Even though the Penn State Nittany Lions are coming off of a 10-21 season, including a terrible 2-16 Big Ten record, there is reason for optimism in Happy Valley. Sure, they were terrible in 2012-13, but they were also without their best player, point guard Tim Frazier, for almost the entire season.
The Nittany Lions will begin the 2013-14 season without a few key contributors from last season’s team. Forward Jermaine Marshall graduated from Penn State and transferred to Arizona State University for his final year of eligibility. Since he has already graduated, he is eligible to play immediately.
Power forward Jon Graham transferred to the University of Maryland, leaving the front court a bit thin. Starting center Sasa Borovnjak also won’t be returning as he is playing professionally overseas.
Some positives going into this season include the return of Frazier, a few key incoming transfers and a solid recruiting class. First, we’ll look at the transfers. Former Miami (Ohio) University guard Allen Roberts was added over the offseason, and he will be eligible to play immediately. A third-year starter for the Redhawks, Roberts led the team in scoring last season with 12.3 points per game.
Along with Roberts, former Pittsburgh Panthers guard John Johnson is also going to contribute this season for the Nittany Lions. The Philadelphia native won’t be eligible to play for the Nittany Lions until after the fall semester, however, so don’t look for him until around the time conference games start. The arrival of Roberts and Johnson gives the head coach Patrick Chambers a lot of depth at the guard position.
Frazier, who missed almost all of the 2012-13 season with a ruptured Achilles, will be returning this season. In his last full season, 2011-12, Frazier averaged 18.8 points, 6.2 assists and 4.7 rebounds per game. He is also a great defensive point guard, with 2.4 steals per game in 2011-12.
Last season’s point guard and team leader, D.J. Newbill, will be able to return to his natural position at shooting guard. Newbill was forced to play point guard last season when Frazier went down. Playing out of position, he was still able to average 16.3 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game last season.
Going back to his natural position will take a lot of pressure off of him, and having Frazier and Newbill on the court at the same time will provide a dynamic one-two punch. This, along with other solid pieces like Ross Travis, Roberts and Johnson, will give the Nittany Lions a realistic chance at making the NCAA\ Tournament in 2013-14.