Josh Verlin (@jmverlin)
After a bit of a slow start, Pat Chambers‘ Philadelphia ties are starting to pay off in Penn State’s recruiting. Four days after 2015 Imhotep forward Michael Watkins verbally committed to the Nittany Lions, Chambers and his staff got a big commitment from 2014 Roman Catholic guard Shep Garner.
“Very deserving, very proud of him, hardworking kid and I know he really connected well with the staff,” Roman coach Chris McNesby told CoBL by phone from Penn State, where Roman was playing at their team camp this weekend. “(Associate head) coach (Brian) Daly and coach Chambers both have Philadelphia connections and they recruited him hard throughout the process.”
Chambers, a Philly-area native, is an Episcopal and Philadelphia University graduate who also spent time as an assistant at Villanova in the last decade. He’s clearly focusing on Philadelphia, bringing in Pitt transfer John Johnson (Girard College/Life Center) and Southern Miss transfer D.J. Newbill (Strawberry Mansion), as well as Moore, Watkins and now Garner–though the latter says where Chambers is from didn’t play a role in his decision.
“I had a good connection with coach, we hit it off since Day 1 and our relationship just got better and better as time went on,” he said. “I don’t think it had anything to do with the Philly connection or anything like that.”
“The coaches and the team are family-oriented and that’s what I come from. I come from a close-knit family and we always stick together and that’s what they do up here, that’s a big thing to me,” he added.
The 6-foot-2, 170-pound combo guard becomes the second member of PSU’s Class of 2014, along with Williamsport (Pa.) guard Isaiah Washington. In his junior year, Garner averaged 15.7 ppg to lead Roman to a 19-7 record and second-round appearance in the PIAA Class AAAA state playoffs.
He chose Penn State over offers from a number of other mid-major schools, most notably St. Joseph’s, who had been considered the front-runner for long stretches of his recruitment. A strong July period with his Team Final 17U squad could have brought in some high-major offers.
(For more on Garner, check out his CoBL recruiting profile)
McNesby wasn’t surprised by the timing of Garner’s decision.
“His mom hasn’t been up here yet, she was coming up today, so we thought maybe if there was going to be a time, it might be today,” he said. “I think if he walked off campus today without the commitment, then you knew he maybe wasn’t sure.
“I think it was either today or not at all.”
Garner had already made up his mind well before the weekend. He told CoBL that he’d settled on Penn State weeks before, and would have announced it then–if not for his mother’s intervention.
“My mother said ‘no, don’t do it yet’ because she hadn’t been up here yet, she wanted to sit down and talk to the coaches and everything like that,” Garner said. “Yesterday she went through the campus, talked to the coaches and stuff like that. I saw her this morning and she said ‘well, I’m comfortable, I’m in love with the school, I’m in love with the coaches,’ and that’s all I needed to know.”
Chambers nearly had his first Philadelphia recruit last year in Imhotep guard Brandon Austin, but Austin ultimately re-opened his recruitment and wound up picking Providence. Germantown Academy center Julian Moore will be arriving on campus this year, and now getting Garner on board strengthens a key pipeline for a coaching staff clearly determined to target the City of Brotherly Love.
“I think he’ll be a good Philadelphia-area, Chester-area player that Penn State will need and I think Shep will also be a kid who will recruit more from this area,” McNesby said. “We’re excited for Shep.”