Star point guards Taylor, Frazier to face off

MADISON, Wis. — Ask coaches to dissect the actual

value of a particular player on a team, and you’re likely to discover their

answers do not come in easily quantifiable measures.

Does a player’s value hinge on the number of wins he creates for his team? Is

it in his ability to lead? Is it altogether incalculable?

Penn State basketball coach Patrick Chambers doesn’t have a formulaic set of

criteria to provide a specific answer. Because of this, he can’t say exactly

how valuable Nittany Lions point guard Tim Frazier is to his team. What he does

know is that Penn State wouldn’t be nearly as good without Frazier this season.

“He’s probably 80 percent of everything we do — maybe more,”

Chambers said of the junior from Houston. “What’s great about Frazier is

he comes in every day to practice and he does it in practice. He’s not looking

for days off.

“You take Tim Frazier off this team, I don’t know where we’d be right now.

I can tell you we wouldn’t be 10-12. He’s that valuable to our team.”

When Penn State (2-7 in the Big Ten) plays host to No. 19 Wisconsin (17-5, 6-3)

at 7 p.m. CT on Tuesday, the game will feature an intriguing matchup of star

point guards in Frazier and Wisconsin’s Jordan Taylor.

While Taylor earned preseason All-America accolades, Frazier is perhaps even

more valuable to his team — however unquantifiable that may be.

Frazier leads Penn State in points per game (17.9), assists (6.3), rebounds

(4.9) and steals (2.2). He has played more minutes than any other teammate,

taken more shots and even ranks fourth on the team in blocked shots with six.

If Penn State asked him to sell concessions at halftime, he’d likely pull off

that feat with aplomb, too.

“He’s probably counted on even more to provide offense for them than we

are (with Taylor),” Wisconsin assistant coach Lamont Paris said.

“We’ve had other games where we’ve had four guys in double figures. They (the

Nittany Lions) haven’t had as many times where they’ve had that situation.

“He’s one of the most dynamic scorers that we’ve played and will play all

year. He’s got a lot of different ways to finish. Floaters, attacking the glass

and the rim, step-backs and 3s.”

Taylor, a 6-foot-1, 195-pound senior, does lead Wisconsin in points (13.9) and

assists (4.3), but the overall talent level on the Badgers has allowed him to

defer to others at times. As a team, Wisconsin shoots 43.4 percent from the

field and leads the country in scoring defense, surrendering just 49.6 points

per game while scoring 65.2.

“You can always count on him for a big shot,” Chambers said of Taylor.

“He’s a big shot taker. He’s a big shot maker. Jordan probably shoots his

3 a little bit better than Tim (Frazier), but they’re very similar in the way

they play, the way they distribute, their leadership and the way they run a

team.”

The similarities between the two players stop when it comes to surrounding

talent because Frazier does not have the luxury of playing with such a balanced

unit.

Penn State shoots just 38.3 percent from the field and gives up 2.4 more points

than it scores. Who knows how much worse off the Nittany Lions would be without

Frazier?

“I know Frazier’s a heck of a player,” Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said.

“He’s quick. He sees the floor. He finds open guys. He can get to the rim

in a blink. As they used to say down south, he’s quicker than a hiccup.”

The 6-1, 170-pound Frazier has increased his offensive production exponentially

after spending his first two seasons at Penn State playing the role of

facilitator. His scoring increase is the largest improvement in the Big Ten

this season and the second largest of any conference player over the last 15

seasons.

Last season, he played a bit part in the Taylor Battle show. Battle, who has

since graduated, averaged 20.2 points and fired 15.6 shots per game. Frazier

averaged just 6.3 points and tacked on 5.1 assists, although he emerged as a

double-digit scorer over Penn State’s final 11 games, which included the Big

Ten Tournament and an NCAA Tournament appearance.

With Battle gone, along with other departed seniors Jeff Brooks (13.1 points),

David Jackson (9.9 points) and Andrew Jones (6.0 points), Frazier is the only

returning player among the Nittany Lions’ top five scorers from a year ago.

“The one thing that I’m most proud of is his growth and his maturity and

his leadership,” Chambers said. “When you have a youthful team and

you don’t have someone they can follow, then you’re really in big trouble.

“He’s taken the torch from Taylor and the other seniors from last year.

He’s embraced it. We’ve had a lot of ups and downs, but with his attitude and

his work ethic, the future of Penn State basketball is going in the right

direction.”

Perhaps that says more about Frazier’s value to Penn State than anything else.

Follow Jesse Temple on Twitter @jessetemple.