Historically, the Penn State basketball team has been fighting an uphill battle in the Big Ten. While competitors routinely land the best recruits in their respective states, Penn State head coaches have struggled to keep Pennsylvania recruits from attending other in-state schools with higher basketball profiles.
Can fourth-year head coach Pat Chambers solve this problem in State College? Already there are more recruits from Philadelphia and the surrounding areas on the Penn State roster than there ever were during the Ed DeChellis era. There are even more talented players on the way, but the goal now for Chambers and company is to mold this current collection of players into a cohesive unit that is capable of competing in the Big Ten.
This year, that goal depends a lot on the leadership of combo guard D.J. Newbill.
"He knows all my sayings," said Chambers at Big Ten Media Day, "He knows what I want to do. He might say it before I say it, which is great. That means there's a great connection between us."
The bond between head coach and best player has always been considered an important one in any level of basketball. Penn State has usually had one great player to rely on, though. To get his program to the next level, Chambers must get more from a supporting cast that is experienced but hasn't lived up to its potential yet.
"But we've got to continue to develop [Newbill]," said Chambers, "And get these veterans ready and remain hungry, and they've got to bring the younger guys along."
Penn State has enough experienced returning players in 2014-15 to improve in spite of the graduation of star point guard Tim Frazier. However, the team will still need a lot of things to go right to compete for an NCAA Tournament bid.
"Your culture has got to be right, your environment has got to be right, your leadership has got to be point," said Chambers, "The accountability needs to be there. The locker room needs to be tight. Of all those things -- and I drawback to my experiences at Villanova -- when we were tight, you go to the Final Four."
Villanova also had a lot of talented players from Philadelphia and the surrounding areas to help it reach such heights. The Lions may not be that loaded with talent yet, but under Chambers they're getting there.
"If you continue to get good recruits the way we are right now, then you might be able to get up into that top four, top five [in the Big Ten], but that's the goal, that's the vision."