Penn State Basketball: Nittany Lions Still Finding Identity Without Frazier
It isn't that Penn State basketball coach Patrick Chambers doesn't want to talk about the season-ending injury to his All-Big Ten guard Tim Frazier, it's just that there isn't much else to say.
"We can't feel sorry for ourselves," Chambers said Monday before practice in advance of Wednesday night's 9:15 tip against Boston College at the Bryce Jordan Center. "The text messages I received when he went down, the text messages I still receive, I went to the football game the other day and everybody is like, 'I'm so sorry.'
"We don't feel sorry for ourselves. These guys don't feel sorry for themselves. We gotta compete. We gotta get better. These guys understand what they have to do. They have that mentality."
Ultimately, it's the only real course of action for a team struggling to find its collective stroke. The 36-percent shooting from the field ranks No. 337 nationally, a number that is somewhat skewed by myriad factors from Penn State's historically poor performance at early season tournaments, to adjusting to the loss of Frazier.
Chambers, though, hasn't lost hope. For as poorly as the Nittany Lions have shot the ball, Chambers' vision of basketball has made its first real showing a few times during his second season in Happy Valley. A 36-point first half against Akron and a 44-point second half against Bucknell both displayed what kind of team a Frazier-less squad could be.
"We've got a long way to go," Chambers said. "But it's November. November, December is when you start to really get that foundation, and hopefully you're headed in the right direction. That's when you begin to see a little bit of it against Bucknell, a little bit. It's about playing hard for long stretches. Right now we play in spurts."
Penn State has been through the trials and tribulations of playing without a star in recent years. All-Big Ten guard Geary Claxton suffered a season-ending ACL injury in the 2007-08 season, which allowed for then-freshman guard Talor Battle to step into the bright lights. Forward Jamelle Cornley suffered a shoulder injury late in Penn State's National Invitation Tournament championship season, which led to then-junior forward Jeff Brooks elevating his game.
While it's only been 74 minutes into a season without Frazier, players like sophomore guard DJ Newbill and freshman forward Brandon Taylor have already shown signs of maturation. It's still early, but it's something Chambers attributes to confidence, even if it's over time.
"I would say they definitely feel more confident (after the win over Bucknell), that they feel like they can win games without Tim," Chambers said. "But it's a day-to-day basis. It's something that I have to continue to stress. [Sunday] we weren't as confident, it's where we are. Hopefully [Monday] we come out and we have a better approach and become that confident team that played for 30 or so minutes against Bucknell.
"You have to earn (confidence). You have to come in, you have to work, you have to come in and see it happen. A win helps, don't get me wrong. I think we're still developing habits as we're creating our identity and who we want to be, post-Tim Frazier, and that's what we have to do."
Asked how he can see the development of confidence or the lack thereof, Chambers just laughed.
"God has blessed me with some uncanny gifts," he said, smiling.