Dan Palombizio had to come up with an answer to that age-old dilemma: whether to be a big fish in a small pond or a small fish in a big pond.
After two difficult years in the big pond of Purdue University, Palombizio chose to move to the relatively small pond of Ball State University. Now he is the leading scorer in the nation for Division I college basketball players, averaging 27.4 points per game.
"I was just so upset and so depressed (at Purdue) that I would take it off the court and my life was just miserable," Palombizio said. "I knew after that I just couldn't take a chance of going into my junior year unhappy, so I had to make a decision."
Palombizio, a junior in athletic eligibility, is also averaging 11.4 rebounds per game, going in and out of the top 10 nationwide in that category. He is a rugged, stocky player with the willingness to go inside for the ball.
But, while playing in 59 of 60 games at Purdue in the 1981-82 and 1982-83 seasons, the 6-foot-8 forward averaged only 6.7 points and 3.5 rebounds per contest.
"My freshman year I was sixth man," says Palombizio, a former Indiana Mr. Basketball from Michigan City, Ind. "I'd come in and out, in and out. So when it came to my sophomore year I said, 'All right, I'm going to get a few shots. I'm going to be a role player, but I'm going to be used offensively just as well as any other part of my game.'
"Well, I was just so far away from the basket and I wasn't getting into the game mentally because, well, you know, when you're going out there knowing that you are not going to be able to use your strengths . . . "
He let the sentence fade away.
"After games, I was sometimes crying," he said. "I had about six or seven good games. So, it was toward my best interest to leave if I wanted to make the NBA, to accomplish what I always wanted to accomplish in my life."
There were always people in the Purdue lineup keeping Palombizio from chasing his high school averages of 31.8 points and 17.1 rebounds. His first season as a Boilermaker, senior Keith Edmondson and sophomore center Russell Cross were the scorers.
In Palombizio's sophomore year, the offense was designed to get the ball into Cross, and Palombizio believed Purdue coach Gene Keady was set against him even trying to score.
"I started every game that year until the NCAA because I quit, then came back," he said. "But I wanted to quit after the Ohio State game that was on national television because it felt like every time I'd take a shot I'd get taken out."
So Palombizio chose to transfer to Ball State, where his high school coach, Bill Hahn, had accepted an assistant coach's job. Al Brown, Ball State's head coach, had recruited Palombizio originally and "I heard he was a good big-man coach," Palombizio says.
That's when fate played a trick. Cross decided to forego his senior year to enter the NBA, and Purdue suddenly found itself without a star.
That didn't hurt the Boilermakers, who built on a no-name image and used the emerging talent of Jim Rowinski to win the Big Ten title in 1983-84.
But for Palombizio, who was sitting out on competitive basketball for a season because of the transfer, it was a painful series of events, because he might have been the star on that no-star team.
"It could have been that way, but I couldn't chance it," Palombizio said. "I transferred before Russell Cross made his decision to go pro. If I had known, it might have really changed my decision."
There was another problem for Palombizio at Purdue. Keady, he says, attempted to crush his lifelong dream to play in the NBA.
"He said I would never be good enough," Palombizio said. "He did say that, in front of the whole team, because I was thinking about quitting, and he just wanted to make me look stupid.
"But that's his opinion. It doesn't really bother me because I am going to make it and that is all there is to it. And when I do make it, he'll start wondering."
If Palombizio does make it to the NBA, he will be the first Ball State player ever to advance to that level. He is unsure whether playing in the relative obscurity of the Mid-American Conference (as opposed to the limelight of the Big Ten) would hurt his chances, but he's pretty sure leading the nation in scoring will help.
"It would be nice to lead the nation in scoring the whole year. I've led it almost the whole year now," he said. "But, if I don't, as long as we win and as long as I'm successful in life, that is all that matters.
"If you're a player, they (the NBA) will find you. All I want is a shot."