The 2014 season was the first chance we got to see Pat Chambers' first prized recruit play in a natural role. As you can probably recall, D.J. Newbill was forced to slide over to the point in the season-long absence of Tim Frazier, and he didn't do half bad for someone who had never played there in his career. Newbill averaged four assists per game while still managing to carry the scoring load, leading the team at 16.3 ppg.
This season, Newbill was unleashed - Frazier's return allowed him to move back to his favored position off the ball, and it resulted in some huge numbers. D.J.'s 17.8 ppg was good for second in the B1G behind only Nebraska's Terran Petteway, and his tweaked shot mechanics saw him hitting threes at a career-best clip. Best of all, Ohio State's backcourt is still having nightmares about their two meetings this season, in which Newbill averaged 24 ppg and 0.5 gwsiACf (game winning shots in Aaron Craft's face).
As expected, Newbill's move to shooting guard made him a far more efficient player - his ORtg increased by 16 points (92.0 in 2013) and his shooting percentages were up across the board, despite the fact that he took nearly twice as many threes (141) as he did a year ago (hey look, Eric was right!). His final 3pt% did drop off substantially from the 43% clip he was shooting in non-conference play, however.
Is it a bad thing when a team is so reliant on one player to carry the scoring load? The answer is, well, yes, and it showed in Penn State's nth heartbreaking loss of the season when they blew a late lead to Minnesota in the BJC. Newbill had the worst game of his career at any level - zero points, zero rebounds, zero assists and five fouls in just 14 minutes of action. This came just a few days after another forgettable day, in which the junior was ejected for fisticuffs with Illinois' Kendrick Nunn in an eventual 20-point shellacking in Champaign. To D.J.'s credit, he bounced back with ease, only dipping into single digits once more the rest of the season.
at Ohio State - 43 mins, 25 pts (9-20 FG), 5-6 FT, 8 reb, 2 ast, 3 TOs, 1 blk
It had to be this one, right? D.J. took over in the final few minutes, hitting both of his triples to tie the game late in regulation and draining the game-winner in overtime with two seconds to play. The win gave Penn State new hope and turned what could have been an absolute trainwreck of a conference campaign into merely the latest chapter of the flaming bus story that is this basketball program.
As fun as it was to watch Newbill operate off the ball in 2014, it might be the last we ever see of that. Although the addition of JuCo point guard Devin Foster gives Chambers another option at the point, Penn State doesn't have much in the way of a lead guard with experience in major college basketball. Except for Newbill, who could spend most of his minutes running the offense if neither Foster or Shep Garner are able to step in.
Final Grade: A
Easily PSU's most consistent and effective player, there wasn't much more Newbill could've done barring a truly Talor Battle-esque carrying of the load. Who knows what kind of shape the program would be in without D.J., a bonafide star in the best league in the country. Thanks again, Buzz.