Oct. 17, 2013
Patrick Chambers, Penn State head coach
Q: Do you have any shooters on your team?
A: Yeah, we have guys making shots. We tweaked D.J. Newbill’s shot in the spring; he looks terrific. He worked on hand positioning, firing through the ball and his eyes; just three simple things that he focused on. He didn’t take a shot outside the paint for 30 straight days, which is very hard for a kid today. He sacrificed and he did it and it’s very noticeable. His rotation looks good, arc looks good, follow through looks good and, more importantly, shots are falling through. I would say Ross Travis is doing a much better job. The ball’s in front of his head. He looks really good, his weight’s forward, just little things like that. Tim Frazier’s shooting at a high clip. I think you’re going to be really impressed with Allen Roberts, he can really stroke it. He’ll play two or three. He can hit the three, no question, but he can do more, he can put it on the ground. I would say right now, he’s probably our best 3-point shooter. Brandon Taylor’s right there, Graham Woodward’s right there. Graham is shooting at a really high clip, he reminds me a lot of Jordan Hull, just the way he competes, the way he plays. Graham is maybe more of a point guard, I felt Jordan was more of a two. We have some shooters, we have some skill. Donovan Jack at the five is drilling some threes. I know that’s going to be a question here today, so let’s just get it out of the way now. It’s going to be our positive, because he can shoot threes, he’s going to bring big men away from the basket. That’s going to help us.
Q: Is D.J. Newbill a two or a three?
A: Newbill’s a two; he’s going to be a scorer. We need him to be our leading scorer, if not, our second leading scorer. He needs to be right there, because Tim [Frazier] wants to pass the ball. Tim’s going to give you what he gave you a couple years ago and you know you’re getting that. You know what D.J. can do, you know what he’s capable of. We need one of those guys to really step up and I think D.J. can do it.
Q: With Tim Frazier sitting out a year on the bench, what did he gain intellectually?
A: His I.Q. is off the charts now. The leadership level he is showing in the locker room, on the floor. He totally understands, by just seeing it, watching it, understanding it. It was kind of one of those ‘man, I never knew why he got upset. I never knew what was going on because I’m in the practice.” By sitting out, he sees it. Now by being a leader; I read the article about Peyton Manning today, Tim’s doing a lot of those similar things. He’s watching film on his own, but he’s also aware of everyone around him now, which is very new for him. Now, I think he understands, ‘I really need these guys, they’re going to help me and I need to be aware of everything that goes on in this program.’
Q: Is Tim 100% back to where he was now?
A: I like where he is. I gained great confidence from the foreign trip. He got knocked down, he played against grown men and he responded really well. It’s not so much the physical aspect; I think it’s the mental aspect. I think in his mind he felt that he’s back and he feels good and he’s out there showing it through the opening scrimmage last Saturday. He had 21 points, he did a great job in our statistical categories and he feels very comfortable out there. He’s fearless. We used Adrian Peterson as a guy to look at, as a role model because of what he did when he was injured. I think Tim adapted to that and accepted that and this is what you have.
Q: Has he passed the tests for vertical leap and everything?
A: His vertical is actually higher. It’s 35.5 inches. Usually you’re vertical’s going to go down because of a ruptured Achilles. Not his, he went up, pretty amazing.
Q: What did you find out about your team in Europe?
A: We have great kids that like to compete and like each other. I know this sounds funny, but saying that they like about each other, genuinely care about each other and there’s love in that locker room, you win some games you’re not supposed to win when you have that. If you have cliques or some tension or jealousies, things of that nature, which happen in locker rooms, I don’t care how talented you are, that will bring a team down. I don’t sense that in our locker room. I think we have a really great locker room and the guys enjoy playing together. As long as we can keep that locker room close and tight and believing in each other and sticking together; that’s what I really learned over there.
Q: What were you able to do with the extra practices that you haven’t been able to do in the past couple years?
A: The detail on the offense end, we’ve really stressed and worked on more than any other year. The last two years, it was all about the culture, the environment, the defending, the rebounding, the toughness drills. We have that instilled, it’s there. Now, we have to take the next step in our offense. Our offense was always a little bit behind, it didn’t pick up until January, for my liking anyway. Now, it’s at a whole other level. We’re really passing crisply, really driving it in space, kicking it out, extra passes, doing the little things to get better shots. You have guys on the floor, Tim and D.J., that can get you a shot anytime at the end of the clock, whenever they want. I think our offense has really come along and it’s really at a better place than it’s ever been in my tenure here.
Q: Is John Johnson going to jump right in when he’s allowed or will it take him some time?
A: It’s going to take him some time, because game speed is different than practice speed. He had 16 on Saturday, shot the ball extremely well, filled our statistical categories. It was really great to see, because he’s been laboring on that foot injury since the summer. It gets sore on him, so we have to sit him out some practices. If you recall Vinnie Johnson, “The Microwave”, from the Pistons, I think John can be that for us and he can gain those minutes; as a shooter, as a scorer and as a 22-year-old veteran that’s played in the Big East. I’m expecting him to play, now he’s going to have some growing pains, it’s going to take a little while to adjust to the speed. Unfortunately for him, the Big Ten is right around the corner. We’re going to have to get him in practice, get him on the starting team, the blue team and get his reps up.
Q: In the non-conference schedule, what do want to see your team improve?
A: We have to compete every single day, every single game and every single night. We have to stay healthy. If we can stay healthy, we can do some great things. We need to continue to get better. We have to defend and rebound. I really want us to be in the top half of the Big Ten this year. I don’t want us to be in the bottom. I think the new rule changes with the hand-checking benefits us. Tim Frazier should lead the Big Ten in free throw attempts this year. D.J. Newbill should be right behind. I think that should help us. We have to defend, we have to rebound. Everyone’s concern this year is rebounding, because we don’t have the traditional five. That’s doesn’t concern me. Tim Frazier averaged six rebounds a game in the Big Ten two years ago. D.J. Newbill was close to six last year. Ross Travis is the second-leading returning rebounder in the Big Ten. There’s three guys right off the top of my head, without even naming Brandon Taylor, Donovan Jack and some of the other guards. We ask a lot of our guards, but it’s definitely to get our defense and rebounding to our place where we can compete on the road, in the Big Ten. That’s where you have to get it done and there’s nothing better than winning on the road.
Q: With our guards rebounding like that, does it affect the transition game at all?
A: No it doesn’t because there’s so many attempted threes now. When you shoot threes, that means long rebounds. When you’re getting long rebounds that means numbers are in our favor going the other way.
Q: How much of a concern is interior defense when you get to Big Ten, especially without a traditional five?
A: We have to use our intelligence and quickness to play those fives. Obviously, you have Mitch McGary, you have (A.J.) Hammons, you have some good fives. I would say Hammons is really the only guy that’s posting up, like old-school Jabbar, Olajuwon. The other guys are pick-and-roll guys, so our focus is really defending wing ball screens, middle ball screens and doing a great job in those ball screens. If we can do a great job in those ball screens, that’s going to prevent five guys from getting easy touches.
Q: I talked to John Adams last night for quite a while. He said that this new rule, which is just an interpretation and emphasis, is mainly going to be on the ball. With what you said about Frazier, what do you see him being able to do that he couldn’t do two years ago? What kind of tactics did you see on him with arm bars and hand checks?
A: Guys like Aaron Craft on Ohio State; they can’t touch him if they follow the rules correctly by the time we get to the Big Ten. In nonconference games you know they’re going to call it. The point of emphasis a year or two ago was keeping the coaches in the box. This is really important because everybody wants scoring up. With the block/charge, I’ve taken some of my charge drills out because it sounds like it’s going to be an automatic block if you read the rules and look at the video. Tim Frazier was already pretty crafty with using his change of speed, and I think it’s only going to help him get to the foul line.
Q: Describe some of the tactics that he would get as much as any dribble and drive point guard.
A: You can’t hand check. You can’t touch him. You can’t have two hands on him. When he goes, you better sprint and try to get in front of him. It’s going to be very hard to do with his speed. When he goes by you, he’s by you. You’re not catching back up to him, even when the ball is in his hands, which is pretty amazing. Let’s go to the other side, we foul a lot. The last two years we fouled a lot, so we’re in practice and we’re doing this towel defensive slide so we don’t hand check. We’re doing towel slides, like old-school Hoosier towel slides so we get out of the habit of hand checks. You’ve got the towel over your neck and you’re sliding moving your feet. We’re doing little things to get our minds trained to stop with the two hands. We’ve got to get creative; we’ve got to get innovative.
Q: You mentioned some of the freshmen and their ability to shoot when we started. How much have they grown since coming to campus and how much time do you expect them to see throughout their freshman year?
A: These kids are competing. They came in since day one and started competing at a high level, really pushing these veterans. We’ve got a great mix of veterans and youth and transfers. It’s a great time for us in practice. They’ve come a long and they’ve adapted really well. The foreign tour really helped. You’ve got the eight weeks in the summer and the foreign tour; they’re well ahead of a lot of colleges out there as far as knowing our drills and what we expect and understanding what we’re trying to accomplish that day in practice. I still have a voice, I don’t have to yell or scream. I still do a little bit, but they really compete and get after these guys because they want to earn time and they want to get on the floor. I would expect to see them. They’ve earned the right for me to put them in the game, as of today.
Q:Is that going to be tough when you have Tim, D.J., Alan, John, and a couple of other guys?
A: It all works itself out. It could be foul trouble or an illness. It always works itself out. But it gives you that much more depth on your bench. I played five guys in the Northwestern game in the second half. I don’t have to do that this year.
Q: Would you say you have significant depth?
A: It’s going to be new for me. It’s going to be great options to have moving forward, especially as their development continues and they continue to develop as a team and as individuals. It’s going to be refreshing.
Q: Are we looking at [Ross] Travis and [Donovon] Jack as starters in the frontcourt?
A: I don’t want to pen anybody in, but yes. As of today, that’s the penciled starting five.
Q: What are we doing with the three spot?
A: We’ve got Tim [Frazier]; we’ve got D.J. [Newbill], [Ross] Travis, [Brandon] Taylor, and [Donovon] Jack. That’s today. Travis is at the three. He’s earned the right. He came in both summer sessions and worked extremely hard on his handle. Again we tweaked his jump shot and he feels great. He’s feeling good about himself and he’s a mismatch. He’s a mismatch at the three because he can post them up and he’s a mismatch at the four because he can go by guys.
Q: When you have guards like D.J. and Tim that are both capable of scoring and distributing the ball, it’s easy to get them to coexist within a system but it’s harder to get them to play together. How do you get them to stay on the same page?
A: What we’ve done since the foreign tour and those practices, they’ve been on the same team. I’m trying to keep them together. They’re looking for each other, they want to help each other and they want to make each other better. I see them looking for each other and making plays for one another. The great thing is 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.
Q: Are you satisfied with the depth up to this point?
A: Yeah, like I said with the freshmen and the transfers and with John Johnson starting in December we’re going to have great depth. We want to play a lot of guys. We want to give guys opportunities. If they’re going to go out and compete every day and earn the right for minutes, we want to get up and down. We want to make sure we get those guys minutes.
Q: You were talking about leadership and you said Ross Travis is stepping up as a leader this year. Can you talk about that transition?
A: We want Ross Travis to step up and lead. He’s been here now two years going on three. He wants to win. He works extremely hard, one of the hardest workers on the team. He wants to help these young guys and get them there as quickly as they can. He’s been more vocal, he shows a lot in his actions and his effort on a daily basis in the weight room and on the court. He’s an ambassador for us now. He’s helping out in the community. He’ll be up here shortly, which is all very new for him. But he’s earned the right to do it. Nobody embodies Penn State basketball like Ross Travis. He’s a perfect example.
Q: Is there a number of wins you have in your head, even if you don’t want to tell us, or postseason aspirations?
A: I just don’t think its fair. We have goals. I may have a number in my head but I don’t think it’s fair to put these kids through that. They already have enough stress on them. They know what people are saying about them. They know what the preseason publications are picking for them. We all see it. But we put it aside, stick to what’s going on in our locker room, in our practice facility, that’s all we’re worried about. We’re worried about getting better that day. Being the best Tim Frazier you can be that day. Being the best D.J. Newbill you can be that day. Doing the mirror test. Did you give it your all today? If you do that, if you hold each other accountable and, more importantly, hold yourself accountable, the wins will follow. I like this team. I feel good about this team. I like the depth on this team. I like the personality of this team and I really like our leadership. Tim, D.J., Ross, Alan Wisniewski, they get it. They get what I’m about, they get what the attitude is all about and that’s 50 percent of the battle.
Q: Do you think the first four games or so will be pretty revealing?
A: It’s a long season. We’re going to learn a lot. We’re going to scrimmage again this week. We always learn something new about ourselves. We break down film and just try to continue to get better. I’m not going to say in the first four games we’ll know how good we’re going to be. I don’t think that’s fair. You’re going to play thirty plus games. We just have to continue to be the best team we can be by the end of the year. I think we’ve done that the last two years. Looking at our record, you might not believe that, but I felt like we finish strong both years and got some wins we maybe we weren’t supposed to.