!"
Chambers' unbridled confidence may have been enough to lift PSU to a better-than-expected four conference wins last season, but claiming the best backcourt in the country is a whole different animal. At the very least, though, Chambers should have half of that prediction covered. In his junior year, Frazier was able to establish himself as one of the nation's premier point guards with 18.8 points and 6.2 assists per game to go with a First Team All-Big Ten selection (by the media). Despite playing at Penn State, Frazier was recognized on a national level by being one of just 20 collegiates to be invited to the LeBron James Skills Academy in Las Vegas this weekend.
Newbill, on the other hand, is more of an unknown figure. At Southern Miss for the 2010-11 season, Newbill made the Conference USA All-Freshman team while starting every game and averaging 9.2 points and 6.2 rebounds per game. Those figures are certainly impressive for a freshman in any conference, but one has to wonder how Newbill's play will transfer over to the Big Ten. Just a few months ago, highly regarded Penn State freshman Trey Lewis struggled to earn playing time during the Big Ten schedule and eventually decided to transfer.
Chambers, however, is decidedly more excited about what Newbill brings to the table. Here's what he said when asked about the sophomore guard during that March presser:
Toughness, a winner's mentality, a hard worker, an extremely hard worker. He loves to play. He's always in here shooting or doing something. Really becoming a leader, he's going to help Tim out with his leadership role. He's got a great personality, a great smile, a great personality. You're going to love dealing with D.J. and you're going to love him on the floor, because he's going to give you maximum effort every time. Think about that. He didn't play one game and he was up in our (practice) statistics. He was in the top three almost every day when he wasn't hurt. He was hurt for a while there. He was out for maybe two months with a shoulder injury. So, I'm excited.
Chambers is psyched about the intangibles that Newbill brings to the table, but that doesn't always translate in on-court performance. The good news for Newbill is that there will be no shortage of opportunity for him to show off his game. This season, he'll likely be asked to give Frazier a break from his ballhandling duties as well as provide a scoring boost to the Nittany Lions, who won't be returning their third, fourth and fifth leading scorers from 2011-12.
When you add in the the surging performance of rising junior swingman Jermaine Marshall, it seems like the 1, 2, and 3 spots in Penn State's starting five are already set. If Newbill is all that he's hyped up to be, that will give the Lions quite a formidable backcourt. The big question is will the addition to Newbill be enough to cause a significant improvement in record, or will a dismal forward rotation continue to keep Penn State stranded in the Big Ten cellar?