Tim Frazier, D.J. Newbill Look to Carry Young Nittany Lions
Tim Fraizer and D.J. Newbill, Penn State basketball’s two-headed backcourt tandem, each have a chip on their respective shoulders after a trying 2012-13 season. As they prepare for their next go-around, the fifth-year senior and redshirt junior are set to prove they’re the best guard duo in the Big Ten.
Frazier is back after missing the majority of last year with a torn Achilles tendon. But, according to head coach Patrick Chambers, he’s stronger than ever before.
“His vertical is actually higher,” said Chambers. “It’s 35.5 inches. Usually your vertical’s going to go down because of a ruptured Achilles. Not his, he went up, pretty amazing.”
While Frazier went down in the fourth game of the year against Akron, the season wasn’t a lost cause. Frazier received a medical redshirt, and with it an extra year of eligibility. He was able to serve as a surrogate coach during a rebuilding year for the young Lions.
“I was a coach for a year,” said Frazier. “Not a lot of players get to say ‘I was a coach for a year and now I’m able to come back and play again.’”
On media day last Thursday, Frazier acknowledged that on the bench he was able to see the game at a slower speed, gain an appreciation for on and off ball screens, and came to more fully understand the rotations that compose the Nittany Lions’ offense.
Now, Frazier is back, and he’s healthier than ever. He was one of 46 candidates to be put on the Bob Cousy Award Watch List for the nation’s best point guard on Tuesday, and needs just 142 assists this year (he had 198 as a junior) to become Penn State’s all-time leader.
Joining Frazier in the backcourt is 6’4” redshirt junior D.J. Newbill. Traditionally a two-guard, Newbill was forced to run the point for the Lions as Frazier nursed his Achilles on the bench. Coping with the loss of his mother mere weeks before the season began, Newbill still led Penn State in scoring during his first year after transferring from Southern Mississippi.
Chambers left no doubt Newbill would be back where he’s most comfortable this season. “Newbill’s a two, he’s going to be a scorer,” he said.
During a thirty-day period over the summer, Chambers didn’t let Newbill shoot one shot from outside the paint in an effort both improve his shooting mechanics and encourage the well sized guard to attack the basket.
“We broke down my mechanics,” said Newbill. “It was at first frustrating because I couldn’t shoot jump shots. In the long run, however, I think it was good for me. My shot feels better; I’m shooting a higher percentage.”
With Frazier healthy and Newbill back at his most natural position, the two are anticipated to account for most of the offense. The Lions lack a true post presence, and thus will look to instill a more up-tempo offense. According to Frazier, this is no problem.
“Anytime I can use my speed, I feel a lot better,” he said. “We have a lot of young freshman that can get up and down the court.”
A new rule change this year is putting stricter emphasis on hand checking – officials will be more likely to call fouls if a defender is touching a ball handler. Both Chambers and Frazier agreed this rule should aid the Nittany Lions backcourt.
“I think the new rule changes with the hand-checking benefits us,” said Chambers. “Tim Frazier should lead the Big Ten in free throw attempts this year. D.J. Newbill should be right behind.”
With extra practices due to a European tour this past summer, Chambers has been pushing his guards to defend with their legs, holding a towel around their necks while sliding from side to side in an effort to compensate for the more sensitive foul calls.
As a result, Chambers said the team is more prepared at this point than in his previous two years, and Frazier agreed.
“We’ve been running through plays a lot earlier than we were last year,” said Frazier.
The pieces are in place for Frazier and Newbill to have a big year for an overwhelmingly inexperienced team. If the two can carry the Lions through labors of Big Ten play is another question.
One thing is for sure, however. Referencing his standout guards, Chambers said, “there’s no tension and there’s no ego. They have the same common goal to win and compete and do the best we can with this team this year.”