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Dec. 5, 2012
By Kelsey Detweiler, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lions call the Bryce Jordan Center their `home' court. But for most of the young men on the Penn State roster, the place that they call home is more than two, three or even four hours away from State College.
On Wednesday night, the Lions travel to Philadelphia to face the La Salle Explorers and enter into the hometown city of a few of their own.
Head coach Patrick Chambers grew up in historic city and played basketball at Philadelphia University from 1990 until 1994. He also spent a lot of time watching his brother, Paul, as a point-guard for Penn in the same venue that his team will be traveling to. They call it the Palestra.
"I've never coached in the Palestra as a head coach, only as an assistant so, there's going to be some major energy and butterflies in my body I'm sure," said Chambers. "It's a special place in my heart."
The building was given its Greek name because in the ancient civilization young men would compete in multiple events in a rectangular area, one that was attached to a gymnasium where spectators could watch, and it was called a Palestra. Chambers said that even though it doesn't look overly exciting, the history of the building and all of the talented basketball players that have played there makes it one of a kind.
"It actually looks like Rec Hall," said Chambers. "When you grow up, when you're a young kid and your dad and your brother bring you down to the games you want to play there and you want to be a part of that history. There's so much rich tradition down there - when it comes to college basketball it's just an amazing feeling."
Sophomore guard D.J. Newbill is equally anxious to play inside the nostalgic building on Wednesday night, but has another reason to be excited too. Newbill played high school basketball at Strawberry Mansion in the northeast region of the city.
"It's always good to go back and play in front of my hometown, a lot of my friends and family will be there," said Newbill. "Playing in the Palestra, that's one of the most famous venues in Philly so I'm just looking forward to a great experience."
Newbill said that he played a few summer league games inside the well-known building when he was a teenager, but never a big-time competition against a tough Big Five team.
Freshman guard Brandon Taylor is another Lion that has strong ties to the City of Brotherly Love. Taylor grew up in the northern parts of Philadelphia and played AAU ball for Team Philly.
Taylor said that his dad has been telling him stories about big games that have been played in the Palestra for years, but the freshman has only ever practiced inside the facility.
The rookie said that he's looking forward to seeing his friends and family in the stands supporting him. But he said that he's even more excited to showcase his style of basketball in the place where he learned it. It's that `Philly Swagger'.
"It's just being tough, really," said Taylor. "You've got to go out there and be tough, play as hard as you can."