Basketball’s easy, right? Only takes a couple of recruits, we’ve got a million of ’em in our backyard, we all picked Penn State without anybody throwing a free education at us.
How hard can it be?
Before every season starts, we all know who has a good chance of making it to the tournament without looking at a roster, scanning Street & Smith or subscribing to kenpom.com.
To paraphrase another Moneyball line, there are teams with a winning tradition, and there’s everyone else. And every fan and schoolboy/recruit knows which is which.
In the last 30 years, only two high-major programs have joined the perennial NCAA tournament group without cheating (like Memphis and Baylor) or otherwise compromising admissions standards: Wisconsin and Pitt.
The coaches who get the credit for those clean turnarounds – Stu Jackson and Ben Howland – failed at their next stops even as their schools took advantage of the tradition they established.
It’s incredibly hard.
For the third time in the last three decades, Penn State is in a position to legitimately improve its fortunes.
The first chance came in the mid 1990s, when Bruce Parkhill was recruiting with other high majors: Parade All America Dan Earl, top-50 junior Pete Lisicky (pursued by Duke and UCLA), top-125 Calvin Booth, state high school players of the year Matt Gaudio and Glen Sekunda.
The second came in the mid 2000s, when Ed DeChellis assembled a group of “reaches” that hit and started winning some games: Geary Claxton, Jamelle Cornley, Talor Battle, and added a highly-rated Jeff Brooks.
Those fragile foundations crumbled soon after.
The poor performance against Northwestern and somewhat disappointing Big 1o record has obscured it, but Chambers has this program in rare territory.
Despite Penn State’s tradition and its current record, he’s somehow recruited with the big boys, and better than anyone here since Parkhill.
Chambers has signed Geno Thorpe, Shep Garner, Mike Watkins and Josh Reaves – guys reported to have legitimate high-major interest. It sounds like Joe Hampton, who committed in August for the class that signs LOIs next year, is cut from the same cloth.
Penn State has survived, and on only rare occasions thrived, with ambitious guys for whom Penn State was their best, and often only, high-major conference offer. Penn State is successfully recruiting with its peers for only the second time in 30 years.
Chambers has five scholarships in this recruiting cycle: one available for the late signing period this year, and the rest (with Hampton committed for one of them) for next. The 2015 early signing period is 257 days away.
The next nine months bears watching.