Penn State Basketball 2012-13 Outlook
Oct. 11, 2012
Patrick Chambers leads three returning starters, nine lettermen in second season
UNIVERSITY PARK, PA.; Oct. 11 , 2012 - The Penn State men's basketball team will intensify preparations for the 117th season of Nittany Lion basketball Friday as they hit the floor at the Bryce Jordan Center at 5:00 p.m. for the first official practice of the season.
"I can't wait to get going with these guys," second-year head coach Patrick Chambers said. "It's my favorite time of the year. We had a great off-season, a lot of guys made a lot of big strides and we are well ahead of where we were at this point last year."
Penn State's nine returning lettermen, three freshmen and Southern Mississippi transfer D.J. Newbill had a very productive summer in the weight room and utilizing a new NCAA rule that allowed the coaches to work with the players for two hours per week, for eight weeks during the summer session.
Fans will get their first chance to meet the 2012-13 Nittany Lions at Hoops Madness at Rec Hall on Thursday, Oct. 25. Penn State will see its first action on the floor on Saturday, Nov. 3 when they take on Chambers' alma mater, Philadelphia University, in exhibition action at the Jordan Center. That game is set for a 4:00 p.m. tip. Penn State will officially open the 2012-13 campaign on Friday, Nov. 9 when it hosts Saint Francis (PA) in a 7:00 p.m. tip at the BJC.
Optimism is high for coach Patrick Chambers' second campaign at Penn State. The Nittany Lions return 70 percent of their scoring and 60 percent of their rebounding from a transitional 2011-12 season that saw three freshmen and three sophomores earn 84 starts and witnessed the emergence of guard Tim Frazier among the best players in the nation. Chambers squeezed 12 wins out of one of the nation's most inexperienced squads while installing a culture of all-out hustle, intense defense and positive attitude that fueled both his players and the Penn State fan base.
Entering last season, Penn State was much less sure of its footing with a new coach, one truly experienced player and looking to replace 80 percent of its scoring. The youth and inexperience showed in the Lions' struggles to score. Penn State ranked 325th in the NCAA shooting 39.3 percent on the year and particularly struggled in road contests shooting 35 percent and averaging 55 ppg while going 2-13 away from the Jordan Center. Things were particularly tough early on the road as the Lions averaged 22 ppg in the first half of road contests and found themselves trailing by an average of 10 points at the half. Searching for a solution, Chambers employed 14 different starting line-ups on the year.
In the more comfortable confines of the Jordan Center, Penn State's youth was better. The Lions shot 42 percent and averaged 67.3 ppg at home. But, the young Lions went 3-7 in games decided by 10 points or less on the year. Penn State had just one home loss come by more than six points while dropping four Big Ten home games by six points or less on the year, including an 88-82 shootout with No. 12 Indiana, a 71-65 loss to No. 13 Michigan and a somewhat controversial 67-66 defeat at the hands of Northwestern.
The benefit of those trials by fire will see Penn State return 70 percent of its scoring and 60 percent of its rebounding for 2012-13 as well as four returners that logged 16 or more starts last season and six players that averaged 16 minutes or more of action in Big Ten play.
"We've laid a foundation of attitude and what that means to everybody on the outside world is playing hard, hustling, diving, taking charges and doing whatever is necessary to grind and show some grit out there," Chambers said. "We should be better (this year). The mindset is different. We have a very cohesive unit that really like each other and want to be together. They know everything now, our terminology and expectations. The learning curve is very small and the comfort level with me is different. We are going to run and open it up a little bit. We will look to get stops and get run-outs off the stops. We have to play with confidence and freely."
The Lions also claim the conference's lone returning 2012 first-team All-Big Ten selection in Frazier who established himself among the elite guards in the nation after leading the Big Ten in assists (6.2) and finishing second in scoring (18.8) and steals (2.4) in his junior campaign. Penn State will look to balance out the explosive 6-1, guard's production as he led the nation last year accounting for 58 percent of his team's offense and was the only player in NCAA Division I to average at least 17 points and six assists per game.
"He's had an amazing summer as far as development and maturity," Chambers said of Frazier. "He has really taken ownership of this program. That is the greatest thing. He's only going to continue to get better because he hasn't gotten there yet. Everybody thinks he's arrived, but he hasn't arrived yet."
Much of the Lions' optimism stems from Penn State's guard play, which Chambers boldly tabbed "the best backcourt in the nation" in the spring. Joining Frazier, a senior who posted a Penn State season record 198 assists and still managed to rank fifth among major college players with 17 20-point games last year, will be Southern Mississippi transfer D.J. Newbill. The 6-4, sophomore sat out last season after posting 9.2 ppg and 6.2 rpg as a freshman for the Golden Eagles in 2010-11. Newbill, who Chambers said "brings a toughness we haven't seen in a long time," started 32 games at Southern Miss and posted six double-doubles to earn Conference USA All-Freshman Team honors. Junior guard Jermaine Marshall (6-4) is coming off the best year of his career finishing second on the team in scoring (10.8) and leading the team with 43 threes while posting four 20-point games. Marshall, who had a career-best 27 points in the Lions' regular season finale vs. Michigan last year and trailed only Frazier (76) with 32 steals, is a much more mature and improved player this year.
"I am really excited about those three guys right there (Frazier, Newbill and Marshall)," Chambers said. "I think the light has come on for Jermaine Marshall. He's going on his fourth year. He's grown up. He's matured. He had a great summer, academically and athletically. He's jumping higher than he ever has and his threes have gotten better. We need him to stretch the defense a little bit. He's probably our best shooter as far as three-point shooting.
"(D.J.) is going to open up space. He is a weapon. They have to worry about D.J. He's 6-4, 205 pounds. He is so talented, so gifted, high IQ for the game, and he can get a shot whenever he wants it. Five guys can't cover Tim Frazier any more."
Penn State will also benefit from the return of senior Nick Colella (6-3) who earned a scholarship for his final campaign after starting six games and making 16 threes in Big Ten games last year. Freshman Akosa Maduegbunam (6-3) is a strong athlete who owns a team-best 35-inch vertical and posted 18 points and six rebounds per game at the Winchendon School last year. Local product Kevin Montminy (6-3), a good shooter from Centre Hall, Pa., and new roster addition Zach Cooper (6-1) will add depth.
Penn State's frontcourt play began to stabilize and excel at the end of last season as first-year players Jon Graham (6-8) and Ross Travis (6-6) started the last 17 and seven games, respectively, and both saw their play peak at the end of the year. Graham posted a pair of career-high point totals (10) and a career-high rebounding total (10) over a three-game stretch in February and averaged 5.3 ppg and 4.1 rpg over the final 10 games. He cut his weight down to 225 pounds in the summer and is much quicker and more explosive off the floor. Travis, who started 16 games last year, posted a career-high 15 points in the regular season finale vs. Michigan and averaged 7.7 ppg and 6.0 rpg over the final four games. He earned a reputation for all-out hustle in his first campaign and has worked hard to improve his perimeter shot. Junior Sasa Borovnjak (6-9) led Penn State shooting 56.5 percent last year and had a very productive off-season that saw the solid low-post scorer finally return to full strength after an ACL tear in 2010.
"Jon (Graham) looks terrific and is right where he needs to be," Chambers said. "He is moving better, is quicker and I expect him to have a good year. It's great to see Sasa (Borovnjak) back at 100 percent, getting better and he understands he can't play just one end of the floor. Ross (Travis) has worked very hard on his jump shot and handle and is really a guard who likes to mix it up with the bigs. We love his effort and versatility."
The Lions added three-time first-team Pennsylvania Class AAA selection Donovon Jack (6-9) and Times of Trenton Player-of-the-Year Brandon Taylor (6-7) as part of the 2012 signing class. Jack is tremendously athletic and posted 1,725 points in high school, while Taylor, a 1,000-point high school scorer, sculpted a Big Ten ready body down to 235 pounds in the summer and brings both perimeter and post scoring potential to the line-up. Sophomore Patrick Ackerman (6-11) is the Lion's tallest player and the mobile big man made good progress in his first season. Junior Alan Wisniewski (6-9) adds depth.
Penn State will take on ESPN.com preseason No. 6 North Carolina State in its first game of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, Nov. 15-18, in San Juan, Puerto Rico. It will mark Penn State's second-straight Top 10 foe in the non-con season under Patrick Chambers. Penn State faced No. 2-ranked and eventual national champion Kentucky in the Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament last year in Chambers' first season at the helm. Chambers will be making his second trip to the Puerto Rico Tip-Off as a head coach. He led his Boston University team to a 1-2 mark in the 2009 Puerto Rico Tip-Off and downed Indiana in San Juan, 71-67, for his first victory as a head coach. The 2012 tournament will be the program's first-ever trip to Puerto Rico and first regular season games outside of the contiguous United States since playing three games in the Seawolf Classic in Anchorage, Alaska in 1978. The Lions will face Boston College for the second-straight year in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Penn State won, 62-45, last year at B.C. and has won four of its last five Challenge games. Penn State will rekindle the oldest series in program history when it takes on Bucknell on Nov. 23 at the Jordan Center in the 100th meeting overall between the programs, which first met in 1897 in the first game in Lion program history. Bucknell is one of six Pennsylvania programs that dot the non-con schedule (including exhibition opponent Philadelphia U.) as Patrick Chambers has placed on emphasis on playing in-state opponents. One of those will also be La Salle, which Penn State will face at the Palestra in Philadelphia. It will mark the fifth time Penn State will play in Philadelphia in the last six years. Penn State will open its 21st Big Ten season on the road at Wisconsin on Jan. 3 and will take on pre-season top five ranked Indiana in its Big Ten home opener on Jan. 7
Penn State men's basketball season tickets and PNC Bank Flex Books are available for purchase for a 2012-2013 home schedule that will feature 17 regular season games, including nine clashes with Big Ten opponents, and one pre-season exhibition in the Bryce Jordan Center. Fans who wish to purchase tickets should call 1-800-NITTANY or visit GoPSUsports.com/tickets.
Adult Nittany Lion basketball season ticket pricing for lower bowl seats between the baselines (Sections 104-107 and 121-124) remained unchanged from the previous season at $200. All other lower bowl and upper deck season ticket seats have been priced at $180. Included in the season ticket holder benefits package this year is a season long complimentary parking pass good for all Bryce Jordan Center lots, which will begin charging $5 for parking at all Nittany Lion and Lady Lion home games this season.
PNC Flex Books are priced at $99 again this year. The Flex Book gives fans 12 vouchers, 10 that can be redeemed in any combination for Nittany Lion and Lady Lion Basketball tickets throughout the year and two extra vouchers for the Nittany Lions' Coaches Vs. Cancer game (Jan. 26 vs. Ohio State) and the Lady Lions' Pink Zone game (Feb. 24 vs. Michigan). New this season is a $50 youth season ticket that includes membership in the Highmark Kids Club. The youth season ticket will allow children to enjoy the benefits of the Kids Club, and sit with their parents or families at all home games. For more information on the Highmark Kids Club, please visit GoPSUSports.com/KidsClub.
For all the latest information, notes, pictures and related links on Penn State basketball follow Associate Athletic Communications Director Brian Siegrist (@PSUSTRETCH) and the official Penn State men's basketball handle (@PennStateMBB) on Twitter and check GoPSUsports.com. The Nittany Lions are also on Facebook at www.facebook.com/pennstatebasketball.