D.J. Newbill, who transferred last week, quietly comes to Penn State without much hoopla. First, he's going to have to sit out a year, so he won't be seen on the court for a while. Second, he's coming from a mid-major conference. Third, he posted what might be perceived as 'average' statistics his freshmen campaign, where he logged 30.5 MPG, 9.2 PPG, 6.2 RPG, and 1.6 APG. Those are solid for a freshmen, but nothing that makes you jump for joy over this transfer.
However, further statistical analysis inspired by KenPom offers reason for optimism. Below is a table comparing DJ's freshmen campaign with PSU's 3 best players of the past 8 years: Geary Claxton, Jamelle Cornley, and Talor Battle. Obviously each of these players came into different situations. Geary came in to a completely depleted team that was devastated by transfers and lacked enough players to hold a scrimmage in practice. Jamelle Cornley came in a year removed from Claxton's situation (meaning it wasn't much better). Battle came into a little more stability, but had to replace the only point guard PSU ever had the previous four years in Ben Luber. He was also counted on to produce right away.
DJ Newbill came into a much different situation. He was first just trying to rebound from having his dream pulled out from under him when Buzz Williams at Marquette rescinded his scholarship in favor of Jamil Wilson, who was transferring from Oregon. The reason for the release was never disclosed, but supposedly MU used unfinished paperwork from Newbill as justification. They rescinded his scholarship on July 1st, and DJ landed at USM roughly three weeks later. Southern Miss was returning many upperclassmen, and they were picked to finish 3rd in the C-USA. They had a returning senior leader in F Gary Flowers along with 4 other seniors.
With different roles on different teams, the usage stat (% of possessions) would have been expected to be in favor of the PSU guys, which was the case. With fewer possessions, one would also expect the effiency and eFG% to be higher, which is the case with Newbill. But what's important to note is just how efficient DJ was for the Golden Eagles. His offensive rating was superb, especially for a freshmen with his playing time (<100 is bad, 100-110 is average, 110+ is good). His eFG% was solid as well, considering it wasn't boosted by 3PM (he only made 6 all year). Newbill made a whopping 54.3% of his 2-pointers (94/173).
The two stats that jumped out to me the most are his rebounding percentages and his free throw rate. His offensive rebounding percentage was fantastic, comparable only to the great Geary Claxton in recent PSU history. Just go to the film one on one. Who's dunk was better? It's going to be harder in the Big Ten, but rebounding is an instinctual skill. Positioning, anticipation, and timing are what you need, regardless if your opponent can jump higher. I would be surprised to see Newbill's rebounding production take a hit in his time as a Nittany Lion. He could become one of the best rebounding guards in the league.
His free throw rate, as David Jones pointed out, is also absurd for a freshmen. Penn State hasn't had a starter get to the line that often ever in the DeChellis era. This shows that our guy Newbill isn't afraid to attack the basket. Without a true post presence the past two years, PSU has really missed that man who can be depended upon to get to the foul line in crucial situations. Battle would have to be that guy far too often, but his small frame left him out to dry about half the time. Newbill combined with Tim Frazier and Jermaine Marshall, who also showed ability last year to drive and get to the line, will give PSU multiple options in the backcourt that can penetrate and draw the defense.
Now all of these statistics aren't completely transferable to DJ's new situation at PSU. Yes, his efficiency is benefited by the fact that he wasn't the main man for the Eagles and could defer to talented upperclassmen (Flowers took 33.% of the shots when he was on the floor). However, he found his niche with Larry Eustachy's team, and played that role very well for a true freshmen. These stats further strengthen, at least in my mind, the reports from Jones' article that Newbill is an old-school, versatile team player. He's not going to be the guy, but he certainly will be someone that can contribute from day one. Maybe he can provide a little bit of this, even if his stats don't show it: