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Penn State Basketball: Big Ten/ACC Challenge Game The Final Chapter In A Unique Story

by on May 02, 2014 10:28 AM

If things had worked out the way DJ Newbill had planned, he never would have ended up at Penn State.

That's not to say that the soon-to-be Nittany Lion senior guard hasn't enjoyed his time in Happy Valley, but rather, it took quite a few twists and turns for him to end up where he is today.

Newbill will get a chance to revisit his past as Penn State hosts Virginia Tech at the Bryce Jordan Center on Dec. 3 as part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. The conference announced the full slate of games for the challenge late on Thursday.

While Newbill doesn't have any history with the Hokies, newly-hired head coach Buzz Williams and Newbill have an interesting relationship that makes for an intriguing storyline heading into the game.

Back in 2010, Newbill was ready to make his college decision. After the usual ups and downs of the recruitment process, Newbill finally pulled the trigger and verbally committed to Marquette. Williams was Marquette's head coach at the time. 

“It feels great,” said Newbill after committing. “Marquette has great coaches. Their whole team works hard and plays hard. You get better playing in their system, and they will get the most out of you.”

That commitment happened in January. By the time June rolled around the story was a very different one. 

"Through a culmination of several things, we have decided to give D.J. Newbill his release," Williams said in June of 2010. "D.J.'s a great kid, he comes from a great family who we have established relationships with, and we're going to do everything we can to help him in his future, in whatever capacity that would be."

But the release wasn't Newbill's fault. He hadn't gotten himself in trouble, his grades were fine, he was ready to go just like any other high school senior headed to play big time Division I ball.

Jamil Wilson on the other hand, was looking for a new place to play ball as well. The 6-foot-7, 210 pound forward transferring from Oregon, ready to join Williams at Marquette. The only problem was that Marquette was out of scholarships.

So Williams cut Newbill.

"Having an opportunity to get to know Jamil and his family, I was telling him once he got his release that it's ironic that he was one of the first guys I ever did a home visit with when I was the head coach at Marquette," Williams said of Wilson at the time.

"To be able to talk to him -- in essence two years later -- about the same thing and visit with his dad face-to-face again ... because we built the relationship that we did way back then, I think that made his decision to come here much easier."

Newbill would transfer to Southern Miss before finally landing at Penn State. After a few more years at Marquette, Williams took the head coaching job at Virginia Tech this offseason.

As a result, Williams will get to talk to Newbill -- in essence four years later -- and both can compare their respective paths to that point.

In all likelihood Newbill will take the high road heading into this game months from now. He's content at Penn State and now the new leader of the team, all of which leaves little room for him rehashing this story.

But for a player as competitive as Newbill is, on a team always needing to prove its worth like Penn State does, it would be foolish to assume the chip on Newbill's shoulder won't be the slightest bit bigger than it usually is.

Penn State and Virginia Tech have met seven times in program history, dating back to the 1920-21 season, with the Hokies holding a 6-1 advantage. The teams last faced each other in the 2007 Challenge with the Nittany Lions earning a 66-61 victory.

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Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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