Shortly after the latest verbal commitment bolstered the 2013 class, Pat Chambers was able to take some time about his recruiting efforts and some of the challenges he has faced as the head coach at Penn State.
Coming in to a program whose image was somewhat attached to a football-first stigma, Chambers has quickly done his best to promote the Penn State basketball brand in the most positive way possible.
“It is the perception of Penn State basketball, it is everywhere,” Chambers said. “I'm not blind, I read it. You see little comments made after some tweets, comments on blogs, you see articles – the perception out there is what it is. So I am dealing with challenges every single day.”
It started on campus. Shortly after being hired, Chambers started driving around campus on a golf cart, handing out t-shirts and doing everything he could to get the students and those in the area excited for the coming season.
The enthusiasm then trickled over into recruiting, beginning with signing transfer and Philadelphia native D.J. Newbill to the class of 2011. Next was getting New Jersey native Brandon Taylor, who played his AAU ball in Philly, to sign on the dotted line during the early signing period for the class of 2012.
Now more recently a new chapter was added, as Chambers received a boost last week in the form of 2013 point-forward and another Philadelphia native, Brandon Austin, who chose Penn State over a host of high major offers.
“It is the coaching, the high schools, the rivalries of Philadelphia that make it so great,” said Chambers, who isn’t permitted to speak on recruiting specifics due to NCAA rules. “You think about how many Philadelphia born and bred college players, coaches, and officials across the country, it’s crazy.”
But his recruiting efforts haven’t been resigned to the eastern portion of the state. Chambers wrestled 2013 Pittsburgh point guard Geno Thorpe from the likes of Wisconsin and Kansas State, and is also hot on the tail western Pennsylvania’s Sheldon Jeter, a 2012 forward.
“Recruiting is very important, especially to get into Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, those are two local areas that we have to recruit heavily,” Chambers said of his philosophy.
Finally, Chambers is going outside of the Keystone state and getting players all around the country to listen, to see the new image of Penn State basketball. He got started soon after accepting the job by landing a verbal from 2012 guard Akosa Maduegbunam, hailing from Massachusettes. It hasn’t stopped there, either, as Chambers has been spotted as far as Arizona to check out prospects.
“We have to across the country though, the best players and the best Penn State people we can find. It isn’t easy to find or do, but to be able to go into those areas is critical for our future.”
What, exactly, is he selling these prospects, to get them interested in a small college town situated in rural central Pennsylvania?
“Playing in the Big Ten, you’re playing on TV every night whether it is on ESPN or the Big Ten Network, and you’re playing against the best competition in the country,” Chambers explained. “Philly, Pittsburgh, D.C. New York City, New Jersey – they’re all three or four hours away, far enough to have your own life but close enough to go home if you want to.”
It all comes back to his employer though, in what makes State College a desirable destination for any high school basketball player.
“You come here for the University, the academics, the Penn State degree, and the 500,000 plus living alumni,” he said.
“You come here for our coaching staff, what we are trying to do here, what we’re trying to build. The players here right now are terrific, this is a true family atmosphere we have here.”