Chapman attended Scott High School where his team won 20 games in a row and finished ranked No. 4 in Ohio. He transferred to West Virginia after two very successful seasons at Colorado Northwestern Community College. During his two-year tenure with the Spartans, they were 43-19. He averaged 13 points and 13 rebounds as a freshman when they finished 18-12. As a sophomore he upped his shooting average to 21 points a game but still managed to grab 13 rebounds a contest as they finished the year with a fine 25-7 mark. Russell was named first team All-Region and also All-America team honorable mention. Coach Gardner remembered Russell very well for his junior college days. The Spartans and Gardener's Arizona Western teams met three times, the final game coming in the Junior College Regional Championship when Russell hit for 25 points and collected 15 rebounds.

Coming into his first season at WVU, Russell was considered to be a threat from anywhere and his combination of talents was a welcomed addition to the West Virginia program. That year he played in all 28 games and averaged 8 points and 4.5 rebounds overall. Late in the season as a starter he neared the 20-point per game mark.