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Lions stoked about Rec Hall game

Bruce Parkhill remembers watching a recruit and his father take a tour of Rec Hall several years ago. At one point, the prospect wondered out loud, "Dad -- they really play the games in here?"

Parkhill (left) joined Joyner and Chambers at Wednesday's news conference.

"Yeah," Parkhill, Penn State's men's basketball coach at the time, replied, "but you oughta see the games in here."

Penn State's oldest indoor athletic facility will host its first men's basketball game in more than 17 years this December, when the Nittany Lions will take on Princeton.

Current Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said the game was a result of a year's worth of planning, and credited athletic director David Joyner with helping to overcome the logistical hurdles (installation of a basketball floor and proper basket fixtures, for example) that had prevented Penn State from playing a game there in past seasons.

Chambers, who attended arguably the most famous Penn State game at Rec Hall, the overtime loss to top-ranked Indiana in 1993, as a fan, and some of his staff made sure to put together as complete a plan as possible, anticipating some of those potential roadblocks, before they took the proposal to Joyner, who had wrestled in Rec Hall as a Penn State student and warmed quickly to the idea.

"Anytime we butted up against something, there was always a solution to be had," Chambers said. "And it was always, 'How can we make this happen? How can we get this done?'"

The game will not be included in any Penn State season ticket packages, but season-ticket holders will have first crack at securing one of the 4,200 seats allotted for the general public (there will be 2,100 seats designated for students) when sales for the game begin in September. Parking for the game will be free.

Chambers said the game is part of an effort to educate his players on the history and tradition of Penn State basketball, the same reason he held a practice in Rec Hall last season.

"It reminded me of back in high school -- a nice, tight gym where the fans are up close," guard D.J. Newbill said. "I think it'll be a great atmosphere for us. … I think it increases the intensity of the game, because the fans are right there on your back. It's kind of like how it is at Duke -- when you take the ball out of bounds, the fans are right there. You can feel them grabbing on you."

Parkhill, who has watched some of Penn State's practices for its upcoming foreign tour and showed Chambers some photos of the old Nittany Lion uniforms -- a retro look for the Princeton game is being discussed -- was pleased to know that the Nittany Lions would be playing at least one game in a venue that he felt gave his teams a significant home-court advantage.

"Sometimes our teams that played in Rec Hall get lost in the shuffle ... this is a great way to go back and recognize them," he said. "It's just wonderful to take a night and go back and reminisce and appreciate what all those student-athletes did."

The former coach admitted Rec Hall wasn't the best recruiting tool he had at his disposal, but it did host some memorable evenings for fans, coaches and players alike.

"When it's full," he said, "it's the best."

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