Keeping with the theme from my last article, it is time to break out the first progress report of the year for the mens basketball team here at dear old state. With conference play beginning on January 3rd against the Wisconsin Badgers, the non-conference season is behind us so let’s see how Penn State’s key players performed.
D.J. Newbill, G
Only fair to grade D.J. Newbill’s first half of the season on a bit of a curve. No one expected the Nittany Lions to be without stud point guard Tim Frazier coming into this year, so for Newbill to shift over to the point guard position on a whim and keep Penn State’s head above water has been nothing short of impressive. Whether it be slowing down the other team’s number one scoring option or getting his team into their half court sets, D.J. has answered the bell. Also of note, Newbill is leading the active roster in PPG (15.8) and APG (3.9).
Jermaine Marshall, G
There hasn’t been a ton of buzz surrounding Jermaine Marshall this year, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Marshall has been a steady presence alongside backcourt mate Newbill. Normally, I would grade someone of Marshall’s talent a little harder for seeing his shooting percentage from all areas of the floor decrease from last season, but he has shouldered a large amount of the scoring burden for this team. There isn’t a lot of talent-laden experience on this Nittany Lion’s roster, so Marshall’s consistency has been a welcome bonus.
Brandon Taylor, F
Brandon Taylor is the story of the year thus far for the Nittany Lions. Largely unknown by even some of the biggest fans of Big Ten basketball, Taylor burst onto the scene this year following the Tim Frazier Achilles injury. His scoring average might not move the meter, but he is shooting efficiently from the field, the three point arc, and the foul line. I can’t wait to see this kid continue to develop and flourish as a two way force under coach Pat Chambers.
Ross Travis, F
The beginning of the season for Ross Travis has been a little bit underwhelming. Coming into the 2012-13 campaign, Penn State returned a lot of its frontcourt players (Jon Graham and Sasa as well) but Travis was getting the preseason buzz as the player who could make this a formidable frontcourt for the Lions. Instead, he has not been able to get on track inside the paint, averaging less than 8 points per game, and if the Lions hope to make any sort of noise in the Big Ten this year, they will need him to step it up in the second half of the season.
Sasa Borovnjak, F
Sasa’s minutes are up from last year thanks to his insertion in the starting lineup, and with that increased role Sasa has bolstered his statistical production across the board. The only factors causing me to temper his grade are his lackluster foul shooting and inability to impact the game significantly around the rim. He averages less than one block per game and still needs to improve on the glass, as he only averages 3.8 rebounds per game in 20.3 minutes of actions.