Senior point guard Tim Frazier is the face of the Penn State Men’s Basketball team, for good reason. He is team captain, is among the best players in the country, and is arguably the Nittany Lions most dangerous weapon on both sides of the court.
When it was confirmed that Frazier would be out for the season with a ruptured Achilles, most Penn State fans took the news as the death knell for the men’s basketball team. Here’s a quick sampling of our readers’ responses to Frazier’s injury on our Facebook page:
“There goes any hope of winning a game.”
“So maybe I won’t go to a basketball game this year after all.”
“You’ll be missed Timmy… someone needs to step up.”
“Oh wow… will the Lions EVER have a decent team?”
I didn’t react much differently from our readers. However, after my initial shock and disbelief over Frazier’s injury subsided, I began to think, well, this isn’t necessarily a horrible thing for Penn State basketball.
I’ve always had bright hopes for the future of this program and Frazier’s injury hasn’t changed that. In fact, I might even be more hopeful. Assuming that Frazier takes a medical redshirt and recovers from his injury close to if not at 100% — not impossible since he’ll have a year to rehab – next year he’ll rejoin a much more experienced Penn State team that will have spent a season learning to play without him. The 2013 Men’s Basketball squad could be even more promising than this year’s.
Penn State is a very young team right now with a lot of potential. Without Frazier to dominate the floor, the rest of the team will have extra opportunities to prove its abilities and improve as a unit for future seasons. In particular, look for these players to step up in the absence of Frazier:
1. D.J. Newbill
Tim Frazier really took off last season in the absence of former star scorer Talor Battle, and the same could happen with sophomore guard D.J. Newbill. After only attempting five shots against Providence, Newbill took 17 on Sunday with Frazier having left the game early. The promising sophomore transfer from Southern Miss was expected to replace Frazier after this season anyway; in this scenario, he gets to do it a year earlier.
Newbill will assume Frazier’s duties in both playing on the ball and taking most of the shots. With a season’s worth of playing time to work as the team’s most important player, Penn State Coach Chambers’ “Best Backcourt in the Country” will be even deadlier next year when Frazier returns.
2. Brandon Taylor
Freshman swing forward Brandon Taylor has been generating a lot of buzz and Frazier’s injury will help him live up to the hype. With Frazier out, Newbill moved to the one and junior guard/forward Jermaine Marshall moved to the two, allowing Taylor to spend a lot of time at small forward for the Nittany Lions.
In a limited sample of five games this season, Taylor has looked really good. Frazier’s injury on Sunday allowed Taylor to step up, and the increased playing time showed up on the box score with 10 points on 4 of 6 shooting (2 of 4 from 3-point range).
Though it’s too early to say if Taylor is the real deal, the increased playing time he’ll see will at the very least accelerate his development as a player. Taylor will probably start for this Nittany Lions squad — assuming that senior guard Nick Collella will continue to come off the bench — but if not, he’ll definitely see a lot of minutes at both forward spots.
3. The rest of the young players.
Let’s face it, without Frazier, the team’s prospects this season have taken a major dip, so we’ll probably see this team focus more on the long-term welfare of the program. Indeed, during Tuesday’s media day, Chambers said that “[Frazier being out for the season] is a great opportunity for our freshmen and guys who want to play a little more to step up.”
I’ve already mentioned Newbill and Taylor, but there are a few players on the squad that should see more attention now that winning has to be balanced with long-term thinking. Specifically, a guard on the roster will probably have to step up if Chambers wants to maintain his current eight-man rotation. The most likely candidate is freshman guard Akosa Maduegbunam, the first recruit of the Chambers era, who is fairly unproven.
Outside of the main rotation, a few more young players will probably see more minutes. On Sunday, both Maduegbunam and fellow freshman Donovan Jack, a 6’9” forward, saw the floor briefly. In addition, 6’11” sophomore Pat Ackerman — the tallest member of the team — and sophomore guard Kevin Montminy were given playing time.
It’s far too early to give up on this team just because Tim Frazier is out for the season. (Actually, what were you thinking, don’t even consider giving up on them!) Granted, this season will likely be a tough one, but next year, we’ll have a more experienced team that will welcome the return of Frazier but won’t have to depend on him and him alone to win.
Bottom line, Men’s Basketball has a bright future under Coach Pat Chambers, and though none of us would have ever wished for Tim Frazier to be out for the season, his absence may well be beneficial to the program in the long run.