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June 7, 2012* Editor's Note: This article appears in the latest edition of Blue White Illustrated, which printed and mailed to our subscribers this week.
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By Nate Bauer
Patrick Chambers already has the best point guard in the Big Ten in Tim Frazier.
By adding transfer shooting guard D.J. Newbill to the equation this season, Chambers believes his backcourt is going to be loaded.
"I can't wait. I think we're going to have the best backcourt in the country," he said.
In the country?
"You heard me," he said. "In the country."
Fans, media, and the rest of the Big Ten have yet to see Newbill, a talented 6-foot-4, 210 pound shooting guard, in action with the Nittany Lions. A sophomore transfer from Southern Mississippi, where he was named to the Conference USA All-Freshman Team, Newbill was forced to sit out every game last season due to NCAA guidelines.
He did not, however, sit out all of Penn State's practices.
After injuring his shoulder the first week in practice, forcing him to miss two months while recuperating, the former PIAA Class AA Player of the Year finally returned to the court, and simply awed his coaches and teammates
"I was able to watch D.J. Newbill every day in practice, and he was phenomenal," Chambers said, expanding on his original comments. "He's 6-4 and he has a big body and he's going to open up some things for Tim and I'm excited about those two guys and what they mean to Penn State basketball.
"You're going to love dealing with D.J., and you're going to love him on the floor because he's going to give you maximum effort every time. He didn't play one game, and he was in the top three (of our statistics) almost every day, when he wasn't hurt. So, I'm excited for our future."
According to Chambers, Newbill's talents are notable.
He's quick on the floor with or without the ball in his hands, can get to the rack at will, commands plenty of attention from opponents to free up his teammates and, to boot, developed a steady mid-range and 3-point shot this past season. In short, for a program that finished 11th in the conference for scoring offense, averaging just 61.8 points per game, Newbill's scoring ability could mean a world of difference.
Throw in Newbill's intangibles - toughness, an extremely hard work ethic, a winner's mentality, and strong leadership ability - and he has the potential to join Frazier as an All-Big Ten selection next season, Chambers said.
Though unable to utilize his talents when it counted, Newbill approached each practice like a game while Chambers also made the most of his budding star's ability, pitting him against Frazier nearly every day in practice.
"I would go hard and just try to get myself better and get my teammates better for when we have to play," Newbill said. "I think the guys liked that, especially Tim. He definitely wanted me to come out my hardest and get ready for the next game. He's going to have a tough matchup every game, so, a lot of guys like that to get them better while I'm getting myself better."
The system worked.
Both Frazier and Newbill fed off each other, trying to emerge as winners not only in on-the-floor live action, but also in every drill.
"They would go at it," Chambers said. "You just have two of your best players going at it and competing on every possession and, I would say getting after one another. We don't take it easy on those guys because that's not reality. They get after each other and they push each other and they drive each other. That's what they did for most of the year."
Though the competition was good for both players, for Newbill, the time away from the court didn't come without consequences.
As the Lions struggled in Big Ten play, losing eight of nine at one point, the North Philadelphia product went through his own personal struggles. Meeting with Chambers two or three times a week, just to talk, Newbill managed to maintain his composure and keep his focus.
"It was really tough. I was battling every day in practice with my teammates and then to not be able to go out there and compete on the court with them while they were having a rough season last year, it hurt," Newbill said. "But, I just kept positive with it. It was a learning experience and it was a chance for me to work on my skills to help me as a player for this year when I can help the team. I just used it as a positive as much as I could."
Having dealt with three transfer athletes at his last coaching position in Boston, Chambers was prepared for the emotional challenges Newbill would face. Knowing the signs of losing a player, Chambers helped Newbill battle through the struggles.
"He understood what I was going through," Newbill said. "At first, it didn't hit me so hard, but once it got to be around the Big Ten conference play and stuff like that, that's when it really started to hit me. I got down a little bit, but I would go into his office and talk to him and he'd pick me right back up. 'Next year, you'll get out there so use this year to keep working real hard and remember to focus on getting ready for next year,' he'd say."
The motivation for Newbill didn't stop at season's end.
Moving Newbill onto the first-team in practice alongside Frazier, Chambers watched the two work together toward the end of the season just to get a feel for what the future might be like.
He wasn't disappointed.
Said Chambers, "The way they played together, how unselfish they were and how they shared the ball and how committed they were to defending and rebounding and just doing little things and the speed that they both have... It's exciting."
Reading about Chambers', "best backcourt in the country," comments via Twitter, Newbill seems to be equally as excited.
"It's always good to know that your coach has a lot of confidence in you," Newbill said. "It gives you that much more motivation to get that much better. Just to know that coach believes in you makes it that much easier to play for him."
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