In the young 2012-2013 season, the Penn State men’s basketball has already become familiar with adversity.
The Nittany Lions’ (3-2) poor shooting has been their most consistent problem so far, as the team has shot a miserable .231 from the field.
On Nov. 18, the Lions had a wrench thrown into their season when All-Big Ten guard Tim Frazier ruptured his Achilles against Akron and was shut down for the year.
The fall of Frazier, who was leading the team with 16.3 points per game, was expected to exacerbate the problems of an already struggling offense. However, something finally clicked for the Lions as they shot 36.8 from the field and 38.6 from three-point range en route to a 60-57 win over Bucknell last Friday.
Freshman Brandon Taylor had a break out game for the Penn State, knocking down a number of open jumpers including four from three-point territory to finish with 16 points on 6-11 shooting.
“That’s a confident kid,” coach Pat Chambers said. “He missed his first few and some might be gun shy, not him he just kept shooting it.”
Despite being a newcomer to the college game, the freshman has dealt with his share of adversity as well since coming to Penn State. After developing plantar fasciitis following his high school career, Taylor was forced to stay off of his feet and did not touch the court for a two month span.
While out of action, the 6-foot-7 forward ballooned from his high school playing weight of 230 to 260 pounds. Taylor entered training camp out of shape.
“Coming in from the summer I had a lot of adversity,” Taylor said “During the workouts it was hard but it was easy losing the weight from all that running.”
After working his way down to 235 pounds, Taylor looks as though he will develop into a weapon for the Lions. The Tabernacle, N.J. native has been a pleasant surprise on the Lions roster, playing 76 minutes in five games. Taylor’s teammates have been impressed with his transformation.
“He was here with the rest of the team working hard in the summertime. You got to give credit to the lifting staff,” sophomore Ross Travis said. “Brad [Pantall] and all them just pushing us all the time, getting everybody's weights down and those who needed to gain weight, getting their weight up.”
His ability to knock down opener jumpers will be important as guard D.J. Newbill attracts more double teams with the absence of Frazier.
Taylor was able to do just that, working several pick and pop plays with Newbill for open looks in last Friday’s game.
Chambers said Bucknell soft-blitzed Newbill and threw different defensive schemes at the guard to confuse him.
“I don't know if Bucknell thought much of Brandon Taylor because we're only five games in,” Chambers said. “He hasn't really done much. We know in practice what he's capable of. He has a lot of confidence, that kid. We just brought him in and did a little roll replace and he was ready to shoot.”
According to Chambers, Taylor’s performance has earned him a spot in the starting lineup where his production is only expected to improve.
“It felt great being able to start, but starting or not I just go in there and play as hard as I can,” Taylor said. “I’m a freshman, I’m new so I’m just trying to learn how to play with the other guys. They’ve been there and in coaches system so I’m just trying to get into it.”