The sad, unfortunate truth is among us: Penn State will take the floor in less than a month for the first time in years without Tim Frazier on the roster. The transition will be a tough challenge in Pat Chambers' fourth year at the helm, but strangely enough, the Nittany Lions have been through this before. Frazier ruptured his Achilles in the fourth game of the year during the 2012-13 campaign against Akron. Now that Frazier is officially gone and throwing dimes trying to make an NBA roster, the question now becomes: how does Frazier's production get replaced?
Frazier's accolades include finishing seventh in Penn State history in scoring (1,543) and first in assists (641). Most remarkably, he became just the second Big Ten player with over 1,000 career points, 600 assists and 500 rebounds.
One thing is for sure: D.J. Newbill will be asked to do a lot of the scoring to replace Frazier, and possibly be the new point guard thanks to his experience in that role from a few seasons ago. As you'll recall, he replaced Frazier after the aforementioned Achilles injury. The rest of the production will come from a committee of Nittany Lions. Let's take a look at some of those suitors:
Taylor's sophomore season showed glimpses of what could potentially be a matchup nightmare for opponents in his junior season. He lived on the perimeter last year and tied for the team lead in three-pointers made with 46. The only problem with putting the 6'7'' forward outside for so long was that he shot only 32 percent from beyond the arc. Part of that can be attributed to his usefulness in opening up driving lanes for Frazier and Newbill last year. With Frazier gone, start looking for Taylor to play more on the block and to dominate guys at the small forward spot. Chambers should let Taylor utilize the 15-foot jumper and allow him to play with his back to the basket from time to time because it will enable him to shoot more freely outside if he can establish a low-post presence.
I may be higher on Johnson than most, because he's the only person I see with the ability to score in a comparable fashion to Frazier. I wouldn't mind seeing Johnson start at point guard because he'll have the quickness to keep up with some of the fleet-footed point guards in the Big Ten. When I talk about scoring in flashes, however, Johnson is the prime example of that on this team (a lot more than Taylor). His 20 point debut against Mount St. Mary's brought a lot of excitement into this team because he offered something that Penn State typically can't offer- instant offense.
The only problem was that Johnson became a ghost in games more often than an offensive juggernaut. Twelve times last year, Johnson scored five points or fewer while only appearing in 21 games. That can't happen anymore. I'd love to see Johnson in the starting rotation alongside Newbill-Travis-Taylor-Jack/Dickerson, but he has to prove he can average double-digit points and around three or four assists a game in the non-conference schedule before getting into the Big Ten grind.
Donovon Jack/Jordan Dickerson
As great of a convenience as it must have been playing with a guy like Tim Frazier, I know two guys that will more than likely see their involvement in the offense this year increased. Jack will be able to float around that 15-foot mark now. The worry of clogging driving lanes for Frazier more than likely hampered Jack's ability to play high/low on the strong side in half court sets. Jack can lure big guys away from the rim to where he's very comfortable out beyond the arc, as well.
Dickerson on the other hand can be used this year in the pick and roll schemes. His 7'1'' 240 lb. frame will be used a lot more in the half court sets. If Dickerson can be a presence and shrink defenses when he gets entry passes inside, it will open up a lot of lanes for skip passes on the perimeter. Dickerson's looks at the basket weren't always clear because defenses would collapse more times than not to honor the great driving abilities of Frazier. With Frazier gone and Dickerson still the only legitimate big guy, points in the paint will be open for him early on in the season.
I'll leave you all with this. Last year with Frazier and Newbill, everyone wondered who would be the third scorer to take this team over the top. Penn State went 7-2 in the non-conference schedule when Frazier, Newbill and a third scorer had at least 10 points in a game. This year will feature Newbill, fill in the blank scorer 2, and fill in the blank scorer 3.
It's going to take a lot to replace a player like Tim Frazier, but there are options and opportunities out there to be taken.