Colin Chambers may have been born to be a Penn basketball player.
It’s no secret that coach Steve Donahue cares a lot about character when evaluating players. Giving a lunch pail to the hardest-worker of each practice is just one example of how he has created a culture of grit and toughness at Penn.
So it makes sense that Chambers — a freshman guard from Malvern, Pa. — earned a spot on the Quakers roster. Ask anyone to describe him as a player, and they will use the same words: hard-working, gritty, team-oriented, just to name a few.
“I think he just fits the culture of our program, and those are the things that really gravitated me toward him,” Donahue said. “He’s just willing to do whatever it takes to help the team win, and fitting the role of a point guard, those were the key things for when we decided to recruit Colin.”
Colin echoed Donahue’s comments about what he will be bringing to the table for the Red and Blue whenever the team returns to the court.
“I’m just going to come in, work hard every day of practice no matter what, just bring the competitive edge,” Chambers said. “Whatever the coaches need me to do, I’m willing to do that.”
Chambers is not the first in his family to be a Penn athlete. His uncle, Tim, was a three-time All-Ivy football player for Penn and the first Quaker to be named Ivy League Player of the Year, in 1984. A few years later, Colin’s father, Paul Chambers, came to Penn with aspirations of following in his brother’s footsteps on the gridiron. However, Paul’s sights quickly shifted to the basketball court.
“I actually went to Penn to play football, and then I walked on to the basketball team, and I was fortunate enough to play,” Paul said. “Some things happened, some guys got hurt, and I was fortunate enough and took advantage of that situation.”
Not only did Paul work his way into the starting lineup, but he ultimately became one of the all-time great Penn point guards, leading the Ivy League in assists in the 1991-92 season and finishing his career with the most assists and steals in Quakers history. Putting this kind of career together exceeded the expectations of many in the program at the time.
“We probably thought, hey, we’re getting a tough kid to help us push our starters, run the second team,” said Donahue, who was an assistant coach for the Quakers during Chambers’ junior and senior seasons. “Well, Paul was such a competitive player [that] he just wouldn’t allow that to happen. And every day, he forced our hand and found himself on the floor.”
Colin already knows what it’s like to follow the path of his father, as both played high school basketball at Episcopal Academy near Malvern. As a freshman, Colin won the Inter-Ac title with his team, before going on to earn three consecutive All-Delco League honorable mentions in his next three years. He ended his career at Episcopal as a team captain during his senior season, an honor signifying his development during those four years.
“I would say Colin’s growth as a player was his maturing into being more of a leader,” said Episcopal Academy head coach Brian Shanahan, who coached Colin during his senior year. “And he’s always been self-disciplined, but also being able to raise the play of others around him to the point where people like playing with Colin Chambers and like being on his team.”
Aside from his toughness, Chambers’ ability to elevate the play of those around him was one of the main attributes that stood out to Donahue during the recruiting process, and it is something that Colin will be tasked with at Penn.
“I just thought the last couple years, we just did not have a pure point guard that could really run the second team,” Donahue said. “And I think he knows that his role right now is to really make whoever he’s playing with better, and that’s where we see him. I just think we don’t have a lot of pure point guards in the program, and we just saw someone that can really fit that mold.”
As for Shanahan, his first season as head coach of Episcopal Academy was Chambers’ senior year, but the two have known each other for Colin’s whole life. Shanahan graduated from Episcopal Academy in 2004, before walking on to the basketball team at Temple. The coach has no doubt that Colin will be able to make a name for himself with the Red and Blue.
“They’re not going to have to question his work ethic. He’s going to show up and he’s going to compete every day,” Shanahan said. “Nothing has been given to him. He’s going to have to work and continue to work for it, and he has.”
So when practices resume and Donahue continues his tradition of giving the lunch pail to the hardest-worker of every practice, don’t be surprised if Colin Chambers goes home with it more than a few times.