Nittany Lion Basketball Preseason Outlook

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Following a strong European tour trip, optimism is high for head coach Patrick Chambers and the Nittany Lions entering the 2013-14 season.  The Lions officially open practice on Saturday morning in advance of the season-opener against Wagner on Nov. 9 in the Bryce Jordan Center.

9270024.jpegPenn State welcomes the return of All-Big Ten guard Tim Frazier, who was 100 percent for the European tour for the first time since suffering a season-ending Achilles tendon injury four games into the 2012-13 season.  The Lions return three of their top five scorers and rebounders from 2012-13 and the top two returning scorers in the Big Ten in guards D.J. Newbill and Frazier, who will form one of the most potent backcourts in the nation.

Newbill, a rising junior, earned honorable-mention All-Big Ten honors while finishing fifth in the conference in scoring posting 16.3 ppg last year. Frazier, a first-team All-Big Ten selection in 2012 after finishing second in the Big Ten posting 18.8 ppg, received a medical hardship waiver from the NCAA and a fifth season of eligibility after playing in just four games in 2012-13. Rising junior forward Ross Travis is the second leading returning rebounder in the Big Ten after finishing fifth in the conference last year (7.4 rpg). He posted double-doubles in three of his last seven games and will join sophomore Brandon Taylor, who made 32 threes in his freshman season, to anchor the frontcourt.

"We are super excited.  Tim Frazier is healthy.  We should have a great backcourt," Chambers said.  "Ross Travis had a great summer.  The same can be said about Brandon Taylor and Donovon Jack.  Going on a foreign tour really helped this program.  It helped relationships.  I think we are on an upswing here.  I'm excited for the brand and style of basketball we are going to play.  Hopefully our leadership can take us to heights we haven't seen in a little while."

GoPSUsports.com sat down with Coach Chambers to preview the 2013-'14 season.  Take a look.

9270029.jpegChambers on the Guards:
"Everybody on the perimeter can make a play. Everybody can pass. Everybody can rebound. Everybody's IQ is coming along really well. The thing I have to understand sometimes, is that I have to let them play sometimes, too. I can't always call a play. I have to let them have some freedom out there. I don't want robots. With Tim being a fifth-year guy, I have to give them a little more of a leash. Technically, D.J. Newbill is a senior with his redshirt year. I've got to give those guys an opportunity to run the team, as well."

Chambers on the Frontcourt:
"The frontcourt I am excited about because we are going to be a mismatch problem. Everyone says, 'oh you are going to be in trouble because you don't have any bigs'. We don't have traditional bigs. You're right. But our bigs can make threes. They can drop dimes. They can make plays off the dribble. So I'm excited about the way we are going to play, much like we did during the last month or so of the regular season last year. They are going to be a mismatch problem. We are going to bring five men out to the perimeter, which is going to open up lanes for our guards to drive and make plays. I'm really excited about Donovon (Jack) and Brandon (Taylor) and Julian Moore and Alan (Wisniewski) in what they are going to bring to the floor for us. And that's what makes Ross Travis so good. He's going to play a guard spot for us this year, but if I need him to play big, he can play big. He is a key to our team."

9270034.jpegChambers on Leadership:
"Tim, D.J., Ross and Alan Wisniewski are the guys I'm leaning on for leadership. Those four guys have really shined over the last couple years, and some of them, over the last couple months. The have earned the right, and captaincy in my program is a big deal. They have earned the right, and I like having multiple guys, not just one or two. We are going to have four this year. With them coming hard every day and understanding what the model is and understanding what Penn State Basketball is, I look for the younger guys to get in line very quickly."

Chambers on the Newcomers:
The Nittany Lions welcome four freshmen - Payton Banks, Geno Thorpe, Julian Moore and Graham Woodward - to the roster for 2013-14. Additionally, transfers Allen Roberts and John Johnson (following the fall semester) will add depth to the rotation. Jordan Dickerson, a 7-foot center, will practice with the Nittany Lions in 2013-14 while he sits out due to the NCAA transfer rules. Chambers is excited for the addition of the talented newcomers.

"What I learned about the freshmen (during the European tour) is that they are going to be ready to play. They compete. They came in here with a chip on their shoulder. They are winners. They love to play. So there is half the battle right there. We work really hard at practice, and they are going out after these veterans. Our practices have been unbelievable with the competition level. The guys want to win every drill. It's awesome. And that's exactly what you need. With the trip, the freshmen understand our drills. They understand terminology. They are ahead of the curve. They've had 10 practices. They have great relationships with the older guys. The freshmen have really listened to the older guys, and they are really coachable."

"Allen Roberts is every bit of 6-4 and weighs 220 pounds. He can really shoot the basketball. I think that is something that we needed out there to go along with Tim, D.J. and Ross. Now you have a flat out three-point shooter who can really fill it up. And he has a Big Ten body. He's going to see significant minutes. With it being his fifth year in college, his experience is really going to help us. John Johnson plays (for the first time on) Dec. 22 against Mount St. Mary's. He is a scorer. He's going to come in and score in a lot of different ways. He can hurt you from three. He's got a nice floater. He's got the mid-range jumper. He's got all kinds of finishes around the basket. But he brings a toughness, too. He is another 21, 22-year-old kid who has experience. He played at Pitt. He's played in the BIG EAST. He has an understanding that this is a man's game. I'm excited about what he is going to bring to our team come Dec. 22. Then we have Jordan Dickerson, who is 7-foot. It's going to be great for him to develop over the next year, but it's going to be great for practice. He's going to be a rim protector. In the Big Ten, you have all kinds of big bodies. It's going to be exactly what we need to prepare for Mitch McGary from Michigan, AJ Hammons from Purdue and bigs like that."

9270017.jpegChambers on the Non-Conference Schedule:
Penn State will face at least seven teams that won 17 or more games and finished in the top 130 of the NCAA RPI rankings last season. The Lions will face five of those teams among eight non-conference home contests. Three of the Lions' non-conference opponents played in the 2013 NCAA Tournament, including Sweet 16 participant La Salle, which comes to the Bryce Jordan Center on Tues., Nov. 19. Four teams on the 2013-14 non-conference slate finished last season in the top 100 of the RPI and three of those won 20 or more games, including Bucknell (28-6), Pittsburgh (24-9) and La Salle (24-10).

"It's tough. There is no rest for the weary. I think it is going to challenge us. I think it is going to prepare us for the Big Ten. That's why I set it up the way I did. You have a lot of different coaching styles. You have a lot of different players. You have a lot of different talent that is going to be out on the floor. We are going to play in great venues. We are playing in New York. We are playing in Philly. We are playing in Pittsburgh. We are playing some great local teams to keep those rivalries going. We have some great home games. We have the Return to Rec on Dec. 14. We have a lot excitement in the non-conference. I think we are going to be mentally and physically prepared for the Big Ten when Michigan State comes here on Dec. 31."

Chambers on the Return to Rec Hall:
Penn State basketball will "Return To Rec" for the first time since defeating Wisconsin, 79-50, in the building on Jan. 7, 1996 when it hosts Princeton on Dec. 14. The Lions moved to their current home in the 15,261-seat Bryce Jordan Center the following game on Jan. 11, 1996 and posted a 76-51 victory over Minnesota. Penn State has played 281 home games since the Lions' last contest in Rec Hall 17 1/2 seasons ago.

"I watched Penn State basketball in Rec Hall when I was younger, and it was electric. When I think of Rec Hall I think of passion, energy and tradition. We listened to our alums and fans and we wanted to bring that Rec Hall experience back. I'm very grateful to Dr. Joyner, the administration and my fellow coaches who currently occupy Rec Hall who have been incredibly cooperative in making this game a reality."

Chambers on the Big Ten:
"You open up New Year's Eve at 5 p.m. against Michigan State, who will probably be a Top 5 team. If that doesn't get you excited or fired up to play in that game then you shouldn't be playing basketball. I know people have a lot of plans on New Year's Eve. There is a great way to start it in the Bryce Jordan Center. Penn State-Michigan State at 5 p.m. I love this league. It is so challenging night in and night out. It really gets you thinking about different styles and how you combat what other coaches are trying to do. It's just amazing. It really is. One night it is Tom Izzo. The next night it is Bo Ryan. The next night it is Thad Matta. It's just on and on and on. I think if you are a player, you love it. Because as a coach, I love going up against these guys. I'm excited for our guys this year because I think we are about to get out of that basement."

Chambers on the Style of Play:
"We've got to score in the 70s. We need to get up and down the floor. We can't hold Tim Frazier back. If we become a halfcourt team, it doesn't bode well to use his speed, quickness and talent. It starts on defense with getting stops. We've got to defend. We've got to rebound. People ask us how we are going to rebound? Ross Travis was the second-leading rebounder in the Big Ten returning. And when you go back, Tim Frazier was at 6.7 rebounds per game before his injury. D.J. was nearing six rebounds per game. I'm fine with our rebounding. Our rebounding will be fine. We've got to defend, we've got to rebound and we've got to go. We need to make good decisions. I'd like to score in the 70s and hold our opponents down in the 60s."



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