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Nittany Lions Set to Hit the Hardwood

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The offseason is over for Penn State hoops fans.

The Nittany Lions will take the floor for the first time in exhibition action on Saturday at 4 p.m. in the Bryce Jordan Center against Philadelphia University.  (The No. 8 Lady Lions will precede the men's game with their exhibition debut against Cal (Pa.) at 2 p.m.)  The regular season opens one week from today against regional foe St. Francis.

To get ready for the exhibition game, let's examine some of the preseason storylines.  Take a look through the Starting Five.

8262581.jpegSpeed in the Backcourt
Head coach Patrick Chambers has been looking forward to this day since Southern Miss transfer D.J. Newbill first stepped onto the practice court last year.  Newbill will join All-Big Ten point guard Tim Frazier in what has the potential to be one of the best backcourts in college basketball this winter.  Frazier's standout junior season speaks for itself.  He led the nation in producing 58 percent of the team's offense last season.  He was the only Division I player to average at least 17 points and six assists.  He led the Big Ten in assists (6.2) and finished second in scoring (18.8).  This year, Newbill adds a new dimension to the backcourt and Frazier's game.  The physical guard will draw attention from defenses, creating more opportunities for Frazier to operate in space.  Junior guard Jermaine Marshall, who enters 2012-13 after a superb offseason, will also reap the benefits of another scorer in the lineup.  Marshall is a different player for the Nittany Lions this fall with greater consistency shooting on the perimeter and defensive effort.  The backcourt trio of Frazier, Marshall and Newbill playing together will be exciting for Nittany Lion fans to watch.  Additionally, Frazier worked tirelessly on his jump shot in the offseason.  The result? He is shooting from the perimeter at a higher clip than ever before.  The same can be said for Marshall.

Shooting the Three
Penn State shot 31 percent from beyond the three-point line last season.  Individually, Marshall led the team with 43 made 3-pointers (33 percent).  Early indications from preseason practice are that those figures are on track to change in 2012-13.  Led by a standout offseason from Marshall, the Lions have several will have several weapons from the perimeter.  Marshall, Tim Frazier, Nick Colella and Ross Travis are shooting the ball with more consistency and at a higher percentage than last season.  D.J. Newbill will also play a role in the outside shooting for the Nittany Lions.

Same Face, New Game
Ross Travis looks and feels like a new basketball player heading into his sophomore season for the Blue and White.  Visibly more toned, Travis added 18 pounds of muscle in the past year with Brad Pantall and the Nittany Lion strength staff.  Travis increased his max on the bench press from 245 to 310, went from 10 reps at 185 pounds to 22, added 2.5 inches to his vertical and now touches 16 inches above the rim, which is the highest on the team.  The new-look Travis also has a new shot.  The Minnesota native added more arc to his jump shot and is shooting better than he ever has from the outside.  Travis is still among the "Attitude Club" leaders with relentless hustle, but his added strength creates a new dimension for his game in 2012-13.

Working the Post
Like Ross Travis, Penn State's returning post players enter the season in different physical condition than they were in when the Lions wrapped up last season in March.  Redshirt sophomore Jon Graham lost 20 pounds to play with more speed and quickness.  Redshirt senior Sasa Borovnjak, now fully recovered from a knee injury suffered in 2010-11, has a new body.  Borovnjak is much quicker off the floor and moving with a great deal of confidence.  Both post players will be leaned on for rebounding and sound post defense.  Last season, the duo combined for 6.8 rebounds per game.  Look for that figure to increase in 2012-13.

Honoring Herb Magee
Commonly referred to as the "Shot Doctor", Hall of Fame head coach and Philadelphia University mentor (941-375) Herb Magee played a big role in Patrick Chambers' basketball career.   Chambers played under Magee, helping the legendary coach set the NCAA's all-time victories mark.  With the Lions meeting Chambers' alma mater in Saturday's exhibition clash, the Nittany Lion hoops staff will pay tribute to Magee by all wearing sweatpants.  The Rams suffered a 77-69 setback to James Madison in exhibition action on Oct. 28.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

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