PENN STATE HEAD COACH PATRICK CHAMBERS
Nov. 5, 2012
PENN STATE HEAD COACH Patrick Chambers
There were many encouraging signs about last season about the way you defended and rebound especially with the new team. Shooting was not one of them. Would it be accurate to say that some outside shooting, especially outside shooting, from one or more guys would be pivotal to making a move this season?
I don't know if it is pivotal, but we need it. We have to be able to make shots. Obviously, we shot the ball, percentage-wise, well here at the Bryce JordanCenter--on the road was another story. There is no question we will have tomake a couple more threes. What happens is, when we go on our droughts on the road, we definitely got open looks, we just didn't make them. We got to the foul line and didn't make those either. We need to make free throws, and that lay-up.
We can't be a feel good team. Any team that relies on threes will not be a championship or NCAA tournament caliber team. We need to continue on the path of rebounding, defending and doing the little things and hopefully get easy ones. Then, once you get easy ones...
What do you think D.J. Newbill's effect on his teammates will be, if you had to name one or two aspects? Attitude, being one, but as far as helping his teammates, what can we expect him to do for them as far as games?
Toughness and swagger. He just has that Philly chip; we all know what that means. He's got that toughness. He's from the streets of North Philly. He is going to grind and grit. He won't stop until that buzzer sounds. He`s a competitor. He is confident. Last year we had some guys who were playing hard but were not confident on the offensive side of the ball. So, I think he brings a confidence not only within himself but he shares it with his teammates. Tim does that as well. Tim is very confident at the moment. Hopefully it can trickle down and help us to do well this season.
Is there anything functionally about his game that can help other guys get shots?
He gets downhill. He can get from any point he wants to, to the basket. He is very unselfish, a lot like Tim Fraizer. He is looking to make plays for others first before he makes shots for himself. I've been telling him we need him to be a little bit more selfish. He is an excellent defender, a great rebounder. He is 6'4, 205. He can really play. It was definitely something that we were missing.
Can you be specific on what are your expectations? Are you guys shooting for the NCAA tournament? Is that realistic for you?
What we are shooting for is creating the best habits we can every single day andbeing as consistent as we can with our effort and our attitude. I said thislast year and I meant it: we need to be the best team we can be by the end of the year. I felt like last year, even though we were 12-20, we were the best team we could be. We got so much out of that team; now, I do think this team is more talented. I think we can get more. Does that mean more wins? I hope so. It better. For my sake. For Tim Fraizer and for all these seniors. We just need habits, attitude, keep laying the foundation, keep coming out every single night and give ourselves a chance to win.
You mentioned about things that happen on the road. What will you do to change that? When you were playing against more talented teams, they managed to pull away. What's the key to get over the hump and win close games?
We have to understand how hard it is. We have to play hard at home, but we have to play even harder on the road. When they've got a packed house it's crazy. We need to be able to stop those runs. We did a great job on the road, but again getting over that hump: rebounds, a lay-up, a turnover, a missed opportunity on the rebound. One or two plays that really decided it toward the last five or six minutes of the game. We need to be able to shut the door. We need to be able to get that rebound and take it the other way and come out on top. We need to win on the road, in order to be successful.
Where do these guys stand? How good do you actually think they can be right now?
I think they can be really good. D.J. has a bit of rust, that's why I played him for so many minutes on Saturday. I wanted him to play 36 and get some point guard reps. He sat out for a year, and he is now playing at a high level. So, he needed to get out there and play through the getting tired. Once he feels that type of tiredness, I think he and Tim can really lead this team in the direction where it needs to be. Our goal is to be as good as we can in our conference. Overall, they are going to feed off of each other and compliment each other. They play both ends of the floor. Like I said, they are too unselfish. Tim and I were watching film. I kept saying, "here's a shot, there's a shot. You need to be taking these in rhythm. One, two step, jump shots." He will get there. The exhibition was a game to us. I stand by what I said: I think we have a special backcourt this season.
What do you think separates Tim Fraizer from all the other talented point guards in the country?
He is a freak athlete. His speed. Now he has added the three-point shot. He took four on Saturday, only made one, but he has really been shooting the threes wellduring practice. So, I am excited about that. He is almost unguardable. He is a pretty dangerous player. He jumps out of the building. He loves to play. He is our captain and our leader, so he has work to do in that department. He is on of the hardest, if not the hardest worker, on this team. He is a special kid, has special talent.
How much better is Jermaine this year?
I said this earlier, but the light bulb really went on for him this summer. He did well in a class, and I felt like, because he handled that adversity - He was in study hall, working hard - that it all came together as in, "this is what I have to do on court." I have to develop my body, work on my handle and he has done all that. He had a slight hamstring pull in the game on Saturday, that's why I sat him. He only played 15 minutes, but he didn't do anything wrong. We need a healthy Jermaine Marshall. He's going to be able to stretch the floor. With D.J. and Tim, Jermaine Marshall is going to get a lot of open opportunities. He's in the gym, and he's working hard.
Why did it click? What's different?
This is his fourth year here. He is a red-shirt junior. You know, when you get 21, 22, things start to slow down for you. You start to understand what the coaches are trying to do for you. We are not against Jermaine. We love Jermaine. We are trying to help him, and he understands that now. I think that's why the light kind of came on. He felt adversity, I'm talking about in the classroom now. He was able to pull out that good grade, and I think it gave him a bit of confidence. He is heading in the right direction.
You guys are going to be playing against guys like C.J. Leslie at N.C. state and (Mike) Muscala at Bucknell and a few other guys. Can you talk about how running up against those guys will prepare you for the Big Ten conference?
Honestly, I am just worried about today. We need to be able to do a better job against big men. But looking forward, Bucknell has a good big man and I wanted to play against a good Bucknell team. That's going to help us get ready. They are saying he (Muscala) may be a first or second round draft pick for the NBA. That's great. We need to play against that. We have to prepare for that.
This is your second year here, the changes that last year brought for you - a new attitude - most of these guys have now experienced that. How much easier is it for you to get through to them?
We don't really ever use the term easier. I would say they understand my approach and my terminology more. They understand the intensity I bring to each practice and that's exactly what I want from them. It has helped with the veteran guys. They understand exactly what I am looking for. They remember things from last year, so I would say the learning curve is smaller this year. Those two hours in July really helped the freshmen, because we were allowed to put in some drills so that it would be a little more seamless in the fall. It has definitely helped, there's no denying it. We still have a long way to go as far as effort, communication, playing harder, listening. Just little things like that. It has to be much better going into January.
You talked about D.J. and Tim complimenting each other, can you give us examples of that and how much have you been putting them toghether, because I know that earlier in the season you were saying you were purposely putting them apart so that they could play against each other?
I am playing them together now because the first game is coming up. They have to get used to each other. In the scrimmage you didn't see them on the same page, but against Philly U, I think you saw them looking for each other more. They know where one another will be now. So, some good dribble handoff.. We got some good kick-ups. They knew where they were going to go and what decisions they were going to make. There is a certain chemistry being built. It is not exactly where it needs to be yet. It will only get better as they continue to play together. They can help get each other shots. Tim has to get used to not having the ball for 40 minutes. That was a lot of stress and pressure for a point guard. What we did to Tim last year: have him have the ball for every minute, makeevery decision and it better be the right one or we are in big trouble. Now, you have another guy that can dribble the ball and make plays for others and make plays for Tim. So, he doesn't have to exhaust himself every time. I think that will only help Tim and make him a better player.
How much more comfortable are you guys this year, with having D.J. and Tim together?
Comfortable is a word I try to stay away from. As a coach, when you get comfortable, you will be out of a job in a couple of years. I would say there is a level of trust that is being built, has been built, and will continue to be built. Trust is key to a team. When the 15 guys in the locker room trust each other and when the five guys on the court trust each other, you will have a magical year. When you extend that up the steps and down the hallway to my office, where we all trust each other, you can do some good things. It's not us versus them. That's what I explained to them over the last year and a half. So, we are starting to come together a little bit as a staff and as a team. The trust will continue to build and hopefully reflect on the floor.
How much of a difference would it make to have a really good home court here this year and even with the losing season last year have you been able to reinvigorate the fan base?
I've tried almost everything you can possibly think of. I've dressed up as Mike Mauti. I've handed out Big Macs. I've taught classes. I've done pep rallies. I've done everything that has been asked of me, and then some. So you hope they come out because you're building a relationship with them. I've been in the HUB shaking hands and our team has done the same. Now, we have to win games. There's some excitement as season ticket sales are up. The Hoops Club is way up. So people are excited about basketball, but we have to win to pack this place. We need that home court advantage. That could be the difference in the last four minutes of a game. Where we struggle on the road or the environment takes their home team to a win. If we had that here, who knows what could happen. I have seen pictures of Ohio State in 2011, where it was packed. It can be done here. We would love the support. They deserve it. These kids work so hard for 12 months out of the year. It is a job to them. They are not normal student-athletes. They have to get up at 6. They have to lift. They have to do study hall, tutors, come back and practice for two and a half hours. Maybe a film session. We could really use a home court advantage.
Tim had a pretty big summer with the Deron Williams and Lebron camps. What do you think he took from those experiences?
I think, first of all, he will learn that he is one of the best point guards in the country, that's most important. Number two, I think all the skilldevelopment we worked on with him over the last year and a half is working.Let's continue to do it as it's paying huge dividends for him as an individual. He needs to bring back those experiences to this team and tell them, "hey we can do this; we can play on this level. We can play at a very high level, if we all buy in and work as hard as we can every single day. We can never take a day off." It's extremely hard. This is the Big Ten. It's the best conference in the country, so you have to bring you're A game. Tim went up against those guys. The Aaron Crafts, the guys in the East and Lebron himself. He realized he has to continue to work hard. There are no days off. He has a special talent.
We saw Jon Graham play a really good game on Saturday. You guys had a really good backcourt. What are your expectations for the frontcourt this season?
If they can get us a double-double every game, I would be extremely happy. I think we did achieve that (in the exhibition). I think they gave us 23 and 10. I'd give up some of those offensive rebounds for some defensive rebounds. I'd be pretty happy with more defensive rebounds. That means we are getting more stops. The big men are getting the ball. That means we are running down theother way. He (Graham) and Sasa need to come everyday and play extremely hard. They are going to be challenged. They are going against a lottery picks, top draft picks and they need to continue to work hard and think "we are the best picks, we are the dynamite duo." When they give us production like that, we are a good team. Jon Graham scored 16 points, which I believe is a career high.That's great. He is playing with lots of confidence. It is good to see.
Having seen this backcourt in action and you saying they could be one of the best back courts in the country. Do youthink they are there now?
D.J. still is a little rusty, with having a year off. It is going to take him a bit of time to get back in the game. The game is very fast. So, I'm hoping by January that he is up to speed on the level of the quickness, the ferociousness that everyone plays with in the Big Ten. They are very good now, but going into January you have to get them there.
What has Ross Travis been like this off-season?
That's a kid we were talking about this morning. That's a kid that doesn't get talked about enough. That kid is one of the most valuable players on the team. He can play one through five and that's pretty special. He has great feet, an amazing athlete. Even though he didn't make that outside jump shot the other day, he is shooting really great. He can play the three and the four, especially the three, he is critical to a lot of things that we are trying to do here. He can play at a very high level. He is going to be really big for us. I feel as if he is going to have a breakout year.
Have you settled on a starting five for this upcoming game and are you comfortable with the rotation that you have put together?
My starting five is not in stone yet, but I would like to get there, sooner rather than later and try to stick with it. I'd like to get into a nice rotation off of the bench, where guys know that they're about to come on. They can expect when to go in and then get their mind right on the play. That stuff is invaluable. We are not there yet, but we are getting close.
Ideally how much would you like to play Tim for him to be at his best at the end of the games? Then when he is off of the court, how confident are you in the other guys on the court?
Well, let me start with the second question. I am very confident in D.J. Newbill to play the point. I think we saw that on Saturday. He can handle it. I'd like to keep Tim right around 34, 35 but I'm not sure if that is really beingrealistic. He played 40 minutes last year. He wanted to play every minute last year. I took him out after 11 minutes and he didn't want to come out. He wanted to go till the end of the time and you have to love him for that. He is oldschool. He wants to be out there with his teammates. I think it depends on how healthy we are, how healthy he is. I have to be really smart in how I manage his minutes this season. I may take him out before each media time out just to get him a breather and some extra liquids. But, he will play a ton of real time minutes.
Last season your opponents got 36 percent of their points from behind the arc, which is about 10 percent higher than the national average. Some of that had to do with guys shooting really well that night and some to do with them having open shots. How do you plan on getting better with defense this season?
We have to get our defensive field goal percentage down. It was 43 percent last year. Ideally, I'd like to see it in the thirties. Our three-point defensive was 40 percent and I think that had a lot to do with us missing shots. You know when you miss so many shots, especially on the road, human nature sets in, heads go down. You may miss a foul shot. You may miss a lay-up. Maybe even miss arotation. All those factors add in, plus we were freshmen and had a ton of inexperience. So, when you have that at Ohio State, Purdue, Michigan State that presents a problem. But, we have done some different things this year as far as our schemes to help us prevent blow bys and give these guys a better idea of where they need to be on the court when X happens, when Y happens, when Z happens. So they understand exactly what they're doing in this situation. Hopefully, that will help us. We need to do a much better job at getting teams off the three.
At Big Ten Media Day you were asked what more can Tim Fraizer do. You talked about leadership. Can you expand a bit more on that? How is he progressing as a leader?
I say this to him everyday, "leaders don't have a day off, they don't have a minute off, eyes are always on you." Any point in the day, when he's walking on campus, in the classroom, in the locker room, no matter where he is, the eyes are on you. You have to know that. I know that as one of the leaders here at the University. He has to understand that there is an awareness that you need as a leader, you can't be so caught up on "I missed a shot" or "I missed a rotation." It has to be okay. You are a relief pitcher. You have to be aware of everybody on the floor. You have to bring that every single day and it's hard, but he has grown from where he was last year - body language is great, facial expressions are great. He has come a long way. I let him run some things inpractice. I let him run a huddle the other day. I am doing little things tochallenge him as a leader and to show that he is in tune and he knows what we are doing, and he does. There is more room for growth, and he is working on it. He came in today and we watched film today. He comes in about three or fourtimes a week, and that `s what it needs to be for him to be the best leader he can be. In turn, it will make him the best player and that will help this team out.