UNIVERSITY PARK — When Patrick Chambers first told D.J. Newbill to not shoot outside the paint for 30 days, the coach must have been kidding. At least that’s what Newbill initially thought.
No, Chambers was serious.
After a month in the summer of only shooting in the key, Newbill enters his second season on the hardwood at Penn State with a retooled jumper.
“My first reaction was jump shots are about repetition,” Newbill said. “And (Chambers) is like ‘Yeah, but if you’re shooting it with not bad mechanics, but not-so-good mechanics, it’s probably going to be the same results.’ I stuck with it. I trusted him, I know he’s not going to do anything to hurt me or hurt my career.”
The redshirt junior said his jumper looks “a lot different” from last season, when he was the focal point of the Nittany Lions’ offense after Tim Frazier suffered a season-ending Achilles injury in the team’s fourth game. The Philadelphia native averaged a team-best 16.3 points per game while taking over for Frazier at point guard. Newbill is a natural two-guard and the best part of his offense comes off the dribble when he attacks the basket.
Last season, Newbill scored 88.1 percent of his points either on 2-point field goals or at the foul line. The Southern Mississippi transfer attempted 75 3-pointers, but connected on just 20 of them — a 26.7 percent success rate.
So when Newbill was on campus for the first summer semester, which runs from the middle of May through mid-June, Chambers thought it was best if Newbill tweaked his shot. And that started with getting back to the basics.
The coach noted after five days, Newbill was itching to step outside and take deeper shots, but even during scrimmages, the coach had Newbill shoot only in the paint.
“(There are) a lot of great 6-foot-4 scorers in college, but he wants to be different,” Chambers said. “He wants to not just be known as a slasher/scorer. He wants to be known as a guy who can make shots. I give him a lot of credit for the sacrifice and discipline.”
The process was frustrating for Newbill at first, most notably when defenders would sag off of him in pickup games, but the redshirt junior said Chambers stayed with him every step of the way.
“He actually took it with me, step-by-step, day-by-day, he was there with me,” Newbill said. “And that helped me through the process a lot. It’s not like he just threw it on me and let me go about my business. He stayed with me and worked with me. It helped me a lot now.”
With a medical redshirt season now behind him, Frazier is back and healthy, and he and Newbill figure to be the top two scoring options on a guard-ladened team. Frazier and Newbill have been around each other for two years, but have played just three full games together as Newbill had to sit out two seasons ago because of NCAA transfer rules before Frazier got injured early last season.
Though they haven’t spent much time together in actual games, Newbill said Frazier — who is his roommate — “is like blood,” and added playing beside him is like having two floor generals on one team. Chambers made it sound like he expects Newbill to lead the team in points this season at last week’s media day, and the coach said Frazier will be able to do more passing.
“Trust me, that wouldn’t bother me at all,” said Frazier, who set a school record with 198 assists two seasons ago. “Whatever helps us win, whatever strives us to be the best team by the end of the year, that’s going to help us achieve our goals, I’ll do it.”
When Frazier finds an open Newbill once Penn State starts its season on Nov. 9 against Wagner at the Bryce Jordan Center, it will be a player who is more confident in his shot.
“He sacrificed and he did it and it’s very noticeable,” Chambers said about Newbill’s new-look jumper. “His rotation looks good, arc looks good, follow-through looks good and, more importantly, shots are falling through.”