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Penn State Basketball: Upcoming Offseason As Big As It Gets For Program's Future

by on March 03, 2015 2:00 PM

Penn State basketball's season is over. 

Certainly there are at least three more games to go, and maybe a postseason if the last few games play out in any sort of positive fashion.

But the NCAA tournament dream has been long gone, the NIT hopes seem to be hanging on the theoretical possibility of a late season run.

Other than that, these games are nothing more than a chance for younger players to get more experience and for DJ Newbill and Ross Travis to enjoy their final minutes at Penn State.

Whatever you might think about the successes and failures of Penn State's season, Pat Chambers and his staff face an offseason that might be even more important than the regular season they're about to complete.

The fact of the matter is that Penn State basketball has been caught in the same cycle for years when it comes to talent level. The occasional recruiting steal, some mid level players and the hope that things work out somewhere between their freshman and senior seasons.

On rare occasions you get a team that has multiple players capable of operating at a high level and those results are easy to see.

An NIT Championship was the byproduct of an experienced team capable at multiple positions. The most recent NCAA tournament berth the result of seniors playing with confidence and years of experience under their belts.

In both cases though quality of basketball being played dropped off dramatically in the following season. There was no sustained success, just flashes in the pan. By the time Ed DeChellis left the program it was as much a reflection of the talent on his roster as it was his interest in moving on.

The problem Penn State has had the past few years is really meaningful depth at meaningful positions. Had Jermaine Marshall stayed for his senior season, Penn State would have had a chance to do something special with a group of Marshall, DJ Newbill and Tim Frazier.

With his departure it took until the midway point in the season for Newbill to become the player he is today and by then Frazier was more content to find his partner in crime than force the issue scoring the ball. Two high level players, but still really only one high level score for defenses to key in on. The rest of the roster was functional, but not entirely threatening.

A few good players, and a lot of place holders for a program trying to be something better than its current state.

This offseason is a chance to change that cycle.

Penn State's 2015 recruiting class is advertised as the best the program has ever had. Two four-star Rivals' Top 150 commits and a lanky outside shooter certainly make the case for that distinction. They'll join the cautiously optimistic group of Shep Garner, Geno Thorpe, Julian Moore, Jordan Dickerson and Brandon Taylor along with nearly all of Penn State's 2015 roster aside from Ross Travis and DJ Newbill.

The key now, getting them some help. And that's why the 2016 recruiting class is one of the biggest for this program's future.

Just this past weekend Penn State hosted three big recruits. Lamar Stevens, Tony Carr and Nazeer Bostick. Both Stevens and Carr are four-star prospects with high-major interest. Ties to Philadelphia, ties to quality hoops. Bostick was teammates with Watkins before Watkins transfer.

"It's huge, it's huge." Chambers said inside the basketball offices Monday. "For us to have kids like that (Chambers did not specify who) on campus for us to be battling the way we are and for us to have our record the way it is, it's big. People are noticing and people believe. They see the 2015 class coming in. There is a crystal ball here, there is some young talent there is some athletic talent. We've got some speed and we've got some skill. It's coming."

"It's not going to be built in a couple years, it's going to take time."

A commitment from either or both of them would join four-star forward Joe Hampton who has already committed to Chambers. If you're keeping count at home, three of Penn State's last four commitments have been four-stars with two more giving Penn State a serious look.

Zoom out even farther and in theory, in the most optimistic world Penn State is two years from putting a starting five on the four completely comprised of four-star prospects. Even if that doesn't happen Penn State could have a starting five of all Philadelphia players sooner rather than later. Nearly unheard of before now.

That's pretty unfamiliar territory for hoops in Happy Valley.

That's a good reason to keep an eye on Penn State basketball the next few months, no matter how the last three games go.

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