The Marquette Connection: DJ Newbill and The Scholarship That Wasn’t

“I believe that everything happens for a reason. He moved on from there, so, who knows?”

DJ Newbill’s path to Penn State was incredibly unique. A talented combo guard from Philadelphia’s Strawberry Mansion High School, Newbill was recruited by Marquette and then-coach Buzz Williams after a standout senior year. He committed and signed a letter of intent, and was ready to spend the next four years in Milwaukee. However, when Oregon forward Jamil Wilson chose to transfer to Marquette, Williams and the Golden Eagles decided to pull Newbill’s scholarship to make room. Newbill explained the situation to OS alum Bill DiFilippo last year in a piece for SLAM Magazine.

“After the school year was over, it was time for me start with the paperwork and getting into the school…then I got a phone call and Buzz was telling me…actually he called my high school coach and he told me that they were gonna take my scholarship and use it to go another route. They wanted me to go to prep school and recruit me all over again for the following year because they had given out too many scholarships.”

Instead, Newbill set his sights south and played for a different set of Golden Eagles; the ones down at Southern Mississippi. After that, Pat Chambers recruited Newbill to Happy Valley, and he’s been a Nittany Lion ever since.  He has settled well as the face of Chambers’ most talented roster in his four years at the helm. “I’m happy where I’m at,” he said when asked about his journey. “This is the greatest decision I’ve ever made.”

Buzz Williams, the man who cut him loose in that ethically questionable move, will be on the sideline across from him for the first time on Wednesday, when the Hokies of Virginia Tech come to town. Consistently underrated the last two years, Newbill has busted out this season, and brought energy and leadership with him to the BJC. For the first time since high school, Newbill will get to show off his skills in front of the man who would have been his coach. That storyline doesn’t much concern Newbill.

“At first I didn’t know he was the coach.” he said. “If it wasn’t for the incident that we had, I probably wouldn’t have been here.”

Newbill is here, though, and Penn State is thankful to have him. He’s averaging 25 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 3.1 assists per game, outpacing both Tim Frazier and Talor Battle’s senior seasons in almost every aspect. He has played the 13th-most minutes in the nation, and the most of any player in a Power Five conference. He’s also the nation’s third-leading scorer, lighting it up from three and in close and proving himself as dynamic as anyone in the country. This all despite being under-recruited, underappreciated, and unceremoniously dropped and transferring.

He won’t say it, but that type of journey would put a chip on anyone’s shoulder. Don’t be surprised if Newbill is a bit more fired up than usual tonight. So thank you, Buzz Williams. Newbill has become the poster child for the new era of Penn State basketball, playing out of this world and leading on and off the court; the perfect player to bring Penn State to the national stage.

About the Author

Noel Purcell

Noel Purcell is Onward State's Features Editor. He's a senior Supply Chain major, but is going to law school at some point in the future and masquerades as a writer for now. He continues to disappoint his ancestors by being a complete Irish stereotype. His email is [email protected] because there were no other Noels before him. His ex-wife got the good half of his bio in the divorce settlement.

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