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2014-15 Penn State Basketball: Shooting for More

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After a season where the Nittany Lions fell just short of .500, Penn State’s upperclassman-laden team is looking to clinch its first winning record since 2010-2011 season.

“I think (the expectations) have to be higher than they’ve been here before,” play-by-play announcer Steve Jones said. “They have a core group that has been together, and they understand the pace of the game and the pace of the Big Ten.”

Of the 14 players on the roster, there are five seniors and five juniors, many of whom have been playing together for the past few years in fourth-year head coach Patrick Chambers’ system. Seniors D.J. Newbill and Ross Travis, and juniors Brandon Taylor and Donovon Jack, all started at least 75 percent of the team’s games last season. Chambers finally has an experienced starting lineup to rely upon, a luxury he had not had before in his time at Penn State.

“We’re a little bit older, a little bit wiser and hopefully we’ve learned from past experiences,” Chambers said. “As a coach, that’s what you’re banking on. I see it in practice that we’re playing harder, we’re playing together and we’re doing the little things that can make us the best team we can be.”

One of the key questions going into the season is what the Nittany Lions are going to do at the point guard spot. While Chambers said that he was planning on giving Newbill a lot of the playing time at the point, he did not want to commit to a set starting lineup a month before the opening tipoff. Junior guard Devin Foster and freshman guard Shep Garner could be competing for the backup job, or they may end up starting there instead.

If Newbill does not end up playing at the point, he will definitely be put somewhere else in the backcourt. Newbill has started all 65 games in his career and finished second in the Big Ten in scoring last year with 17.8 points per game. The Philly native and Southern Miss transfer was also selected by his coaches and teammates as one of the four team captains for this year.

“Ultimately, we are the leaders of the team. I think it's good when guys see us stepping up to take that role, especially the younger guys,” Newbill said. “Generally, just coming in every day and working hard and showing guys how to work and what we expect from them. That's really our leadership role.”

While this team will rely on its veterans, Jones said that some younger players could end up making an impact this year, namely Pittsburgh native Geno Thorpe, a sophomore guard expected to be a difference maker on both ends of the floor, according to Jones. Thorpe and the bench should see a lot of playing time, as Chambers stressed the importance of managing minutes.

“I would like to get into a rotation where we could go 10 deep,” Chambers said. “(The second unit is) starting to earn the trust where I believe they’ll come in and lift this up.”

With opening day coming November 14, the team is getting focused on the challenge that will be presented in the coming months.Penn State Brandon Taylor

“Right now we're just focused on coming in every day, having a good attitude and getting better,” Newbill said. “We still have guys who are getting used to the system. That's what our focus is on right now.”

2014-15 PENN STATE BASKETBALL
Head Coach: Patrick Chambers, 4th season, 38-59
Last Season: 16-18, 6-10
Projected Starters: DJ Newbill, Donovon Jack, Brandon Taylor, Ross Travis, Jordan Dickerson
Key Non-Conference Games: Charleston Classic (11/20-23), Akron (11/25), at Bucknell (11/28), George Washington (12/14)

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