Penn State averaged 61.6 points per game last season, the third-lowest average in the Big Ten but, as coach Patrick Chambers is quick to point out, the Nittany Lions scored at a 65-points-per-game clip over the last eight games of the season.
Chambers and Frazier will both have to help lead some of the younger Nittany Lions.
A number of factors could have the Nittany Lions lighting up the scoreboard with more frequency in Chambers' third season on the bench, and the return of Tim Frazier is only one of them.
"I'd like to see us score in the 70s," Chambers said Thursday during Penn State's Media Day. "I'd like to see us play fast. We're gonna play small, and we've got to get up and down the floor."
The heart of the Nittany Lions, who were 10-21 a year ago, will once again be in the backcourt, where Frazier comes back from an Achilles injury that sidelined him for all but the first four games of last season to join D.J. Newbill, a natural off guard who learned by necessity to be the primary distributor after Frazier went down.
"Now it's kind of like having two floor generals on the court, me and Tim," Newbill said.
Veteran forward Ross Travis, sophomore bigs Brandon Taylor and Donovon Jack -- who will both play in the frontcourt but operate frequently on the perimeter -- and two transfer guards -- John Johnson from Pitt (who will join the team for the second semester) and Allen Roberts from Miami of Ohio -- and four true freshmen.
Blending those veterans with those newcomers and determine the roles for each player -- even in the case of Frazier and Newbill -- will be a challenge and could take some time, but Penn State was able to get a jump on that process with the 10 extra practices it was allotted this summer as part of its exhibition trip to Europe.
As a result, the Nittany Lions, who open the season Nov. 9 at home against Wagner, entered fall practice well ahead of where they would have otherwise been.
"The detail in the offensive end, we've really stressed and worked on more than any other year," Chambers said. "The last two years it was all about the culture, the environment, the defending, the rebounding the toughness drills. We have that instilled. It's there. Now we have to take the next step in our offense.
"Our offense has always been a little bit behind. We didn't pick it up til January -- for my liking, anyway. Now it's at a whole other level. We're passing crisply, really driving and kicking it out, making extra passes, doing the little things to get better shots. Don't get me wrong -- you've got guys on the floor in Tim and D.J. who can get you shots at any time whenever they want, but I think our offense has really come along and it's at a better place than it's ever been in my tenure here."
Frazier praised the energy and willingness of his new teammates to listen, and, especially after spending the last year "as a coach," can appreciate how far ahead of the curve the Lions are now.
"Being able to practice those 10 days for Europe was great for us," Frazier said. "And now you bring in this new (NCAA) rule that allows us to practice earlier, and we've been running through plays … we're further along as far as plays go, and concepts and schemes, than we were if you think about last year -- we just would have started practice last week."
Frazier went to the free-throw line 201 times during the 2012 season and Newbill shot 196 free throws last winter. Those two players could expect to see a lot of time at the line this season, especially in the early part of the year, now that the NCAA has decided to more strictly enforce hand-checking. It's a national move to generate more offense, and Chambers, for one, doesn't mind.
"That can help us get to the 1-and-1 a lot sooner," Chambers said. "So we want to get up and down. I've got to give Tim and D.J. some rope to go make plays and make each other better. We're going to see some ugly shots, yeah, probably a few turnovers, but I trust them, and they've got to go out and make good decisions."
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