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Penn State Basketball: Depth An Asset, Improved Shooting A Must As Nittany Lions Enter 2013

by on October 17, 2013 5:00 PM

As the clock ticks on and on for head coach Patrick Chambers and his quest to change the Penn State basketball program, Chambers' confidence in his team continues to tick upwards as well.

"The offense is in a better place than it has ever been in my time here." Chambers said emphatically on Thursday at the team's media day.

In his third year at the helm Chambers faces the most telling season of his relatively short career in Happy Valley. With the return of senior guard Tim Frazier and a mixture of young and experienced talent, the Nittany Lions are as ready as they'll ever be to make a jump up in the conference standings.

Coming off of a season where the Nittany Lions went 10-21, there is little doubt that the room for improvement is large. Penn State struggled to the shoot the ball, coming in a 324th in the nation with a .395 field goal percentage.

A little work in the offseason and Chambers is hoping that the shooting woes will go away once the season starts. On average the Nittany Lions were outscored by their opponents by only 6.6 points. So if something as simple as shooting can improve, Chambers is confident that the little things will take care of the big things.

"You've got a shooter?" One reporter asked, alluding to the Nittany Lions offensive woes.

"We've got guys making shots," Chambers said with a smile. "We worked on DJ Newbill's shot a lot. He didn't take a shot outside of the paint for 30 straight days. That's hard for a kid to do but he stuck to it and it's very noticeable. I'd say the same for Ross (Travis) too."

“At first it was frustrating," Newbill said of his month off from outside shots. "Because we would play pickup and I couldn't shoot any jump shots. But in the long run it helped me out. My shot felt a lot better. I feel like I’m shooting at a high percentage right now, so I think it was good for me overall.”

Including Frazier -- who missed last season with a torn achillies -- the Nittany Lions will add seven new players to the active roster. Among those players are transfers Allen Roberts and John Johnson. Johnson sat out last season due to transfer rules but practiced with the Nittany Lions all year. He will be eligible to play the final game of Penn State's out-of-conference schedule.

"It’s going to take him some time," Chambers said of Johnson's return to play. "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."

Those incoming players, combined with Frazier, returning guard DJ Newbill, forwards Brandon Taylor, Ross Travis, and Donovon Jack give the Nittany Lions the most depth ever under Chambers.

"It's great," Chamber says. "It's going to be new for me, it's an opportunity to have options moving forward especially as kids continue to develop and grow as a team and as individuals. We'll be able to have different options and use the bench sometimes. It's going to be refreshing."

Penn State needs all the good news it can get as the Nittany Lions look to battle for positioning in the toughest conference in the nation.

Additional Media Day Notes:

There are plenty of stories to come from Penn State's media day, but here are just some quick hitters to enjoy.

  • Chambers calls Allen Roberts the best three-point shooter on the team.
  • The team used Viking's running back Adrian Peterson as an example of a player who can bounce back from injury.
  • Tim Frazier's vertical is 35.5 inches, a half inch higher than it was prior to his injury.
  • Chambers says the new NCAA rule interpretation of hand-checking will benefit his team as it tries to draw fouls. 
  • Tim Frazier, DJ Newbil, Ross Travis, Brandon Taylor, and Donovon Jack would be Penn State's starting five if the season began today.

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Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for StateCollege.com. He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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