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Frazier gets new running mate in Penn St backcourt

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Frazier gets new running mate in Penn St backcourt

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) Penn State coach Patrick Chambers figures the best way to keep his two best players sharp for the rigors of the Big Ten is to have them going up against each other at practice.

Senior Tim Frazier, try to go easy on newcomer D.J. Newbill.

How the Nittany Lions' new, potentially explosive backcourt, navigates the treacherous Big Ten could go a long way toward determining whether Chambers' rebuilding project can take another step forward in his second year in Happy Valley.

Chambers said he's always tempted to put Frazier and Newbill together at guard in practice. But he also said the best way to keep them sharp is have them practice against each other, like two brothers going at it in a pickup game in front of the garage.

``They know they can't go easy on each other,'' Chambers said. ``Those guys have got to know how (other league guards) are going to compete against you for 40 minutes. You need to do it to each other, so that it's much easier in a game.''

Frazier emerged last year as one of the top players in the Big Ten after leading the league in assists (6.2 per game) and finishing second in scoring (18.8 points) and steals (2.4). Frazier led a team that had lost four senior starters from the previous year, including school career-leading scorer Talor Battle.

Throw in a coaching change, when Chambers took over for Ed DeChellis, who resigned in the offseason to coach at Navy, and 2011-12 turned into a major transition season. The Nittany Lions finished 12-20 (4-14 Big Ten).

But a year of growth for the young roster, along with the addition of Newbill, has Chambers excited. So much so that Newbill has joined Frazier as faces on a banner for the Penn State basketball tailgate at football games - before the redshirt sophomore has ever played a game in Happy Valley.

Newbill, a Philadelphia native, is returning to his home state after averaging 9.2 points and 6.2 rebounds as a freshman at Southern Mississippi in 2010-11.

The ever-optimistic Chambers likes to match up Frazier and Newbill against each other in practice so they know what it's like to compete against top Big Ten guards like Michigan's Trey Burke and Ohio State's Aaron Craft.

Chambers, in fact, isn't backing down from his prediction that Frazier and Newbill could be one of the best backcourts in the country.

``I'm standing by that. Two feet in with that one,'' Chambers joked.

Frazier has been working on his 3-point shot. He's already lethal driving into the lane. Chambers likens him to former St. John's guard and Golden State Warriors coach Mark Jackson.

Newbill is described as a 6-foot-4 guard with a rugged mentality who runs the floor with a ``chip on his shoulder,'' Chambers said.

Frazier is also trying to mentor Newbill as a leader, the way Battle took Frazier under his wing when Frazier was a sophomore.

Junior guard Jermaine Marshall (10.8 points) should also benefit, giving Chambers three scoring options at guard. Throw in 6-foot-6 forward Ross Travis, a hard-nosed sophomore working on improving his perimeter shot, and Chambers may go with his preferred offense of four guys on the perimeter, with 6-foot-8 redshirt sophomore Jon Graham assigned to man the middle.

Graham and 6-foot-9 junior Sasa Borovnjak combined to average about 8 points and 6.8 rebounds together as the Penn State big men. Chambers would love to see at least a slight increase in those numbers after a year of playing in his system and getting used to the physical Big Ten.

Still, breaking .500 in the Big Ten schedule will be tough, especially given the top-heavy trio of preseason No. 1 Indiana, No. 4 Ohio State and No. 5 Michigan. Michigan State (14) and Wisconsin (23) are also in the AP poll.

But the optimism Chambers infused in his rookie campaign has carried over to this fall among his players. An NIT bid may be realistic if things break the right way this season and Penn State can win at least one or two Big Ten games on the road after going winless last season away from the Jordan Center.

``Everybody knows the system, we know what coach wants,'' Frazier said. ``Now we're right where he's at. We're a lot farther than we were last year.''

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Follow Genaro Armas athttp://twitter.com/GArmasAP

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: On to Vegas!

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: On to Vegas!

The Capitals are the Eastern Conference Champions!

After dispatching Tampa Bay in Game 7, the Caps claimed the conference crown for just the second time in franchise history. But they're not done yet. Now it's on to Vegas to face the Golden Knights for the Stanley Cup.

JJ Regan and Tarik El-Bashir break down the Caps' win over the Lightning and look ahead to the matchup with the Knights.

Check out their latest episode in the player below or listen on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast page.

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Michigan's Moritz Wagner could be Wizards' solution for a stretch-five

Michigan's Moritz Wagner could be Wizards' solution for a stretch-five

The pre-draft workout process can be an exhausting journey for players, with so many flights, hotel rooms and NBA arenas that they can all blend in together. Michigan big man Moritz Wagner, though, may have felt a sense of comfort in Washington for his pre-draft workout for the Wizards on Wednesday.

It was just over a year ago that his Michigan Wolverines cut down the nets at Capital One Arena as champions of the Big Ten conference.

"It was good memories, man. Never gets old," he said while glancing around the stadium.

Wagner, 21, will be seeing a lot more of Capital One Arena once he joins the NBA ranks and it is conceivable he ends up in Washington. They hold the 15th pick in the first round and the 44th pick in the second round and Wagner could be within their reach.

Wagner had an impressive workout in Washington and could provide what the Wizards need. He is a big, mobile and can spread the floor. Wagner was terrific at stepping out to hit threes off pick-and-rolls at Michigan and that ability would work well with Wizards All-Star point guard John Wall.

Wagner measured in at just under 7-feet at this month's NBA Combine, fifth-tallest among those who attended. He averaged 14.6 points as a junior this past season and made 39.4 percent of his threes on 4.1 attempts per game.

With three years of college experience and an NBA-ready jumper, Wagner believes he can step right in and help the Wizards.

"I think what we did at Michigan, sharing the ball and playing as a team, very organized basketball, that can help big-time," he said. "It's basically pro basketball I was playing on a different level."

As Wagner will tell you, he is very confident in his abilities. He is comfortable in his own skin and that includes openly discussing his faults. He feels good about his ability to score at the next level. Defense is where he needs to prove himself.

Despite his size, Wagner wasn't much of a rim protector in college. He averaged just a half-block a game as a junior. The Wizards need rim protection badly and he likely would not provide that.

Wagner, though, believes he can bring more to the table defensively than the numbers would suggest.

"I think I've been an offensive guy all of my life, but the more that you mature as a player, you understand that both sides are important. Without defense, you aren't going to play at any level," he said.

"I think the most important thing that I wasn't able to show in college is that I'm able to switch the ball-screen, especially with the way the league is going. Switch on everything and stay in front of guards as a big guy."

Wagner is from Germany and looks up to Mavs legend Dirk Nowitzki, who is entering his 21st season and will be in the Hall of Fame someday. Nowitzki's game has always been built around shooting and, though he developed into a decent shot-blocker in his prime, was never an elite rim protector.

Wagner hopes to follow in his footsteps playing a similar style.

"He was my MJ. He kind of shows you 'okay, this is possible and this is doable.' It's just basketball," Wagner said. "It gives you a lot of hope. It gives you a lot of belief and motivation."

Hear more from Wagner in his one-on-one interview with Chris Miller in our latest Wizards Tipoff podcast. His interview can also be found in the video above:

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