On a college basketball team, injuries have a way of redefining roles and redistributing responsibilities.
When Tim Frazier went down with a season-ending Achilles tendon injury, Jermaine Marshall became the most experienced player for Penn State and was immediately thrust into a position of leadership.
No longer could Marshall just follow Frazier’s lead; the role was now his. Leadership is something the 22-year-old redshirt junior has been growing into on and off the court.
“Trying to be a vocal leader is very important,” Marshall said Monday. “Specifically on the defensive end, sometimes (in practice) our scout team might hit some tough shots and go on runs and I feel like we drop our heads. There’s no need for that. As long as we continue to not let that happen, we’ll be fine, but those little spurts where we drop our heads — that can’t happen.”
Following Frazier’s injury against Akron, Marshall has led Penn State in scoring in its last three games. He is averaging 20 points per contest during that stretch and against Pennsylvania, Marshall even played point guard, a role he hasn’t played since high school.
“His approach has changed,” said Penn State head coach Patrick Chambers of Marshall. “Him and I met and I just said ‘(You’re) going to have to play some point a little more often, but you have to be all in. You have to understand what being a leader means. You can’t take a couple of possessions off, then play hard.’ … We can’t have that type of player out there and on Saturday he wasn’t.”
Against the Quakers, Marshall had a team-high 18 points, including eight important points in nearly the last eight minutes of the game.
“Watching film, he was as consistent as I’ve seen him on both ends,” Chambers said. “He’s coming, he’s maturing as a human being, he’s maturing as a basketball player; he still has some room to grow as a leader but he wants that challenge.”
Last season, Chambers suspended Marshall in October for a violation of team rules. Chambers would later say the suspension was related to academics.
This season, Chambers has been pleased with Marshall’s progress in the classroom and on the court. The Penn State coach hasn’t said much more than “a light went off for Jermaine” in explaining the 6-foot-4 forward’s evolution.
But Marshall admitted his life and perspective were changed on April 10.
“I had to turn into a man,” Marshall said. “I just had a baby boy — Jacai. I’m just looking at things a lot differently. I’m a lot more serious. There’s a brand new look at things when you know you have a life to take care of.”
Tim Frazier: assistant coach
While his teammates had to adjust to life on the court without him, Frazier has had to adjust to life away from the court without his teammates.
“Sometimes it’s tough,” Frazier said. “Definitely when we go through stretches where I know I could help the team. I think that’s the biggest thing. I really want to help these guys. It hurts and it’s tough for me to be on the sideline, but I’m sticking with a positive mindset ... I’m their No. 1 fan on the sideline.”
Chambers said he wanted Frazier to continue to be a vocal leader. Frazier also will travel with the team and room with D.J. Newbill, whom he will mentor as the shooting guard adjusts to life at the point.
“I’m learning how to become a coach now,” Frazier said. “As much as Coach has me attached to his hip during practice … I see the things that he (got) upset with me about now (that I’m) off the court.”
The cast on his left foot will come off in 2-3 weeks, Frazier said, and he hopes to be back in 6 to 12 months.
For Frazier, that can’t come soon enough. He’s been riding around in the same motorized scooter that Chambers rode after he had knee surgery last summer, and he is adjusting to his relative immobility.
“It’s strange. I’ve never been hurt in my life so this is a very different situation for me,” Frazier said. “And not being able to walk, you take that for granted every day. … But now not being able to stand up on two feet is different. But I just have so much energy and I want the guys to do so well that sometimes I just stand up and jump (during games).”
Frazier’s sister, Krystal, played college basketball at Rice and ruptured her Achilles tendon during her junior season. She was in Puerto Rico at the game when her younger brother sustained his injury.
“My sister has always been a role model in my life and for her to go through the same injury, she just keeps sending me positive stuff every day,” Frazier said. “She asked me what I wanted for Christmas, I said I wanted a new Achilles. She said, ‘Well, you have one now so you better use it the best you can.’ ... She’s been helping me out tremendously.”
Johnson commits to Nittany Lions
Team officials have confirmed that John Johnson has committed to Patrick Chambers and Penn State.
In November, Johnson informed Pittsburgh head coach Jamie Dixon that he would transfer. The 6-foot-1, 175-pound sophomore will have to sit out until after the 2013 fall semester per NCAA transfer rules.
Newbill sat out last season after transferring from Southern Mississippi.
Johnson, like Newbill a Philadelphia native, averaged 4.2 points per game as a freshman and saw minutes in every game. He has not played a game this season.