Penn guard Caleb Wood attempts a three-pointer against Yale at the Palestra.
(Sam Holland/The Daily Pennsylvanian)
19 points, 7 rebounds, 2 fouls, and 1 turnover in a total of 54 minutes.
This is the statline from Penn’s City 6 battle versus Saint Joseph’s where head coach Steve Donahue fully utilized one of his favorite tools: his bench.
The game was a perfect representation of Donahue’s value for his bench. The Quakers’ coach substituted nine players in and out of the game 38 times. That was eight more substitutions than St. Joe’s.
While some fans may be wondering why it’s beneficial to substitute as frequently as Donahue does, Penn’s ring leader prides himself on rewarding players who impress him in practice.
One player that Donahue has started to integrate into the rotation after struggling to find time this season is Cherry Hill native, Jake Silpe.
“I have incredible respect for how [Silpe] handled the last year and a half not playing,” Donahue stated after the St. Joe’s game.
Donahue specifically has admired Silpe’s work ethic and his ability to not sulk or get down on himself. These traits have allowed him to sharpen his basketball IQ by creating an exceptional understanding of Penn’s offense.
Because of this, the third year coach awarded him the title of Penn’s most effective cutter and continued to applaud his ability to create spacing, move the ball, and shoot.
He also complimented the junior guard on his defensive play saying that Silpe is “tough as nails” and “get every loose ball.”
SIlpe’s ability to create opportunities for the Penn offense through undervalued hustle plays is one of the most prominent aspects of his game. This showed up in their matchup with the Hawks on a consistent basis.
From the 12 minute mark to the 7 and a half minute mark of the first half of the St. Joe’s game, Silpe guarded three different people, including 6-foot-10 forward Anthony Longpré and even got a rebound over the Hawks’ big man. Then, just minutes later, Silpe forced a travel by forward James Demery by staying in front of him as he attempted a spin move towards the basket.
As a result, Silpe is staying on the floor and has compiled season highs in four of his last five games in two categories, three pointers attempted and three pointers made. In fact, one of his best games of the season was against Temple, where he exemplified hustle, dishing out 2 assists, collecting 3 steals, and playing for 15 minutes (all of which were season highs).
However, one quality that is often overlooked about Silpe are his leadership qualities.
The 185-pound guard has terrific communication skills on the court, constantly unifying and encouraging his teammates. Donahue acknowledged this attribute well before the St. Joe’s game.
“He’s always been like that and [giving Silpe playing time] just feels fair. He builds our culture the right way,” the head coach explained after the St. Joe’s game.
This leadership characteristic is something that Penn will desperately need when senior guard Darnell Foreman graduates.
On the other hand, Foreman’s future departure will also allow Donahue to deploy a bigger and more physical lineup. With Rothschild and Brodeur as threats in the paint, some extra shooting when Brodeur can’t finish or some muscle at the rim when Rothschild gets into foul trouble will be crucial. The potential for this dual threat presents itself in the form of current freshman Jarrod Simmons.
The 6-foot-8 forward has played in all but one game this season including three games where he played double digits in minutes and eight games where he played for 8 or more minutes. The multifaceted Pennsylvania native has also had two games where he scored in double digits.
Despite Simmons’ streakiness throughout the year, Donahue has kept his faith in the young forward.
“I think Jarrod’s got a chance to be a really good player. One, he can really shoot and he’s got a really good feel for the game. As he gets stronger and more confident, I think he’s gonna be a handful,” he explained after Penn’s game against Penn State Brandywine where Simmons exploded for a career high of 16 points. Another addition to Penn’s dangerous bench is fellow Pennsylvania native, Devon Goodman.
The 6-foot tall guard has appeared in 16 of Penn’s games, averaging above 9 minutes per contest. Unfortunately, Goodman has played in spurts. In Penn’s loss against Fairfield, the sophomore guard scored 8 points, dished out 3 assists, grabbed 3 rebounds, and even snuck in 2 steals in 28 minutes of play.
However, in Penn’s next game, which went into overtime, Goodman didn’t step up and struggled to generate offense against Navy. The Germantown Academy alum scored zero points, produced just 1 assist and 1 steal in 13 minutes of play. But, because of Donahue’s substitution system, Penn can milk as many good minutes as they see fit to help him find his way back into the rotation on a more regular basis. It was just a few weeks ago, in their Ivy League opener against Princeton, that Goodman was granted 12 minutes of play after logging three DNP’s in the five games prior. Goodman provides energy, quickness, and defense, but with Penn’s deep bench, Goodman will have to outplay another guard who is being eased back into playing time.
Junior guard Jackson Donahue, who is coming off of a back injury, has been one of their most consistent players coming off the bench, averaging 12.4 minutes per game when healthy.
However, consistency doesn’t always mean productivity as Donahue has struggled to put up double digit scoring games this season, especially as his three point shot hasn’t fallen on a consistent basis. Donahue is an able three-point shooter (37.8% his freshman season) who has thrived in the last season and half off of his leadership and defensive ability. Most importantly, he has provided toughness and that attribute, regardless of his scoring woes, has proved invaluable to Donahue.
Penn’s electric bench wouldn’t be complete without the shooting abilities of senior guard Caleb Wood. The soft spoken “secret weapon” can catch fire at a moment's notice. Even despite his recent struggles from beyond the arc, Wood has shown an incredible ability to shoot from three, averaging 1.6 made threes per game.
Wood especially caught fire during a recent five-game stretch starting with Temple, where he averaged 14 points per game, shot 40% from the three point line, and even tallied 3 rebounds per game. It included a much needed 22-point outing in an overtime win against Brown.
Senior Sam Jones has also complemented Donahue’s system well, appearing in 18 games this season for specific three point shooting situations. Jones has shot a career high 41% from beyond the arc but hasn’t seen consistent minutes due to the log jam of players in front of him. Freshman Eddie Scott, who is out indefinitely with a wrist injury, was a constant face in the lineup when he was healthy. He brought unique versatility offensively and defensively to the Penn bench in the nine games he played in. If and when he returns, his multifaceted skill set provides an interesting twist to the Penn lineup.
Ultimately, Donahue’s constant substitutions have allowed players who have worked hard to show him they can help the team, while also giving the starters small breaks to help them catch their breath.
In fact, sophomore Ryan Betley was subbed out five times in the first half of the St. Joe’s game, averaged a little over a minute on the bench per substitution, and still got to play around 75% of the first half of the St. Joe’s game.
The Quakers’ depth has given them the upper hand on a nightly basis, helping to define a spectacular season for the Quakers and giving the fans a blanket of comfort when the teams’ stars are given a break.
Penn guard Jake Silpe fights for a loose ball against former Univeristy of Washington guard Dejounte Murray.
(John Lok/The Seattle Times)
Before the start of Penn’s game against Temple last Saturday afternoon, junior Jake Silpe had played in just two games where he totaled more than ten minutes. Those games were against Division Three Penn State-Brandywine and 2-20 Delaware State, as the Quakers, who were heavily favored, won both games by more than 50 points. Silpe’s role in the regular rotation was nonexistent.
That is, until Silpe and the Quakers squared off against Big 5 rival, Temple. Silpe posted a season high in minutes, assists, and steals against a then 9-9 Temple team that had just won two of their last three conference games.
Despite Temple’s clear ability to win against prime time opponents, the Cherry Hill East Hall of Fame inductee didn’t seem too fazed and for good reason.
Head coach Steve Donahue made it crystal clear that he had the utmost confidence in Silpe coming into the game.
“That’s how our program is. If you [put in the work], I’m going to reward you if it makes us better, and I think Jake makes us better,” Donahue explained after the game.
Within four and a half minutes into the game, Penn’s head coach subbed out captains Darnell Foreman and Max Rothschild, who had struggled early on against Temple’s defense. They had missed two shots combined, turned the ball over twice, and fouled once. Instead of bringing in exceptional shooters and rotational players like Jackson Donahue or Caleb Wood, Donahue shocked many, putting in Silpe. The 185-pound guard hadn’t played more than 14 minutes in a game this season while Wood and Donahue had both played 14 or more minutes nine times each.
However, after a brief stint, Silpe was taken back out.
While many Penn fans may have thought that Silpe’s only opportunity to show why he deserves a higher spot in the rotation had passed, the guard came in once again, this time for sophomore guard Ryan Betley with eight minutes left in the first half. Donahue wasn’t just playing Silpe for a minute to spill Foreman. Silpe was going to be a part of the rotation. In a game against one of the top programs in the country, the Quakers were going to need the energy that Silpe brought to the floor during his freshman year at Penn, where he had stepped in for star guards Tony Hicks (transfer) and Antonio Woods (academically ineligible). Silpe had to step up and play point alongside one of Penn’s best players in recent memory, Matt Howard, managing to prevail against all expectations, including his own, with energy and defensive intensity on the floor every night.
Silpe acknowledged how hard it was to play point guard at a college level in an article written by Matt Fine of The Daily Pennsylvanian.
“The physicality and the mental toughness is so different [from high school],” Silpe said. “Playing a lot of minutes as a guard is pretty tiring and mentally fatiguing. That, and I should take more of a role as a leader on this team in the future, even as a freshman.”
And this weekend, Silpe had to step in again, but this time as a veteran junior in an important Big 5 game. He exceeded expectations and played the best half of his season. The 6-foot-2 guard’s play looked like an impersonation of the Road Runner in a Wile E. Coyote cartoon.
Silpe sped across the floor, trying to both evade and outsmart the Temple offense and defense.
In one play, he snuck through defenders on the baseline into an open spot. After being slung the ball from Max Rothschild, Silpe dribbled up the baseline and slipped a pass through defenders at the basket for an AJ Brodeur layup.
Seconds later, he returned the favor to Rothschild and contested a Quinton Rose layup, who had beaten Rothschild to the basket.
After a media timeout was called, he got back to work, promptly stealing the ball from Temple guard Alani Moore II.
Later, after missing a contested layup, the former Mid-Atlantic Maccabi Games Gold Medalist sprinted down the court to guard 6-foot-7 forward JP Moorman.
He then quickly hopped out to contest a Nate Pierre-Louis jumpshot, managed to snatch up the rebound, and threw the ball to Ryan Betley for an open three.
After Betley missed, the junior guard sped down the court to intercept a pass to the corner. He dribbled the ball back up and threw another pass to Betley for yet another three. This time, Betley sunk the shot.
The sea of Quaker red and blue roared for a full minute until a media timeout was called.
Still riding his Road Runner-esque adrenaline high, Silpe now had the confidence of coach Donahue to run point. Again, he didn’t disappoint.
Within the next three minutes, Silpe would dish out a beautiful pass into the lane to Antonio Woods for an easy bucket, help force a turnover, and cross up Temple guard Quinton Rose to break a double team in order to feed Betley for a buzzer beating three-point opportunity.
Silpe also played impeccable defense on an always dangerous Josh Brown. While he guarded the senior guard, Brown scored zero points and dished out zero assists during the first half.
This feat is especially impressive because Brown averages four points and nearly two assists in the first halves of his games. Being able to shut down someone who leads his team in assists and is fourth on his team in points per game is crucial to limiting a Temple offense that can heat up out of nowhere.
Being able to contain dynamic players at a moments notice is something that Penn is going to need a lot of if they want to do well in Ivy Madness this March, especially with the plethora of impressive guard play in the Ivy. Princeton guard Devin Cannady and Brown guard Brandon Anderson are in the top 100 in points per game in all of Division 1 basketball. In addition, Dartmouth has two guards in the top 75 national three-point field goal percentage column, with Aaryn Rai coming in at 11th. Given the talented guards in the Ivy, having someone as dynamic on the defensive end as Silpe is a great sight for Penn fans. In the second half, Silpe kept up the efficient play.
Throughout the rest of the game, Silpe focused mainly on locking down Josh Brown.
He forced a shot clock violation and nearly caused another one that ended in a badly missed shot from Brown.
Silpe continually put pressure on Brown picking him up at either half court or well before half court. He chased the senior down relentlessly, leading him to another scoring drought. Silpe’s incredible defense contributed to the lack of offensive production from the Newark native. Brown would end the night with eight points and two assists, shooting 33% from the floor.
Silpe would finish off his night by committing his first foul, putting his body on the line diving on the floor for a loose ball and minutes later feeding AJ Brodeur for a three-pointer that would slash Temple’s eight point lead to just five points.
Even though Temple would etch out the win over Penn, Silpe was an integral part of the team’s ability to hold Temple to just 60 points, about seven points shy of their average. Despite failing to score, Silpe’s contributions went past just the box score.
It’s been a long and sometimes bumpy road for Silpe during his career at Penn and Donahue finds his journey admirable.
“[Despite what] he’s been through, starting as a freshman and then not playing at all for a long time, [he never lost] his perspective on what he needs to do in whatever role he’s in,” Donahue said.
Donahue’s confidence in Silpe throughout the game served as a confidence boost for the former South Jersey Player of the Year. With a strong game under his belt and providing the fans a taste of the possibility of a revived Jake Silpe, the Quakers have the opportunity to add more guard depth come Ivy Madness.
Penn guard Antonio Woods at the Palestra.
(Ananya Chandra/ The Daily Pennsylvanian)
There was 7:45 left in the game when Princeton’s Devin Cannady scored a layup to cut Penn’s lead to three. The Palestra was starting to get tense. Would Penn allow Princeton to storm back and steal another win from them, just as they had done in the Ivy League Tournament almost 10 months ago? 15 seconds later, Antonio Woods would answer that question. He sliced through the defense, powering through a foul from Princeton’s Myles Stephens.
Woods was not going to let the Tigers have this one.
Following the bucket, Woods didn’t show much emotion. Per usual, he was cool, calm, and collected as The Palestra roared with enthusiasm. Woods sunk the free throw, killing the Tigers momentum, and giving the Quakers a 5-point lead with 7:30 remaining. The Quakers never looked back.
Antonio Woods was sitting in his family friend’s house in the Philadelphia area. He shouldn’t have been there though. He should have been at the Palestra. He should have been playing against Princeton. He should have been competing with his teammates. Instead, he didn’t know when he would be able to play college basketball again.
That night, January 9th, 2016, was warmer than usual. It was 54 degrees outside. Even though the weather said one thing, it felt cold outside for Penn fans. Really cold.
Without Woods, one of their best players, the Penn basketball team fell to Princeton. It wasn’t an upset. Actually, many thought the young Quakers couldn’t keep up with the experienced Tigers, who were 9-4 heading into the game. But head coach Steve Donahue’s team came out ready to play. Led by freshmen Jackson Donahue and Jake Silpe, along with loveable senior big Darien Nelson-Henry, the Quakers took Princeton to overtime, surprising much of the Ivy League. In place of Woods, the freshmen guards fought until the final second, as Silpe totaled 11 points, 7 rebounds, and 7 assists in 42 minutes and Donahue put up 16 points on 4-6 from three in 41 minutes. The Quakers shouldn’t have even been in the game, let alone nearly won. This one hurt more than most. Not only had they lost their starting point guard, but they had had the game in their hands. The warm weather, at that point, was irrelevant. It felt cold.
Following their loss, coach Donahue fought back tears in the press conference when asked about Woods. The sophomore guard, who had been one of the most talented in the conference, was deemed to have made “insufficient academic progress under University policy” the Friday night before their Ivy League opener against their long time rival.
Fast forward two years and Antonio Woods is back on the court and playing some of the best basketball of his career. And this time around, he wasn’t going to take a loss to Princeton for an answer. A few days before this year’s game against Princeton, Woods made it clear in a speech to the team just how important this game was for everyone involved.
“I basically told them that this is a big one,” Woods said of his speech. “Penn [versus] Princeton. Rivalry. Don’t take it for granted. I guess for me, I didn’t take it for granted but just being out, missing the opportunities of actually playing against them, being a part of the rivalry, it was eye opening not being able to suit up. Street clothes, watching from the bench. I just told them don’t take it for granted, embrace the opportunity because you’ll remember these moments.”
After having to sit out the second half of the 2015-16 season and the entire 2016-17 season, Woods earned a redshirt year. Each time sat and watched his team compete against the Tigers without him, it ate at him. That made this year’s game against Princeton, when Woods returned, different than just a regular game.
“I definitely had this one marked on my calendar just because I’ve only played them twice in my career and I’m a junior now, so I missed them...five times,” Woods said.
The 6-foot-1 Woods showed up ready to play Saturday afternoon against the reigning Ivy League champions. Despite being covered by last year’s Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year, Myles Stephens, the Cincinnati native notched 13 points, 4 rebounds, and 0 turnovers, in addition to shooting 4-9 from the field in 35 minutes of play. In the 76-70 win, his first ever career win against Princeton (and everyone on the team’s first win versus Princeton for that matter), Woods stood out, making big plays when the team needed it most. Whether it was his and-one layup with 7:30 remaining, or a flip shot with his left hand with 1:49 remaining to put the Quakers back up five, Woods was a veteran leader out there on the court.
“I think Antonio Woods brings a lot of experience in the backcourt to them,” Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson said after the game.
With Woods back, the Quakers are on their way to having their first winning record since the 2011-12 season. The guard looks notably bigger and is now listed at 195 pounds after being listed at 180 pounds during his sophomore season. He’s attacking the basket with ferocity and providing another scoring option for Donahue.
“What I do like, as opposed to last year, is that we have different ways to score,” Donahue said following the win. He cited one of those ways as Woods’ ability to get to the rim.
After starting the season slow, posting only one game with five or more points in his first four games, Woods has turned it up recently. In his last four games Woods has scored in double digits three times. Woods has also been more aggressive, averaging 8.25 shots per game in the last four games. In the 11 games before that, he was averaging just 6.8 shots per game.
“My teammates encourage me to be aggressive,” Woods said. “My coaches encourage me to be aggressive. So for me, I am coming out with that mentality of being aggressive night in and night out, just to help my team win.”
Donahue has seen the same aggression in Woods’ game recently, especially as he gets more acclimated to playing again.
“He has [been getting more comfortable],” Donahue added. “I think, one, the rust is off. Two, he’s in better shape. Three, he’s just getting used to college basketball.”
Woods is still focused on improving and getting back up to speed on offense, working on the little things and citing “ball movement” as a major area for improvement.
Woods has been a stronghold on the defensive end as well. Penn often goes small, sometimes even with three point guards on the floor. Woods has taken on the role of guarding taller and bigger players on opposing teams when this happens. Against Toledo, Woods was tasked with covering their top scorer, 6-foot-7 Tre’Shaun Fletcher. Against Princeton, he had to play up to competition once again, as he was called upon to stick the 6-foot-4 Amir Bell whom he held to 12 points in the entire game and just 5 points in the first half.
Two years earlier, no one knew if Woods would still be playing basketball at Penn. Now, with the heart of conference play right around the corner, Antonio Woods is a big reason why the Penn Quakers have their best record in a long time.
Penn guard Darnell Foreman dribbles up the court at the Palestra.
(Ilana Wurman/ The Daily Pennsylvanian)
Chris Hadfield, who was the first Canadian astronaut in space, said that “leadership is not about glorious crowning acts. It's about keeping your team focused on a goal and motivated to do their best to achieve it, especially when the stakes are high and the consequences really matter.”
Penn's senior guard and team captain Darnell Foreman displayed these values with his ability to bounce back from a personally underwhelming first half in Penn's game against Toledo last Friday.
Foreman ended the first half with just 4 points, 4 rebounds and 2 assists. These numbers are especially frustrating because Foreman is one of the pillars of Penn's team. This trend of shaky first halves has, unfortunately, plagued Foreman throughout the past five games.
Since Penn's game against Howard (12/4), Foreman has scored an average of roughly 28% of his total points per game in the first half. As for assists and rebounding, the Camden native dished out an average of around 42% of his total assists and about 45% of his total rebounds within the first twenty minutes as well. The rest has come in the second halves.
Foreman's numbers don’t stack up well against other premier Ivy guards. Princeton's Devin Cannady and Brown's Brandon Anderson are two guards who have similar skill sets and styles of play as Foreman, but have played much more effectively in the first halves of their last five games.
Since Brown's game against Central Connecticut (12/2), fellow 6-foot-1 guard Brandon Anderson, has totaled an average of around 45% of his total points in the first 20 minutes of the game. In addition, Brown's sophomore guard produced roughly 57% of his total assists and snatched up approximately 53% of his total rebounds in the first half.
Even though Anderson's numbers would indicate that he is a good first half player, fellow 6-foot-1 guard Devin Cannady’s numbers reveal that he blows his competitors out of the water.
Since Princeton's game against Cal Poly (12/16), Indiana native Devin Cannady has scored an average of 54% of his total points before halftime. The former All-Ivy Honorable Mention typically passed 60% of his total assists and collected close to 65% of his total rebounds during this period of the game.
While establishing a lead in a game is important, fighting to grab the lead from behind is a feat that proves what kind of player you are. The second halves of the last five games, when the Quakers have gone 4-1, have been where Foreman has shined brightest. More importantly, he has been a spark plug for the team when the pressure has been on.
Foreman's ability to lead by example is uncanny. The former South Jersey Times Player of the Year has scored more second half points in the last five games than Dartmouth guard Miles Wright who sits nine places above Foreman in the Ivy's points per game category. Wright also measures four inches taller and 40 pounds heavier than Foreman.
However, being a leader isn't just about personal success. Foreman is more than willing to incorporate his teammates in possible scoring opportunities as well.
Foreman has been one of the best passers in the Ivy since his sophomore year. The former Ivy League Rookie of the Week has placed in the top 15 of the Ivy in assists per game in his last three years of play. This year, he placed fifth in the Ivy, averaging more than 3.5 assists per game, and fourth in assist percentage with 24%.
Looking back at his last five games, Foreman had more second half assists (9) than anyone on his team and even Brandon Anderson, who is a place above him in assists per game category in the Ivy.
Even more impressive, Foreman has more second half assists in the last five games than Boston College's star guard Ky Bowman, who has found his way into the NCAA's top 50 players in assists per game. Bowman also managed to lead his team to victory over a No. 1 ranked Duke team. Foreman's ability to be a playmaker down the stretch has proved important for head coach Steve Donahue, providing him with stability at the point guard position.
In addition to second half statistical achievements, Foreman showed what coach Donahue means when he says he “needs a certain amount of grittiness” from his players. Foreman took this into his own hands in their most recent battle against Toledo.
Down for much of the half, Foreman took charge and even put his body on the line when he flew into his bench in an effort to recover a basketball. He fought until the last possible second, scoring Penn's final point of the game. He tallied a team-high 12 second half points, along with 2 rebounds, 2 steals, and 2 assists in 16 minutes. While Penn came up short, Foreman's energy was one of the few bright spots down the stretch. His aggressiveness and ability to create was a large reason why the Quakers stayed in the game even as Toledo shot the ball well from the field in the second half (72% from the field).
The bottom line is that Foreman is the floor general of the Penn Quakers, and rightfully so. He leads his team through adversity while overcoming his own struggles and seamlessly manages to incorporate his teammates into successful scoring situations. And even though Penn may have lost against Toledo, they know that they can rely on their selfless leader “especially when the stakes are high and the consequences really matter.”
Penn guard Ryan Betley attempts a shot against Brown guard Brandon Anderson.
Will Snow/The Daily Pennsylvanian
Benjamin Simon & Avi Cantor
The Empire will be running a series titled “Q and A,” where writers will provide in-depth answers to a couple of burning and/or interesting questions surrounding a specific City 6 team.
Where is AJ Brodeur?
Many Penn fans have worried about the role and presence of star forward A.J. Brodeur this season. The big man has averaged 10.8 points per game, down from 13.8 points per game last year, and has compiled only one 20-point scoring game in his first 12 games. On top of that, Brodeur is averaging only 1.2 blocks per game, a significant decrease from 2.4 the year before. It may also be concerning that Brodeur has fired only 100 field goals (8.3 per game) all season, third on the team. Brodeur, as the team’s best player, should ideally be shooting more than that. But the reality is, there’s nothing to worry about.
Brodeur has transitioned more to the ‘4’ this season. In his new role, Brodeur has been getting less looks. While this is concerning, it’s all part of the transition. After an offseason away, he has added new parts to his game, developing a 3-point shot (1.4 3-point shot attempts per game). Even though he hasn’t shot particularly well (23.5%), head coach Steve Donahue and Brodeur himself have shown confidence in letting that part of his game develop.
If Brodeur begins to find his 3-point shot, that added dimension of his game will fit nicely into Donahue’s system, regardless of how many points he averages.
Additionally, Brodeur has still shot 53.6% from the field and 59% from 2-point range, showing that he is taking high percentage shots and converting. That’s all Penn needs out of Brodeur-- not to force shots and make the ones around the rim. On the defensive end, although his lower number of blocks may be worrying, his new role at the ‘4’ has forced him out of the paint more. In turn, he has had less shot blocking opportunities, but still holds the highest defensive box-plus minus (3.5) in the Ivy League.
Furthermore, Brodeur’s game cannot be represented by statistics. Teams are more weary of Brodeur, who has attracted double teams and aggressive fronting. Opposing teams’ attention paid to Brodeur has opened up options for others as well. Guards Ryan Betley and Darnell Foreman have taken advantage of that, both averaging a career high in points. Coach Donahue has also shown over the years that he values his bigs’ ability to pass the ball. Brodeur has done just that, moving the ball when the shot isn’t there, averaging 2.7 assists per game, tied for second on the team. With so many offensive weapons, his willingness to pass the ball has opened up opportunities for everyone else on the floor. He’s very much still an integral part of the offense, just in a different way than had been expected of him coming into the year.
How is the bench shaping out heading into conference play?
Prior to the season, Penn’s team was touted as one of its most deep in recent years. A little more than two months into the season, the bench is beginning to shape itself out. Senior Caleb Wood has been the x-factor and spark plug. The guard is sixth on the team in scoring (8.1 points per game) and second in 3-point makes (23) despite only playing 15.5 minutes per game. Wood has spelled both Wood, Foreman, and Betley, playing primarily off the ball where he has thrived as a scorer. Wood's scoring punch is much needed when the starting guards need a breather. More minutes should also be thrown his ways as the most efficient 3-point shooter in the Quakers' rotation.
Freshman Eddie Scott and junior Jackson Donahue have rotated in at the wing spots as well. While Scott erupted against Monmouth for 21 points and 13 rebounds on 8-8 from the field in 36 minutes, he has yet to score above 6 points or play more than 12 minutes in any of his other games. Scott has been up and down, sometimes struggling to establish himself in the offense despite his clear talent. However, in the last two games, while it has not been confirmed, Scott has seemingly been sidelined with an apparent wrist injury after wearing a brace for the past few weeks. The long break will definitely be helpful for the freshman's injury.
Meanwhile, Jackson Donahue has been asked to do the same job he was asked to do last year: compete, shoot lots of threes, and play defense. Donahue has done just that, but he could see more minutes in the future if he can shoot at a higher clip than 33%. Sam Jones has also seen his minutes increase, averaging 10 minutes and 9 points over the last three games. Jones played a big role in a road win against Dayton where he scored 15 points, proving that he can be the knockdown 3-point shooter off the bench that the coaches need. While Devon Goodman hasn’t played in 2 of the last 3 games, he saw minutes early in the season and could see them if one of the point guards needs a spell. These guys are the primary players in Donahue's system who should see minutes as the year progresses.
Has Ryan Betley developed into a legitimate number one scoring option?
One player who hasn’t wavered in his performance at all throughout the season has been sophomore guard Ryan Betley. After missing the first nine games of his freshman year, Betley showed an incredible amount of potential both last year and this year. He currently places third in total 3-point field goals in the Ivy League. He also is managing to place ninth in points per game and ninth in turnover percentage. As a result, Betley has become the most consistent scorer on the team. The 6-foot-5 guard has narrowly missed scoring double digit points in only two games (one being against Penn State-Brandywine, where he played only 15 minutes).
Betley has quickly shown that he has a special ability to score. However, while he is often touted as a pure shooter, the guard has shown that when he is hot, he can also put the ball on the floor, create for himself, and score in the lane. Going into the season, most would not have envisioned the well-rounded offensive arsenal that Betley is continuing to build off of.
In addition, Betley has proved that he can do it under pressure. He collected his first double digit scoring game of his freshman year against Princeton, the top team in the Ivy League and Penn’s archrival. In the semifinal of the Ivy League Tournament, once again versus Princeton, Betley took over the game, dropping 18 points and 12 boards enroute to a close loss.
This season, Betley has shown up in pressure filled situations as well. In a Herculean manner, the sophomore played over 40 minutes twice and wasn’t fazed either time. Betley scored 14 points in a game against La Salle where he played 46 minutes and, against Monmouth, he scored 26 points in 55 minutes of play. Betley has shown that he is a real number one scoring option, especially in the 3-point heavy offense that Donahue prefers to run.
What has freshman Jarrod Simmons shown so far in his time at Penn?
Even though he has appeared in just ten games (two of which were for 10 or more minutes) freshman forward Jarrod Simmons has shown that he will be a force to be reckoned with in the years to come. When given more playing time, Simmons has turned some heads. Against Howard, Simmons scored a modest 9 points, but snatched up 8 boards, 3 steals, and 1 block in just 14 minutes of play. Against Penn State-Brandywine, albeit a Division 3 school, the 6-foot-8 forward compiled a commanding 16 points, 5 rebounds, and 1 steal in just 10 minutes of play.
Coach Donahue raved about Simmons ability to play following the Penn State-Brandywine game, citing that he has the potential to be a great player in the future given more experience. “I think Jarrod’s got a chance to be a great player. One, he can really shoot. He’s got a really good feel for the game. As he gets stronger and more confident, I think he’s gonna be a handful.”
Although he hasn’t received many minutes on a deep Penn team, the big man has showed that he will play hard and with energy when given the time. As the year progresses Simmons may see minutes if people are in foul trouble, and if he does, his ability to score (3.4 offensive box plus-minus, third on the team of players averaging regular minutes) and attack the boards (15.3% rebounding percentage, first on the team of players averaging regular minutes) will continue to show signs of a bright future.
Penn guard Devon Goodman dribbles the ball at the Palestra.
(Photo courtesy of the University of Pennsylvania)
In the past few years, the University of Pennsylvania’s Men’s Basketball team has finished below the expectations of the players, coaches, and fans alike. Since Penn’s streak of first place finishes in the early 2000’s, the former Ivy League power house has had eight losing seasons, including two second to last finishes and one last place finish. Despite almost a decade long struggle to climb back onto the Ivy League throne, the 2017-2018 Penn team has a plethora of guards who have shown the potential to help Penn not only reclaim their crown, but also rebuild their once great dynasty.
Head coach Steve Donahue’s upperclassmen guards are undoubtedly some of the most effective players in the Ivy. This cast includes two seniors in Darnell Foreman, who placed in the Ivy League Top 30 players in five categories in 2016-17, and Caleb Wood, who was fourth on the team last year in 3-point baskets with 27.
Penn’s junior guards include Antonio Woods, Jake Silpe, and Jackson Donahue. Woods hasn’t played college ball in a year and a half due to academic ineligibility, but showed a ton of promise in his first two years on the team. Silpe had a strong season his freshman year, but struggled mightily in his sophomore year. Donahue is a sharp shooter, who can play both the ‘1’ and ‘2’.
But Penn needs more than just its upperclassmen guards to perform at the highest level. Freshman Jelani Williams is equipped with an arsenal of skills including an incredible ability to make sharp moves that allow him to get spacing for an open jumper.
Penn will also need the help of sophomores Devon Goodman and Ryan Betley. Goodman finished his freshman year in the Top 15 for Ivy players in assists per game while Betley finished his season third on the team in points per game while averaging over 28 minutes per game.
Here’s how these pieces fall into place for this year and the years to come.
Darnell Foreman’s career has been all about yearly growth. In his freshman year, he played in every game and averaged 3.5 points and nearly 2 rebounds in 21.3 minutes per game. In his sophomore year, he played even better, averaging 5.4 points per game, 2.7 rebounds per game, and placed second on the team in assists and third in steals. Last season was his best season by far. The Camden native racked up 12 double digit scoring games, led the Quakers with 96 assists, and snatched up 22 steals.
This yearly growth brought Penn from a last place finish in his freshman year to a fourth place finish in his junior year. During that same span, Foreman has also yet to miss a game, a feat that allowed Foreman to become team captain and the starting point guard. Antonio Woods will have to mimic Foreman’s unbroken streak of games if Penn wants to be a force to be reckoned with in the Ivy.
Before being put on academic probation, Antonio Woods was an integral part of the team. The last time Woods put on a game uniform he led Penn to more than half of their total victories on the season in his 13 games with the team. During that span, he averaged nearly 11 points per game.
Woods showed his ability to effectively run the offense by racking up 11 more assists than Penn’s star small forward Matt Howard during the entire season, who started in all of Penn’s games in the 2015-16 season. Even though Howard played small forward, his play resembled that of a guard. He would bring up the ball on a regular basis and could shoot and pass and dribble at a similar level as many of Penn’s guards at the time.
Woods may have a hard time rebounding from such a lengthy suspension. Coach Donahue will likely ease him back into more and more playing time until he proves he can at least compete at the level he did in his sophomore year. This system might also help ease his fellow junior Jake Silpe back into more playing time as well.
Cherry Hill, New Jersey native Jake Silpe had a tremendous freshman year playing in all 28 games and finishing in the top 15 in the Ivy for assists and steals per game and in the top 40 in rebounding.
Silpe’s sophomore year was much more of a struggle. He scored just 23 points in 10 games after scoring 24 points in his first six games as a freshman. Silpe won’t start, but if he can prove in the little playing time that he gets this season that he can consistently contribute, the Quakers will be a tough team to beat. Because of Silpe’s lack of playing time last year, someone had to step up in his place. That’s where Jackson Donahue comes in.
Donahue played in 27 of Penn’s games last year. Despite not starting, he managed to lead the team in 3-point baskets with 47, while averaging nearly 7 points per game. He also racked up 9 double-digit scoring games and was fourth on the team in assists. Donahue will likely come off the bench this year, but will no doubt add a much needed shooting presence at a moment's notice.
But of course, these explosive guards need people to pass to. That’s where freshman Jelani Williams and junior Caleb Wood come into play.
Jelani Williams is equipped with an arsenal of skills that includes a quick release on his jump shot and a quick first step. He can use that quick first step to get himself to the hoop where he can finish off his defender’s wide-eyed teammates with a thunderous one-handed dunk.
Although it is unclear how much playing time he’ll receive this year, the 6-foot-5 guard has the chance to become one of Penn’s next elite players due to the amount of talent that surrounds him. All of his fellow guards have something to offer him.
Antonio Woods can offer advice on how to man Donahue’s offense effectively, while also staying on top of one’s academic life. At the same time, Jake Silpe can show him how to rebound from a bad season and Darnell Foreman can show him how to maintain an injury free career which is specifically helpful considering the fact that Williams suffered an injury to a ligament in his left knee. Caleb Wood can show him how to walk softly and carry a big stick as Williams has a tendency to wear his heart on his sleeve.
The son of a former NBA player David Wood, Caleb Wood attended two California community colleges before arriving on Penn’s campus in the fall of 2016. He immediately made an impact dropping 27 three-point baskets (fourth on the team), 17 assists, and 10 steals.
Unlike Jelani Williams’ thunderous drives down court that end in the crowd yelling “OOOOHH” while pointing and laughing at the embarrassed defender, Wood keeps his plays short, sweet, and simple. He makes a quick move to the basket and either lays up the ball easily or throws a easy pass to an open man for the bucket.
This style of play resembles his personality on the court. During practice he is quiet but clearly focused. With no expression on his face, he makes jumpers rain from any part of the court.
The final member of this list of elite guards are two promising sophomores who flashed moments of greatness last year.
6-foot, 160-pound guard, Devon Goodman, is a bullet across the court that makes a living out of getting assists. He was one of the main players that ran the point for coach Donahue in the 2016-17 season. The Pennsylvania native finished third on the team in the assist column with 42, while also poaching 16 steals. He additionally had three double digit scoring games. Goodman’s game complements fellow Pennsylvania native, Ryan Betley.
Despite missing the first nine games of the season with a broken bone in his right hand, Betley averaged nearly 12 points per game and was sixth among Ivy players in 3-point field goal makes per game, averaging nearly two a game. He was third on the team with 35 three-pointers and tied for 3rd in double-figure scoring games with 12. He did all of this in just 18 games.
Goodman and Betley are in a similar position as Jelani Williams in that they have a lot of people around them that will help them improve themselves and the team in the future. While Goodman will likely see minutes off the bench this year, Betley will start and be a focal point of the offense.
The Quakers had their first game against the Fairfield Stags on Saturday where they fell 80-72. Coach Donahue went with a 13-man rotation that included a guard heavy lineup. This core of guards, however, will continue to shape itself throughout the year. Each brings different skillsets to the table and it will be interesting to see how they mesh. When coach Donahue does find that rotation and all of these pieces start working as one organism along with powerful forwards A.J. Brodeur and Max Rothschild, Penn has a chance to become the dynasty they once were and restore the Palestra as the palace of the Ivy.
The Empire's season podcast series will cover college basketball in the City 6. We will be releasing a podcast to accompany a written report covering our outlook for the teams' seasons. Please note that the podcasts and the written season previews may differ in writers and opinion.
After starting the year 7-12 and 0-6 in the Ivy League, Penn’s 2016-17 season looked done. But the Quakers rallied, going on a five game win streak to put them back in the Ivy League playoff hunt. After Jackson Donahue’s game winning 3-pointer against Harvard, Penn found themselves in a historic position, being the fourth seed in the Ivy League’s first ever tournament. Head Coach Steve Donahue returns for year three where he’ll certainly have one of his most talented teams since coming to Penn in 2015.
Who’s Gone? Matt Howard (G/F, Graduation), Dylan Jones (F, Graduation), Shawn Simmons (F, Unknown reason)
Penn loses their multidimensional guard/forward in Matt Howard. Howard at times would be the team’s go-to scorer and leading rebounder while also sticking the team’s best player on the other end. He covered the opposing team’s ‘4’ man, but could also switch to their wings as well. His versatility -- offensively, defensively, and off the court -- cannot be replicated by any one person on this year’s team, but they hope to make up for that with depth. Dylan Jones and Shawn Simmons did not have the same impact that Howard had. Jones is now doing a post-grad year at Rice while it is unclear why Simmons is no longer listed on the Penn roster.
Who’s New? Eddie Scott (G, Fr.), Jelani Williams (G, Fr.), Mark Jackson (C, Fr.), Jarrod Simmons (F, Fr.)
Although Coach Donahue brings in one of his smaller recruiting classes since coming to Penn, he adds four legitimate first year contributors. Eddie Scott headlines the class after coming out of the much accredited basketball school of Gonzaga College High School. Scott, a confident, athletic 6-foot-6 guard, has a silky jumpshot and played on a stacked Team Takeover AAU team in high school. He is used to the bright lights and has consistently played against strong competition throughout high school. Jarrod Simmons may also throw a wrench into this year’s lineup. The big man from Crescent, PA had 11 points in the Red and Blue scrimmage as one of the higher scorers. If Simmons can edge out Rothschild and fit better with Brodeur he could be thrust into major minutes. His senior year averages of 19 points and 13 rebounds per game were no joke.
Mark Jackson could also do the same. It’s not a secret that the Ivy League doesn’t boast many 7-footers and he could find minutes quickly if he picks up the system and gets comfortable. Jackson spent the last two years on a Mormon mission trip and will have to get accustomed to college basketball before he finds consistent minutes. Jelani Williams, who is also from Washington D.C., went to Sidwell Friends School, where the Obamas and former Villanova star Josh Hart attended. Williams sat out during the Red and Blue scrimmage, but he also presents an interesting case to play with his 6-foot-4, 190-pound frame fitting into the point guard skills he possesses. However, Williams tore his ACL midway through his senior year of high school. The guard had averaged 15.4 points, 5.8 rebounds, 3.9 assists, and 2.2 steals up until that point. While he has been practicing, Williams was held out of the team’s intrasquad scrimmage and with a tall order of point guards, Williams may benefit from a year of getting used to college basketball, fully recovering, and learning from the competitive list of point guards ahead of him.
Projected Starting Lineup:
G, Sr.: Darnell Foreman (Proj. Stats: 6 PPG, 4 APG, 1.5 SPG)
Darnell Foreman returns for year four at Penn and it is looking to be his best. Foreman has improved every year since he has came to Penn, bumping his scoring averages over the years from 3.5 points per game his freshman year to 5.4 his sophomore year to 8.3 last year. He even saw his field goal percentage rise to 40% after shooting a poor 32% in the 2015-16 season. The guard from New Jersey will not be asked to score however, as the Quakers have a fair amount of firepower in that department. Instead, he will be a playmaker and a go-to perimeter defender. His long wingspan gives him the tools to cover the ‘2’ while his offensive skilset, compared to Woods’, should give him the keys to run the ‘1’.
G, Jr.: Antonio Woods (Proj. Stats: 10 PPG, 4 APG, .48 FG%)
After sitting for the past year and half, Antonio Woods comes back to Penn as a junior, with two years of eligibility remaining. Woods’ return has been much anticipated. The guard from Cincinnati is experienced, composed, and just a flat out good basketball player. Foreman solidified himself as a major part of the rotation as last season progressed, so Woods will have to coexist with Foreman as the ‘2’ man. But Woods’ ability to shoot and control the ball is invaluable and coach Donahue should sacrifice size for his basketball IQ.
Penn guard Antonio Woods posts up former La Salle guard/forward Rohan Brown.
(Luke Risher/Staff Photographer)
G, So.: Ryan Betley (Proj. Stats:13 PPG, 3 RPG, .44 3P%)
Betley is nearly a lock to start for the Quakers after a scorching hot stretch to finish out the year. The guard began the season battling a hand injury, but didn’t miss a beat when he began his first collegiate games. Betley scored double-digits in six of the team’s nine wins that he played in and was a huge factor in the Quakers’ turnaround. In their five game win streak that propelled the Quakers back into the playoff hunt, Betley averaged 17.2 points per game while shooting 48% from 3. Betley ultimately earned the highest offensive box-plus minus on last year’s team with 2.7, showing his value to the team when he’s on the floor. If the Quakers want to find their way back to the Ivy League tournament, Betley’s ability to shoot will be paramount. The inside-outside game with AJ Brodeur combined with the point guards’ playmaking abilities and coach Donahue’s system will create many open opportunities for Betley. He will need to capitalize on them or the Quakers will struggle without a major component of their offense.
F, So.: AJ Brodeur (Proj. Stats: 15 PPG, 7 RPG, 2 BPG)
The big man from Massachusetts returns for his second year in the red and blue. Brodeur emerged quickly as Penn’s most effective player on both offense and defense. His ability to bang with the best, but also step out and hit a mid-range jumper or even 3-pointer gave him an average of 13.8 points, top on the team. He was equally effective on the other end of the floor, averaging 2.4 blocks per game in addition to 6.9 rebounds. Of the players in the Ivy League who played over 50 minutes the entire season, Brodeur was ranked fifth with an overall box plus-minus of 4.5. Brodeur’s skillset works perfectly in coach Donahue’s system and he will look to solidify himself as the Ivy League’s best big man.
F, Jr.: Max Rothschild (Proj. Stats: 6 PPG, 7 RPG, .58 FG%)
Max Rothschild returns as the perfect person to complement Brodeur’s game. The big, aggressive, hard playing forward will provide the Quakers with offensive and defensive efficiency. Rothschild will be able to push Brodeur to the ‘4’ where he will be matched up against smaller defenders. Rothschild will need to play hard and make his open opportunities (shot 54% from the field last year). The Chicago native was second on the team last year in total rebounding percentage with 14% as well. That is what they’ll need from him, especially if coach Donahue chooses to play two point guards. With that said, he can also score, exemplying that his freshman season when he exploded for two 18-point games and a 14-point game in an average of 24 minutes across those three games. Expect this position to be interchangeable however, as coach Donahue may opt to go for a more uptempo, better shooting lineup as the year progresses.
Reserves: Matt MacDonald (G, Sr.), Caleb Wood (G, Sr.), Devon Goodman (G, So.), Jake Silpe (G, Jr.), Jelani Williams (G, Fr.), Jackson Donahue (G, Jr.), Tyler Hamilton (G, Jr.), Sam Jones (F, Sr.), Eddie Scott (G, Fr.), Jarrod Simmons (F, Fr.)
The point guard position will be a hotly contested battle because there are simply not enough minutes to go around for many players. While Foreman and Woods will certainly see minutes, it is not set in stone who will be the first point guards off the bench. Caleb Wood started the beginning of last season, but lost the job and was buried on the bench in favor of the then freshman Devon Goodman. Wood brings true scoring and shooting ability, attributes that are important in Donahue’s offense. Goodman is different than Wood and brings a more “true point” guard feel. One of the quickest point guards in the Ivy League, Goodman is a strong defender and a good decision maker. And then there’s Jake Silpe, the steady, competitive point guard from South Jersey. Silpe has still yet to get comfortable in his first two years at Penn. He was handed the keys his freshman season but failed to seize the reins, and after averaging 23 minutes per game his first year, he played only 7 minutes per game in his sophomore season. If Silpe wants to find minutes he has to do a better job of controlling the offense (2.2 turnovers per game freshman year) and has to compete harder than the other point guards. Jelani Williams also will check in as a ‘1’, but will likely see the least amount of minutes between all of the freshmen. Jackson Donahue, as a 2-guard, sits in the same boat as the point guards and will probably be competing with them for minutes at the ‘2’. Donahue was up and down last year after a promising freshman season where he looked like the next great Penn guard. Donahue should see minutes because of his ability to shoot and his leadership. He could possibly be a scoring spark plug off the bench after leading the team in 3-point attempts last season.
Matt MacDonald serves as an x-factor and sleeper off the bench. He could see some minutes in place of Matt Howard’s minutes from last season. Howard was often asked to cover the other team’s 4-man due to his size and competitiveness. MacDonald, who has bulked up from 185 pounds to 200 pounds since being at Fairleigh Dickinson (where he spent two years), could do the same for the Quakers. While he’s not as strong as Howard is defensively, his size is encouraging for that small ball lineup. On the offensive end, he can provide mismatches, especially with his ability to shoot. After starting last season, MacDonald struggled and found his way to the bench by the end of the year, but his size, experience, and leadership may be enticing for coach Donahue.
At the ‘2’ and ‘3’, Tyler Hamilton could also etch out some minutes like he has done in the past. Hamilton is an athletic guard who will compete and hit his open shots. Playing more of the ‘3’ and ‘4’, Sam Jones is a streaky shooter, but owns one of the nicest jumpshots on his team. His 6-foot-7 size also presents an enticing option. The athletic freshman wing Eddie Scott could also very well factor in at the off-ball position. He provides a dimension to the game that isn’t already brought to the table. That should be a nice tactic for Donahue to throw in here and there. Jarrod Simmons, like mentioned above, could see minutes if the Rothschild experiment doesn’t work. Donahue is not afraid to rotate freshmen in the lineup and that bodes well for Simmons.
The bottom line is that the Quakers are deep and maybe even the deepest in the City 6. Coach Donahue loves to play around with rotations and it would be no surprise to see the lineup change many times before he comes to a starting group that he likes. Anyone and everyone will have a shot to see time in Donahue’s system.
vs. La Salle (Nov. 13th, 2017)
In the second game of the season, Penn will face a tough matchup with La Salle coming to the Palestra. It will be a big test for the Quakers in their quest to return to the Ivy League Tournament. Not only will it be an important measuring stick for the team, but it will also be a good opportunity to set the tone early. A win against a Big 5 rival at the Palestra to start the season would be a huge confidence booster for the talent filled team. La Salle will be led by 6-foot-7 forward BJ Johnson, who can shoot, drive, and create for his teammates. He will be a matchup problem for the Quakers. It will be a good test to see how Penn is able to challenge a team with a star like Johnson.
at Dayton (Dec. 9th, 2017)
Penn travels to A-10 juggernaut Dayton right before the beginning of conference play. The Flyers are coming off a 24-8 season and an NCAA tournament berth. Beating Dayton could be a huge confidence booster heading into Ivy League play. It will also give the Quakers a taste of NCAA Tournament caliber competition. The better teams that Penn faces throughout the season, the more prepared they’ll be down the stretch of Ivy League play.
vs. Princeton (Jan. 5th, 2018)
How could Princeton not make the list? The last time Penn played Princeton, they walked out of the Palestra after an overtime loss in the Ivy League’s first ever conference tournament. Leading most of the game and on the brink of history, the Quakers just couldn’t get it done against their archrival. What better way to begin Ivy League play than facing Princeton once again. This time, Penn is a year older and the Quakers will look to get the best of the Tigers after multiple close meetings in recent years.
18-12 (8-6, Ivy League)
While the City 6 and Ivy League play always features challenging competition, their non-conference schedule combines an interesting mix of teams. While they’ll face off against lower level teams such as Fairfield, Penn State-Brandywine, and Delaware State, they’ll also be tasked with going up against Dayton, who is coming off their fourth straight NCAA Tournament berth, and Monmouth, who went 27-7 last season, just missing out on the tournament. Coach Donahue also secured the Quakers a spot in the Gulf Coast Showcase, a tournament in Florida that will feature an abundance of strong mid-major programs. Finally, the Quakers will play five road games after battling it out in the Gulf Coast Showcase. That means it will be longer than a month between home games during a stretch that spans from late November to late December, making a tough run for Donahue’s crew. The Quakers will hit some bumps in the road with their non-conference and conference schedule, but a substantial improvement from last year’s 13-15 record is expected.
“I love the pressure. I love the big games. I love the Big 5 games. I love them when there’s tons of people here (in the Palestra).… I certainly will never shy away from taking the last shot.’’ -Ryan Betley to Philly.com
“Running with the Team Takeover travel program this past spring and summer, the DMV native (Jelani Williams) is someone that is capable of facilitating an offense but also scoring the basketball in various ways, yet remains at his best as a playmaker from off of the bounce, something that Steve Donahue and his staff sold him on. ‘They told me that they would use me similar to the way that I play at Sidwell (Friends): put the ball in my hands and let me make plays,’ the versatile guard stated about how he might be used.” -HoopSeen.com on Jelani Williams
“ ‘It makes our offense better, it makes our defense better, it makes our rebounding better, if indeed AJ could play the four and be that versatile guy on both sides of the ball,’ Donahue said in the preseason teleconference. ‘Can he switch ballscreens, can he play on the perimeter on offense? I think he’s done a very good job of that, and I think you’ll see a kid who shoots the three and makes plays off the dribble.’ It’s gutsy on Donahue’s part. It’s also a worthy gamble at this point in the year: Pairing two big men can help cover for Penn’s backcourt, which is undersized and includes some iffy defenders. Offensively, Brodeur will have to work harder to find space inside, but smart teams can make it happen — just ask Yale, which has been overpowering Ivy opponents for years.” -NYCBuckets.com
“If there is a team that can crack the top three (of the Ivy League) this year, it’s Penn. A.J. Brodeur is a stud and the Quakers return just about everyone from a team that won six of their last eight games a season ago and came within a missed front-end of beating Princeton in the Ivy League tournament.” -NBCSports
“He’s just a special player. Jarrod (Simmons) put up big numbers all season long, but he was at his best in our most important games. He averaged around 24 points and 19 rebounds in the playoffs, and in the WPIAL championship game he had 22 points and 23 rebounds.” -Adam Kaufman, coach at Moon Area High School, on Jarrod Simmons To The Times after he was named the paper’s player of the year for the area.
January 9th, 2016 is not a pleasant memory for most Penn basketball fans. Normally it would be. That night, Penn was opening up its Ivy League season at home, in front of a packed crowd, to face off against their archrival, the Princeton Tigers. It was an oddly warm day for early January with a high of 54 degrees, 14 degrees above the normal average. It was supposed to be the storybook beginning to Steve Donahue’s first Ivy League game as Penn’s head coach.
But hours before the game, it was announced that Antonio Woods would be out for the season, and maybe even longer, due to academics. It didn’t faze the Quakers though. Behind freshmen Jake Silpe and Jackson Donahue and senior center Darien Nelson-Henry, the Quakers dove on the floor for balls, pushed their way to fight for rebounds, and forced overtime against one of the Ivy League’s top teams. Without Woods, Penn was not supposed to compete. They were supposed to get beat by 20. The Quakers just didn’t have enough to pull out the win, losing 73-71, despite leading for much of the second half of the game. In the press conference after, Donahue fought back tears. The magnitude of this rivalry was clear right then and there.
Fast forward 428 days and the Quakers have come full circle. Tomorrow, they will appear in the first ever Ivy League Conference Tournament after magically turning around a 0-6 conference record. They will, of course, face Princeton.
Still, they find themselves in a similar situation. They’re the underdog. They’re the younger, less experienced team. They’re once again without Woods.
The Quakers sport only two seniors, and one of them, Dylan Jones, hasn’t even played a game this season because of an injury. 3 of their 5 leading scorers are underclassmen, while freshman sensation AJ Brodeur leads all Penn players with 13.9 points per game.
Meanwhile, 10 of the Tigers’ 18 players are upperclassmen. They have the Ivy League Player of the Year (Steven Weisz), Defensive Player of the Year (Myles Stephens), and Coach of the Year (Mitch Henderson). They went undefeated in conference play and are easily the tournament’s favorites. It’s no secret that the Quakers will have their work cut out for them.
They will have to start by maintaining Princeton’s balanced scoring attack that includes four players averaging double digit points. The Tigers follow that up by having four players in the regular rotation who shoot 40% or above from three. As a team, they only have 273 total turnovers on the year (10 per game), which is 1st in the country. But Princeton’s most impressive aspect is their defense. They allow only 61.5 points per game (9th in the country) by holding opponents to shoot 42% (1st in the Ivy League) from the field against them.
“They play with such confidence,” Brodeur said before Saturday’s game. “They have such good leaders on their team and they’re very experienced, which goes a long way, especially in the Ivy League. Everyone [on Princeton] is taught to play the right way. The teams that end up doing the best are the teams that...play the right way, play smart, play within themselves, and play to their level of talent. That’s what I think they do best.”
Penn will look to rally behind Brodeur and senior guard Matt Howard. The team’s clear leaders on the court dictate the tone offensively and defensively. Howard, who exploded for a game-high 24 points and 12 rebounds last week against Harvard, will try to bounce back after scoring a combined 3 points in his first two outings against Princeton. Brodeur similarly struggled against Princeton’s stout defense this season, only scoring a combined 16 points on 5-14 shooting in both games. It’s no surprise why they lost both of those games. Brodeur and Howard will have help now from emerging freshmen, Ryan Betley and Devin Goodman, both of whom have played a major role in the team’s turnaround.
“The freshmen are really talented,” Howard said when asked about what has been different about this season. “They contributed a lot this year. They stepped in and were ready to play.”
Many will point to Penn’s youth as a reason they won’t be able to hang in. But Penn has already been in multiple elimination game scenarios. Ever since going 0-6, they’ve had their back against the wall. Once they noticed that the conference tournament was actually a possibility, it took some time for Donahue’s team to fathom that. In close losses to Columbia and Dartmouth down the stretch, the team played “tight,” according to Donahue, afraid to lose with so much on the line. Last weekend, with opportunity to go to the Ivy League Tournament looming once again, the Quakers finally played free in their final regular game against Harvard.
“I sensed the change before the Harvard game,” Donahue remembered. “The locker room was different. The vibe was different. The excitement level was different. I thought we played as good of a basketball game as we played all year.”
They’ll need that same ease against one of the best Ivy League teams in recent memory. They’re lucky, however, that they even have the opportunity.
“For the first time in league history,” Donahue added, “we can set the reset button.”
Penn faces Princeton at 1:30 PM tomorrow at The Palestra. The game will be aired on ESPNU.
Photo: Charles Fox/The Philadelphia Inquirer
After losing their first six games to begin Ivy League conference play, the Penn Quakers have begun to salvage this season by going on a four-game win streak, beating the likes of Columbia, Cornell, Brown, and Yale. All of the sudden, the Quaker’s season has been revived and they have something to fight for down the home stretch of the schedule.
At this point, the Quakers’ goal has to be playing in the Ivy League’s new inaugural conference tournament. Held at The Palestra, for Penn to stay home and make the postseason tournament, they need to place in the top 4 of the conference standings. While Princeton is the cream of the crop, holding a perfect 10-0 record, and Harvard and Yale are a step behind at 8-2 and 6-4 respectively, the fourth seed is now ripe for the Quakers’ taking thanks to their play during the past two weeks.
The Quakers have put themselves in the position to seize a tournament bid thanks the solidified eight man rotation, more effective ball movement, and the play of freshman wing Ryan Betley.
Coach Steve Donahue has experimented with ten different starting lineups this season. However, the last four games, Coach Donahue has used the same starting five in Foreman, Donahue, Howard, Betley, and Brodeur. With Goodman mixing in with the guards off the bench, Sam Jones rotating in with the wings, and Rothschild spelling Brodeur, gives Penn an eight-man rotation that is balanced from top to bottom and suited for their 4 out 1 in attack.
While some players, like Ryan Betley, have benefitted from the coach Donahue’s most recent lineup, players that began the season as starters, like Caleb Wood and Matt MacDonald, have seen their minutes drop to zero.
When asked about whether the fluctuating minutes have hurt his play, Devon Goodman told the Daily Pennsylvanian, “I think that coach has been trying to find a core group of guys that can contribute to the team and find that right lineup.”
In their halfcourt motion offense, effective ball movement is critical to the Quakers’ production. During their four game winning streak, Penn has amassed an assist-to-turnover ratio of 75/62 or 1.21%. During conference play, the Quakers assist-to-turnover ratio has been 135-142 or .95%. As you can see, over the past four games, Penn has clearly improved their passing and ball movement in the offense, which has to do with their recent success.
When Penn is running it’s sets cleanly and getting good side-to-side ball movement, it is a tough offense to stop. This was highlighted in Penn’s trouncing of Brown when they scored 96 points, a season high for the Quakers.
Brown had absolutely no answers to Penn’s offensive attack. But, the Quakers’ success did not come from where it may have been expected.
Motion offenses are often expected to produce high-quality three point shots. Smaller teams like Penn are expected even more to live and die by the three point shot. But in the Brown game, it was not the three point shot that buried the Bears, rather, the shots from two. Sure, the Quakers did shoot effectively from long range against Brown, 14-29 (48%), but most of the damage from long range was done by two players, Jackson Donahue and Ryan Betley, who combined for 12-21 on three point shots, while the rest of the team shot 2-8. However, from inside the three point arc, the Quakers team combined to shoot 20-30 (66%). This high 2-point shooting percentage is reflective of how well they moved the ball around in the offense. Many of the Quakers’ baskets in the half court came off of timely backdoor cuts that got behind the defense and created a wide open layup. With Ryan Betley’s four assists, Darnell Foreman's five assists, and AJ Brodeur’s five assists, the Quakers displayed exactly how potent motion offenses can be when there are multiple players on the floor that are good passers.
Ryan Betley has been another key. After not playing in the Quaker’s first nine games, the freshman swingman has improved his play to the point where he is an important cog in Penn’s offense. Betley was given a career-high 30 minutes in Penn’s game against Cornell, and he rewarded the coach with a career performance with 22 points and 8 rebounds. On Friday night, Betley was again given 30 minutes of playing time, and again he responded by scoring a career-high 28 points and grabbing 7 rebounds. On Sunday, Betley continued his effective shooting, going 5-9 from the field and dishing out 3 assists in 34 minutes played.
If Betley can continue to prove coach Donahue right in giving him minutes and a starting role, Betley will develop into a multi-faceted offensive weapon that can be played at multiple positions. This will give opponents matchup problems for the next four years with his height, perimeter shooting, slashing, and passing skills.
Now that the Quakers have begun to turn their season around, it will be interesting to see how well they respond to all of this acquired momentum. Certainly, after winning on the road, against the third-best team in the conference (Yale), Penn will no longer catch opponents off guard. The rest of the Ivy league now has plenty of tape showing Penn playing at its best, and it is a certainty that opponents will be giving the Quakers all sorts of different looks, both offensively and defensively, to expose the Quakers’ weaknesses. But for now, the Penn program and fans should be glad to see that the Quakers have been establishing a blueprint for winning, centered around their solidified eight-man rotation, the emerging stud in Ryan Betley, and their more productive and efficient ball movement.
Photo: Zach Sheldon/The Daily Pennsylvanian
The University of Pennsylvania Quakers snapped a six-game losing streak against the Drexel Dragons yesterday, which dated back to the 2007-08 season, as junior Darnell Foreman provided a spark off the bench in the second half. The guard hit 4 of his 5 field goals after intermission, found teammates for high percentage shots in the paint and forced Drexel big man Rodney Williams into two decisive turnovers in the final three minutes of the game, to help the Quakers defeat the Dragons 75-67 in front of a crowd of 3,836 spectators at the Palestra.
Penn head coach Steve Donahue decided to switch things up after the Quakers returned from their holiday break by giving freshman Devon Goodman and Ryan Betley their first collegiate starts against the Dragons.
The inexperienced backcourt duo played together for two years on Team Philly before arriving at Penn, which gave them a sense of normalcy and continuity in an eclectic filled environment. Alongside freshman phenom AJ Brodeur and junior Caleb Wood, who both scored 9 points in the first half, Goodman and Betley combined for 9 points of their own, on three three-pointers, to help the Quakers take a 4-point lead into halftime.
Although the freshman paring began the second half on the floor together, coach Donahue sensed that Goodman, in particular, let the moment get the best of him.
“I sensed Dev's [Devon Goodman] tentativeness in the beginning of the second half,” said Donahue at his post-game press conference. “They scored and Dev was kind of back at Germantown Academy for a second, where he kind of looked up and walked over to the ball. That's not how we play. ”
As a result, Goodman was replaced by Foreman with less than four minutes off the game clock. The New Jersey native did not waste anytime making his presence known as he found co-captain Matt Howard for an easy lay-in off a pass from the top of the key and hit a three-pointer after a thirty-second timeout, which was called after sophomore Jackson Donahue caused a Drexel turnover.
The 6-foot-1 guard scored 10 of his season-high 12 points and dished out 2 assists in the second half.
“I thought Darnell [Foreman] was terrific in the second half tonight,” said coach Donahue. “He understands what we want. I sensed that he was the guy to go with on both sides. Guarding [Kurk] Lee, which I thought was a big part of the game and just getting us into the offense and running.”
While Foreman noticeably played well on the offensive end, it was arguably his contribution on defense that made the most difference. Foreman played a major role in holding Drexel's star freshman, Kurk Lee Jr., who came into the game averaging 15.3 points per game, 3.6 assists per game, and only 2.5 turnovers per game, while shooting 44% from the field and 41% from 3 in 31.5 minutes.
Lee scored just 9 points, his second single digit game of the season, after shooting 4-15 from the field and being forced into 6 turnovers (his highest total of the season). Foreman, who played 16 minutes in the second half, clearly disrupted the young guard with his experience and length, as Lee shot 1-7 from the field for just 3 points in the second half.
Foreman's ability to disrupt the Dragons was apparent the whole night and he capped it off with 21 seconds left, stealing the ball from Williams in a close 4-point game, leading to two free-throw makes by co-captain Matt MacDonald.
Coach Donahue said that Goodman has a chance to be a great player in this league and could possibly help the Quakers by playing thirty minutes in the next game but he sensed that Foreman, unlike Goodman, was locked in during yesterday's contest.
“I thought they [Goodman and Betley] did a good job in the first half,” said coach Donahue. “That's our dilemma, you want to put guys out there who can make [three-pointers] but you have to play both sides of the ball and when it came down to it, trying to win this game, my decisions were based off who were the best five guys on both sides of the ball.”
Photo: Ananya Chandra/The Daily Pennsylvanian
-Penn faces Dartmouth this Friday