Penn State Basketball: Newbill Prepared To Retake The Reigns In Post-Frazier Era
There was a fitting moment on Tuesday as Tim Frazier rose from his seat at the media table one final time and exited the room only moments later to have his seat filled by DJ Newbill.
The torch may have been passed before the season ever ended, but Frazier's final interview as a Nittany Lion transitioned nicely into an interview with the next leader of Penn State's basketball program. It reflected the cyclical nature of college athletics as one player moved on in his career as another took a step forward.
In many respects the transition should be a smooth one. The injury of Frazier his senior year thrust Newbill into the spotlight earlier than was ever planned, giving him plenty of first hand experience when it comes to being the cornerstone of the team.
But with Frazier healthy this past season, the two worked well together en route to a 16 win campaign. It wasn't always perfect and it was often far from pretty, but the Newbill/Frazier combo worked as well as any in the nation.
So now back in the spotlight alone, Newbill will take up the reigns of the program. But as Newbill answered questions on Tuesday he slid into his new role nicely -- leaving little doubt that he was ready to lead.
"Now it's just a piece of cake, I've been through it already," Newbill said of applying the past two years to this upcoming season. "And this year coming up I'm gonna have better guys around me you know not to take anything away from that team but these young guys are really good and they surprised me in a lot of ways this year. But yeah, I think I'm ready for it."
It has been hard to find many faults with Newbill's game, especially in Big Ten play. The soon-to-be senior averaged 17.8 points a game while shooting at a 45-percent clip that made him extremely reliable at key moments. Two key shots on the road against Ohio State cemented Newbill's reputation as a player who is capable of making clutch plays in the final minutes of close contests. Newbill will need help in the scoring department and will need help carrying the program moving forward, but as the best pure scorer on the team, Newbill has already shown himself capable of shouldering the majority of the load.
"I definitely didn't achieve the goals I wanted to do team-wise as far as record-wise," Newbill said of the recently completed season. "But man those games we've just got to learn from them and move on and work harder than we did last year. That's my mindset heading into this offseason."
"We worked hard last year, now we've got to work even harder, and everyone that's on the team now sees what we're going up against and that's how much more you've got to prepare, how much harder you've got to work for these moments. And we only lose, I think coach said nine games within five points, we'll get over that hump."
Ultimately, Penn State's success will depend on how the rest of the Nittany Lions develop. Head coach Patrick Chambers' ability to increase the skill-set and confidence of each player on the team will be critical.
The Nittany Lions made strides in 2014, but the continued progress of the program will depend on the continued progress of its players.
And to do that it will take leadership; something Newbill is already thinking about.
"It'll probably be more of my voice now but somebody else is going to step up," Newbill said. "Me in my head, I'm thinking that Brandon Taylor is going to step up and be a captain next season. Just because he's a hard worker, he's made strides tremendously since he's been here and he's fully into what we're doing and you know he can help the younger guys. So I think he can help us, help me out with the captain role. And me and coach is always going to be on the same page, relaying message through each other so I think we'll be fine."
For the immediate future though Newbill and his team will take some time away from basketball. A season that has gone from almost July has led to some tired legs and minds. Head coach Patrick Chambers will be in Texas for the Final Four and his players will rest up before workouts start again.
Individiual meetings next week will determine if the roster is staying as it ended the year (Something Chambers is hopeful will stay the same) but for Newbill, he's happy with the stability Penn State has provided him after a hectic first year of his college career at Southern Miss.
"I definitely found that here, stability is definitely important, running around, jumping from school to school, everything like that is a headache really. But with the coaches here and the staff and these guys here I couldn't be happier and I'm glad that I made the decision."