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Penn State Basketball: Stevens Back To Finish What He Started

by on July 17, 2019 2:50 PM

With the deadline just 24 hours away Lamar Stevens picked up his phone to talk with Penn State coach Pat Chambers. Stevens was coming back -he thought- but he wanted to use that final day to make sure.

All those long practices at Roman Catholic, all of those ups and downs with Penn State, all of the hard work, all of the sacrifices. It had led to this moment. He was so close to that dream of playing in the NBA, and he was about to delay it for at least another year.

But the timing wasn't quite right, and he knew it, so just a few hours from a deadline that would have forced Stevens to enter the NBA Draft, he made the call, for good this time.

He was coming back.

Those dreams could wait a bit longer, plus there were a few things left for him to do at Penn State.

"It was always a win-win for me, it was just timing," Stevens said on Wednesday. "What I wanted to do at that time, what my heart wanted and it always was Penn State, I felt like I wanted to come back to Penn State and finish what I started."

"It's definitely hard because you dream of being in that position all your life and when you have an opportunity to actually accomplish it you always kind of want to jump and seize it. The timing isn't right, I always think that I can get better and improve my draft stock even more. So I kind of just looked at it that it would be better for me in the long run."

The ramifications for Penn State basketball are massive. Stevens provides the Nittany Lions with an All-American quality player with scoring touch and improving but also underrated defensive qualities. His return legitimizes a roster stocked with both young and veteran talent poised for a potential NCAA tournament appearance. Where the departure of guard Tony Carr left Penn State in uncertain waters prior to the 2018 season, the Nittany Lions walk into 2019 with a chance to make good on promises made long ago when Chambers was hired.

Stevens' return is in many ways an endorsement of that process, the senior has long advocated for his coaching staff, one that has received its fair share of criticism, both reasonable and unreasonable in nature. Few of those same critics have had anything bad to say about Stevens' game, and while the Philadelphia native returned for his own benefit, the implied support for Chambers and his assistants is not to be overlooked.

Now it's one final run at the elusive NCAA tournament bid. For Stevens the night that he, Tony Carr and Nazeer Bostick were the centerpiece of a signing ceremony for fans at the Bryce Jordan Center must feel like yesterday. Bostick would eventually leave the program, while Carr would test the NBA waters after a breakout sophomore season leaving Stevens all alone to finish what they started to see the optimism from that night finally realized on the court.

"It's more that I didn't get to where I wanted to go yet," Stevens said. "So if I didn't get to where I wanted to go of course I'm going to come back and go through it again until I get there. If I had more years of eligibility and we didn't get there next year I would want to do it again. That's just the type of person that I am. I said I wanted to do it, we made those goals, we talked about those goals so I want to make that happen."

Fittingly, not long before Stevens spoke to the media former Nittany Lion DJ Newbill ended his short visit with the program. Newbill, effectively the Godfather of Penn State's recruiting surge in Philadelphia, was the first to open the pathway between the city and State College. Newbill never saw the postseason Promised Land, but Stevens has a chance to take the Nittany Lions there.

"He gave a lot to this program, watching him play I could always remember him going all out for his team, win or loss," Stevens said of Newbill. "He paved the way for us, he's the one who showed Philly, Penn State honestly so just to follow behind him and help finish what he started would be great for me, personally, I would love to do that for him."

Getting to the NCAA Tournament is never easy, and Penn State's schedule will challenged the Nittany Lions to find their footing quickly, but with crucial season ahead for Chambers and his program if they are destined to come up short it won't be for a lack of a resume, and with Stevens returning, it won't be for a lack of firepower either.



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