Roommates, Veteran Leaders Fuel Penn State’s 8-1 Start

Brandon Taylor, Penn State’s versatile 6-foot-6 junior forward, isn’t letting Penn State’s 8-1 start to this season excite him. He remembers his early days in State College, when the Nittany Lions finished with only 10 wins and a 2-16 conference record during his freshman campaign.

“I still try to remember everything that’s happened since I’ve been here,” said Taylor on Monday. “I try to use that to fuel us everyday.”

Donovon Jack and D.J. Newbill were also new to the program that year, and Ross Travis was still an inexperienced sophomore. Now, the four live together and lead a veteran team poised to find more success than in years past.

As roommates, the four may be a mismatched bunch. Taylor said Newbill doesn’t cook, and only occasionally cleans. He added that their takeout orders would make coach Patrick Chambers cringe.

But despite their caloric late-night indulgences and apparent disregard to hygiene, the four’s bond has translated to on-court success.

Newbill attributed much of his success to his teammates, saying that their experience has helped enormously during the rare moments when he isn’t scoring. “I’m older, wiser, that much better,” said Newbill. “I have better players around me… I feel like we have a veteran group, all these guys have been through it.”

He may be the nation’s fourth-leading scorer at 23.3 points a game, but Newbill consistently neglected the idea that he was Penn State’s only offensive option. “I don’t have to come out and be the leading scorer every night,” he said.

Travis has started the year 2-for-16 from the foul line. Newbill, his roommate and teammate, has little doubt that Travis will right the ship. “Ross will be fine,” he said. “He works hard.”

Taylor said he and Newbill often have deep conversations. A Tabernacle, N.J. native, Taylor said he benefitted this summer from living right across the bridge from Philadelphia, where Newbill lives. “I’m his roommate, he’s one of my closest friends,” he said. “From all of the work he’s put in I’m not surprised at all [about his success].”

“He’s pretty much unguardable,” Taylor added.

Chambers echoed Taylor’s remark. “He’s doing it all,” he said. “He’s got to continue to do it all, that’s what the team needs from him.”

Whether the Nittany Lions’ success is due to Newbill, as Chambers suggested, or his teammates, as Newbill insinuated, is unclear. Regardless, the program is receiving the attention it lacked in the four’s first two seasons. During last week’s win against Virginia Tech, 7,326 people flocked to the Jordan Center, including an energetic student section.

“Before, we probably lost like four games by now,” said Newbill. “Now that we’re winning, the fans come out and support.” Newbill isn’t far off: Through nine games last year, Penn State had three losses. The year before, that figure was four.

“The fans appreciate us,” Newbill said. “They know how hard we work, they want to see us do [well].”

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Ben Berkman

State College, PA

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