After a disappointing season by Penn’s standards, head coach Jerome Allen was let go. The team finished with a 9-19 record and fell well below the usual expectations for the program, both in and out of the Ivy League. However, there has is hope for Penn faithful. For starters, they return 2015 leading scorer, Tony Hicks, 6-foot-11 big man Darien Nelson Henry, and promising freshman Antonio Woods. The Quakers also introduced the familiar and acclaimed Steve Donahue as their new head coach.
Despite recent setbacks, Penn is still a desired landing spot for many quality recruits. Part of the reason Penn fans expect anything different for next season is incoming freshman Collin McManus. “I chose Penn for the great combination of academics and athletics,” he told the Empire in an earlier interview. “The Ivy League is getting more competitive every year and to play in the Big 5 in Philly is an amazing opportunity.”
Lucky for Penn. McManus is just one part of a well-rounded and impressive six person recruiting class of 2015. These new-comers will have a lot to do with Penn’s turn-around this the upcoming season. While some websites have questioned the talent of the new group of Quakers, the incoming freshmen are filled with potential and have the talent and skills to make the team better, and quickly,
To begin with, Penn will need a point guard who can consistently produce for the team. Last season, Antonio Woods shot just 37% from the field and 27% from three. Darnell Foreman played 21 minutes per game, some at the point, but averaged only 3 points, and 1 assist a game. He still managed to turn the ball over 43 times, fourth most on team.
Jake Silpe, the highest rated Penn commit by ESPN, will bring leadership and comfort at the point guard spot. He propelled his Cherry Hill East High School team to a state championship last season. His all-around skills and steady game should be perfect for the Quakers. Jackson Donahue, the little combo guard from Connecticut, can play point guard, while knocking down shots and giving the Quakers a much-needed scoring punch off the bench. .
Florida native Morris Esformes could also see some minutes at point guard. Although he might not be ready to produce right away, he has the chance to become a strong college basketball player. In an interview with the Empire, Esformes describes himself as “a combo guard who likes to shoot from the outside and looks to find opportunities for teammates to score.” He added that his biggest struggle might be “a lack of in-game experience.”
Esformes didn't play competitive basketball relatively late in high school, yet he has managed to work his butt off and earn himself the chance to play with a division 1 program. That shows the endless amount of work he has put in. It is hard to see that work ethic ceasing in the future, I would not be surprised to see him playing large chunks of minutes at Penn by his sophomore or junior years.
Another problem for Penn last year was the team's lack of scoring. The Quakers averaged a mere 60 points per game, ranking them 325th in the NCAA.
Jackson Donahue will be able shoot and score right off the jump. He made 92 three pointers in first season at Northfield Mount Hermon High School. Woah! Max Rothschild, another of the six newcomers, who could prove to be a strong scorer in future. Despite his 6-foot-9 stature, the Chicago native can handle the ball, has a nice looking jump shot, and can put together some post moves. His sense of the game is also very strong and he could prove to be a go-to scorer in the future. It should be exciting to see this big man develop because of his skill set, size, and willingness to work hard. If he could hone his skills a tad more, he could be a star of the future.
The last problem that stood out for Penn was the amount of points they allowed. The team played in 28 games and gave up 70 or more points in 15 of them. Lucky for them, 6-foot-10 big man Collin McManus will have an instant impact on that end. He agreed with this statement in an interview with the Empire: “My game is around the paint, mostly being a big body and presence around the rim offensively and defensively.” McManus is another hard working player (what a surprise) who prides himself on being unselfish and banging in the paint. According to sources, McManus has made major strides over the past seasons in high school and his 6-foot-10, 230 pound frame is similar to that of a top tier big man in the NCAA. Look for him to blossom into a real nice college basketball player.
Lastly, there is the high flier Tyler Hamilton, who will also help in the defensive area. The guard originally from Atlanta is one of the more raw incoming freshmen. He said in an interview with www.collegehoopsdaily.com that he had only one other solid offer from a college outside of Penn. However, Hamilton has hops and isn’t small. He is 6-foot-4 and long. He could be the defensive stopper of the future. His feel for the game is also impressive, which most likely comes from his family (his father played professionally overseas and his uncle competed for the University of Oklahoma). The 180 pound incoming freshman could find some minutes if he can lock down on defense and add some offensive sparks with his athleticism.
Obviously the Quakers have lots of problems that need to be fixed for them to be successful this season, but the banner recruiting class of 2015 gives the Penn faithful hope. Although many recruiting sites have overlooked these prospects, Coach Donahue should be very happy to have them and they will help him compete for a Ivy League title over the next couple of years. Just where Penn should be.
-Penn loses to Kansas in the first round of the NCAA tournament