Pat Chambers and D.J. Newbill on Facing Buzz Williams and Va. Tech
In the sport of basketball, sooner or later things tend to come full circle. That will be the case Wednesday night, when Virginia Tech visits Penn State in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge at the Jordan Center.
The 6-1 Nittany Lions' best player is senior guard D.J. Newbill, whose 25 points per game lead the Big Ten and rank third nationally. The 4-2 Hokies are under the guidance of first-year coach Buzz Williams, who left Marquette for Va. Tech in the off-season.
That is the same D.J. Newbill who signed what he thought was a binding letter of intent with Marquette in April of 2010. And that is the same Buzz Williams who, as coach of the Golden Eagles, cut Newbill loose before he ever set foot on campus to clear room for Oregon transfer Jamil Wilson.
Four and a half years later, the two men are crossing paths again. Is there a chance that the sometimes emotional Newbill will be too amped up for the occasion?
Nah, that's years ago, PSU coach Pat Chambers said. You put that one in the back pocket and move on. I would like to think that they're both in better positions. It was a funky way for D.J. to get where he (is), but I believe he's extremely happy with his decision to come to Penn State. He loves this university, loves the program. I think he's good. And Buzz leaving Marquette and going to Virginia Tech to start something from scratch, I think he's probably OK.
According to a report by Yahoo! Sports at the time, Williams found a minor error in some of the paperwork submitted by Newbill's high school (Strawberry Mansion in Philadelphia) that allowed him to be released from the LOI. A school official told Yahoo! Sports there were no issues with Newbill's grades.
Newbill was in a tough spot. Most programs he liked had already filled their allotment of scholarships. And Big East rules prevented him from signing with another conference team, even if someone had space. So he landed at Southern Mississippi, where he lasted only a year before becoming homesick.
In the summer of 2011, he decided to transfer to Penn State. And, after sitting out one season under NCAA transfer rules, he has been the Nittany Lions' best player ever since.
If he is holding a grudge against Williams, Newbill is doing a good job of not letting on.
“It's something that I remember. But coming into this game, my mind-set is just to do whatever I've got to do to get the win. What happened in the past is in the past. I'm happy where I'm at. This is the greatest decision I've ever made. If not for the incident we had, I probably wouldn't have been here, so there's no hard feelings against him.”
It's something that I remember, Newbill said. But coming into this game, my mind-set is just to do whatever I've got to do to get the win. What happened in the past is in the past. I'm happy where I'm at. This is the greatest decision I've ever made. If not for the incident we had, I probably wouldn't have been here, so there's no hard feelings against him.
I believe that everything happens for a reason, Newbill added. Who knows where I would have been had that not happened? He moved on from there, so who knows?
But surely this game has been circled on his calendar for some time, right? Newbill insists that was not the case.
At first I didn't even know he was the coach (of Va. Tech), until after the season had already started, Newbill said. I'm just excited to be playing in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. We lost it last year and we have a chance to redeem ourselves this year. So that's my main focus.
It should be noted that Chambers had a wry smile on his face while discussing this topic. And it should be further noted that last week, when his team was struggling against Akron, Chambers used a blowout loss to the Zips back in 2012 as part of his halftime rallying cry in what would become a Nittany Lion win.
I was on that team and (Akron) basically embarrassed us on TV, Newbill said after the recent 78-72 victory over the Zips. Coach Chambers, he remembered that. I remembered that. Some of the other guys who were here remembered that.
This week, however, they would have you believe they've all developed short memories.
I don't want to live in the past, Chambers said. We've got to move forward and focus on the here, the now.