For those of you who read my work at LBU, you might remember me presenting a case that the chances of Coach Chambers landing future-pro and fellow Philadelphian, Amile Jefferson, were not totally far-fetched. Chambers had just been hired and I got caught up in the hype surrounding his Philadelphia connections. Clearly I thought he had enough pull in the city's basketball scene to get seriously involved with the highly-sought Jefferson. Five weeks or so have passed, and while Amile continues to claim he's wide open, Penn State is not being mentioned whatsoever. While that's not a total surprise, I will say I'm not pleased when you see some of the schools he plugs that are 'recruiting him the hardest.' Schools like N.C. State (new coach), Alabama, Miami FL (new coach), Temple, and Stanford.
Usually the top notch Philly recruits that leave the city head off to the Dukes, UNCs, Kentuckys, or Syracuses. The fact that Jefferson is truly willing to look at schools outside of the box for the perfect situation, yet still doesn't seem to even care for Penn State, is quite frustrating. Yes, Villanova, OSU, and Maryland were mentioned as well, but so what. If you wanna get the big players, you're going to have to go up against the big boys. I still hold firm that Penn State could have entered the picture with Jefferson (after all, NC State did so in the matter of about a month). Maybe they still will, but it is even far more unlikely than it already was when I first brought the possibility to the table.
While I'm disappointed that no ground was made on the Jefferson front, I do think this has allowed me to solidify my beliefs on PSU basketball recruiting at this time. I don't care where the prospects are from, we need Big Ten-caliber players now. As long as they can fulfill the expectations set forth for a Penn State student-athlete, they can be from Timbuktu as far as I'm concerned. It's too early to prioritize establishing pipelines that likely won't materialize, especially if the players who first come don't flourish. PSU relevancy in college basketball will be the key to opening doors in Philadelphia, DC, NYC, and other talent-rich hot beds. Obviously PSU will try to establish these connections anyway, as they should, but they can't just focus on one geographic area. For now, get the best possible players from anywhere in the land. That's why I think the whole 'Chambers is going to get Philly players' is a little overhyped right now. He's going to try and hopefully he'll be successful, but he's also going to be everywhere else there is an interested prospect that can ball at this level.
That being said, Penn State will always have a presence in nearly all Pennsylvania regions not named Philadelphia or Pittsburgh. The former regime started to take advantage of this, nabbing guys like Jermaine Marshall (Harrisburg), Tre Bowman (York), and Peter Alexis (Wilkes-Barre). But the problem is the state doesn't produce enough high-major talent outside of the big metropolises for PSU to build up a program. So when a big-time player does arise from these regions, it's important for PSU to jump all over it. Luckily for Coach Chambers, one such player has arisen, and Patrick knew of him before he arrived in State College.
Devin Thomas is a 6'8" PF from my alma-mater, Central Dauphin HS in suburban Harrisburg. The rising senior has been a prominent mid-state presence for the last 2 years, but this summer he has taken his talents all over the country in pursuit of high-major exposure on the AAU circuit. It's been paying off as he has acquired scholarship offers from PSU, Wake Forest, Clemson, Seton Hall, and Marquette. His recruitment is starting to take off and I'm sure he's going to have a crazy August once the evaluation period is over.
This past season DT was an absolute beast for the Rams, averaging 21.4 PPG, 12.2 RPG, 2.9 BPG. His best performance came against Bishop McDevitt when he went off for 43 points and 23 boards. He carried CD, not known for its basketball prowess, to a 20-7 record and an appearance in the state tournament. He was one of two juniors selected to the 6-member 1st team AAAA all-state team. While CD bowed out in the 1st round of the state playoffs, Devin outplayed former Pitt recruit (and now current PSU target) Jaylen Bond.
With little to no chance at Jefferson, Thomas is seemingly the #1 target for the last scholarship in the 2012 class. Chambers has presumably evaluated him at all 3 grassroots events his Mid-Penn Motion AAU team has attended (Adidas Invitational, Hoop Group Summer Classic East, WV Hoop Group JamFest). Penn State is sitting in a great position to land Thomas and will likely be one of his leaders until the end. He has already unofficially visited campus back at the end of June. Coach Chambers actually offered him, while he was at Boston U, so the two likely have already formed a good relationship.
One roadblock to Devin's path to PSU could be Maryland, home of his incredibly gifted sister Alyssa, who just finished her freshman campaign with the Terps. I haven't seen/heard much interest in Devin from Maryland's end, but it's still early yet. One recruitment doesn't determine a recruiter's ability, but it'll be awfully tough to swallow if PSU lets Thomas get away.