For months, Chambers has been talking up the Lions’ 2012-13 backcourt as (possibly) the best in the nation. It sounds like craziness from the second-year head coach, but think of it as exaggeration with a purpose. Chambers absolutely believes that his starting backcourt of Tim Frazier and DJ Newbill can be among the best in college basketball this season; just as important, he wants to make sure Frazier and Newbill believe it, too.
“I have to do a great job of managing expectations, because I put it out there—but why not?” Chambers said Monday at the team’s preseason media day. “Why not us? I know people are shocked, because usually when people say that, it’s Ohio State or Michigan State. But it’s Penn State. I’m saying it, I’m the head coach at Penn State, and I think we have a great backcourt.”
The presence of Frazier alone means the claim isn’t that far-fetched. A first-team all-Big Ten pick as a junior last season, Frazier averaged a league-high 6.2 assists per game, and ranked second in the conference in points (18.8) and steals (2.4). Statistically, it was one of the best seasons ever by a Penn State guard.
Newbill is the unknown half of this potentially dynamic duo. A redshirt sophomore from Philadelphia, Newbill sat out last season after transferring from Southern Mississippi, where he made the Conference USA all-freshman team. Word of Newbill’s athleticism, intensity, and defensive prowess trickled out last season, when he and Frazier battled relentlessly during practices. Now, they get their chance to work together.
“If we keep working hard, the sky’s the limit,” Newbill said Monday. “I think Coach said what he said because he knows that. Me and Tim, we heard him make the statement. We’re glad he believes in us, to make a bold statement like that.”
Belief isn’t lacking in the Penn State locker room; now they just have to convince everyone else. The Lions were picked near the bottom of the Big Ten by the league’s coaches and media, folks who know little to nothing about Newbill (a team co-captain before he’s even played a game) and don’t see enough talent elsewhere on the roster to help Frazier win games. We’ll find out soon enough: A 79-54 exhibition win over Philadelphia University last Saturday was a nice warm-up for the games that count, starting with Friday’s tip-off against St. Francis. Not for the first time, a Penn State basketball team will be out to disprove the doubters.
Ryan Jones, senior editor