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December 5, 2012

Lions adjust on the fly

When Penn State senior point guard Tim Frazier went down with a season-ending ruptured Achilles tendon three weeks ago, the initial state of shock among the Nittany Lions was palpable, naturally.

For head coach Patrick Chambers, though, there was no time to feel sorry for himself or his team.

As integral as keeping spirits high and maintaining a sense of purpose after Frazier's injury was, Chambers had another much more important goal in mind. Essentially starting from scratch with two guards that would have to play the point completely out of position, Chambers had to get both D.J. Newbill and Jermaine Marshall up to speed as quickly as possible while simultaneously adjusting the entire identity of his team.

"We're in the infancy stages of trying to find our identity and who we are and how we matchup and how we have to play," Chambers said Monday afternoon. "I'm changing every day our approach and our approach to this game Wednesday… D.J. is doing the best he can being a point guard, and that's not his true position.

"I'm approaching practice much differently than I did last year. I gotta manage their bodies, I gotta manage time, I gotta manage their minds. I mean, you gotta manage everything, but that's what being a coach is, and we enjoy doing it."

Though Frazier was the perfect vessel for Chambers to start delegating more and more responsibility and ownership of the team this season, the injury leaves the Nittany Lions with inexperience abound. Throw in a pair of new point guards trying to learn the intricacies akin to playing quarterback for Bill O'Brien, and a clear picture of work-in-progress has been painted for Penn State's 2012-13 season.

That said, having been a captain and a contributor in Penn State's offense even before Frazier went down to the injury, Newbill explained that though the Nittany Lions aren't exactly re-installing the offense with the team's new point guards, there is a constant emphasis in practice to further perfect plays.

"In practice, we do just keep going over our plays and stuff, just to make sure guys know exactly where to be in their spots when we're calling plays because, sometimes in the game, we're calling stuff on the fly and everybody has to know where everybody is," Newbill said. "But, as far as with me, me and Coach Pat, we just sit down and watch film, and we go over my mistakes or stuff that I did well, or more reads, basically.

"Coach, he really is not one to just keep running plays and plays and plays. He just wants us to play basketball and run offense and be aggressive."

In fact, Chambers has been stating publicly for weeks that he'd like his team to take shots when they present themselves.

Privately, he's been pleading with his unselfish group to get more shots up. Newbill has started to lead the way, averaging 16.5 points per game since Frazier's injury alongside Marshall's 17 points per game.

"He wants us to run offense, but if you see something that opens up, he wants you to just take it," Newbill said. "Take it with confidence… that's just being a basketball player and knowing the flow of the game. He doesn't want us to be robots. Running plays you can be a robot. You might as well just go out there and play loose, play free."

Penn State plays LaSalle at the Palestra in Philadelphia Wednesday night. Tip-off is at 9:15 and the game will air on the NBC Sports Network.


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