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Re-setting The Bar

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For years, the accomplishments of the Penn State men’s basketball team have been few and far between. Head coach Patrick Chambers has posted a 23-67 overall conference record in his five seasons, one of the worst marks among Power 5 schools. Only TCU, Boston College, Texas Tech and Virginia Tech have a lower in-conference winning percentage than Penn State's .256 mark during that span.

The Nittany Lions have not managed one winning conference record during his five-year stint with the program, topping out at 7-11 last season.

To the casual observer, it may seem about time for a coaching change.

But help is on the way. Chambers has managed to put together a top 20 recruiting class for the 2016-2017 season, giving legitimacy to the idea that things are about to finally change.

Top recruits Tony Carr, Nazeer Bostick and Lamar Stevens will all make the short trip from Roman Catholic High School in Philadelphia, where they won two state championships, to State College this fall.

Carr, a four-star point guard recruit, is widely considered the best of the bunch. He ranked 42nd on the 2016 ESPN 100 recruiting database, and 10th among all guards.

“You’ve got to look at (Carr) to come in and be a leader almost from the get go,” said Josh Verlin, owner and editor of City of Basketball Love, a Philadelphia-based basketball news outlet. “They need to trust him. They need to let him run things.”

According to Verlin, Carr has all the tools to compete for a starting job right away. The 6’5”, 185-pound guard has the potential to lead the program to new heights.

“He’s kind of everything you want from a point guard,” Verlin said. “He’s got the capability to go down as one of the great Nittany Lion basketball players of all time. I don’t mean to put that much pressure on him right away, but that’s his potential.”

Chris McNesby, Carr’s former coach at Roman Catholic, raved about the young guard’s ceiling.

“Tony is your consummate point guard,” McNesby said. “Great core vision, pass-first point guard. If he gets two points, he’s fine with that. If he scores 15, he’s fine with that, as well. He just likes to get other guys involved. When you have a guy like that, he can be your leader.”

Carr's Roman Catholic teammates are also expected to make an impact in the Big 10. Bostick, a 6’4”, 180-pound shooting guard, and Stevens, a 6’6”, 215-pound small forward, can be key contributors for the Nittany Lions right out of the gate.

“Bostick is your gritty guy, your defensive stopper,” McNesby said of his former pupil. “I think he’s going to come into games and really provide a spark when needed. He’s a warrior.

“Stevens is very athletic, really good in transition. He has the potential to be a very good defender; he can probably guard two or three different positions at the college level.

“They all kind of feed off each other," McNesby continued. "Those guys have won a lot of basketball games. I’ve seen them with their backs against the wall and I’ve seen how they responded.”Penn State Tony Carr

Verlin said he’s interested to see how Bostick and Stevens develop throughout their time at Penn State.

“He was such a physical presence at the high school level,” Verlin said of Stevens. “It’s kind of about how they can create opportunities for him. If they get him running up and down the floor, he’ll be a beast.

“Bostick is an energy kid. He might need a year or two to really come along.”

Rounding out the freshman class is Joe Hampton. The power forward out of Oak Hill Academy in Virginia may need some polishing, but he’s got a strong work ethic, according to Verlin.

“He works his butt off,” he said of Hampton. “He’s a little undersized, but he’s an Oak Hill kid.”

Whether Chambers’ recruiting efforts will pay off is yet to be seen. However, he appears to have Penn State on the right track for the first time in a long time.

“There’s optimism,” Verlin said. “The next three years are going to tell us everything. It takes a little time to build up a program. They’re going to be young still. My guess is their best years are still two or three years away.”

“Coach Chambers is really a Philly guy,” McNesby said. “I think he’s just giving these kids a vision of what it can be, how special it can be once they turn it around. And these guys can be the pioneers for the program.”

For a lot of young student-athletes, sports are essentially a hobby. They represent an activity to boost a college résumé or a tool to stay active. But for many young athletes, sports mean much more.
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