The Penn Quakers had a roller coaster 2015-16 season, going 11-17 in their first season under head coach Steve Donahue.
Before the season even began, Penn star Tony Hicks decided to leave the program, which immediately put more pressure on the first year head coach and his players.
Despite the loss of Hicks, the Quakers got off to a hot start, winning 4 out of their first 5 games. It was stopped short though, when they suffered a 4 game losing streak, which included a home loss against Big 5 rival Temple. The Quakers would rebound and defeat coach Donahue’s alma mater Ursinus but then lose back-to-back games against two Big 5 rivals in Drexel and Villanova.
After the Quakers destroyed Binghamton, they were poised to take on rival Princeton at the Palestra but more devastating news ensued. Standout guard Antonio Woods was declared academically ineligible before the contest and would ultimately miss the rest of the season.
With Woods gone, freshman guards Jackson Donahue and Jake Silpe filled in. The duo combined for 20.2 points per game, 5.4 rebounds and 5.3 assists in Penn’s final 15 games. That doesn’t go without mentioning the impact that then senior Darien Nelson-Henry and junior Matt Howard had throughout the season at both ends of the court.
Nevertheless, the Quakers would go on to only win 5 of their last 14 regular season games.
With a strong incoming recruiting class, the additions of transfers Matt MacDonald and Caleb Wood, in addition to 11 returning players, Penn looks poised for a strong campaign.
Mike Auger (F, no longer on team), Jamal Lewis (G, graduation), Darien Nelson-Henry (C, graduation), Antonio Woods (G, status up in the air)
The Quakers didn’t lose many players, but did lose two important players and will be without one of their best players for at least half of the season, in addition to a key role player. Nelson-Henry had played consistent minutes for the past four seasons and was always a key part of the game plan. Lewis returned last season after missing the 2014-15 season due to illness and played in 25 games. Though he did not get an abundance of playing time, he provided the team with veteran leadership. Both graduates will be missed.
Woods’ status is still unknown, according to a Penn official. He may return mid-way through the season or he may wait until the 2017-18 season to return, which would leave him with two years of eligibility.
Despite being seen on campus, forward Mike Auger has left school and is not on the team, according to the same Penn official. The Massachusetts native had a decent freshman season, as he was named Ivy League Rookie of the Week for his efforts against Rider and Lafayette, where he scored 10 points and 18 points respectively. Furthermore, he played in 22 out of 28 games. His sophomore year was not as kind, as he only played in 15 games after battling injuries.
Ryan Betley (G, Fr.), A.J. Brodeur (F, Fr.), Devon Goodman (G, Fr.), Ray Jerome (G, Fr.), Zack Kaminsky (F, Fr.), Matt MacDonald (G, Jr. Transfer), Jakub Mijakowski (F, Fr.), Caleb Wood (G, Jr. Transfer)
Penn enjoys a plethora of newcomers joining coach Donahue for his second year as head coach. Many of them will also see significant minutes. Brodeur was the biggest recruit and has a good chance to play consistently early in the year. Brodeur is a well rounded, mature big man. Wood, the JUCO transfer, looks to fit in as a legitimate threat at the starting point guard position. His ability to shoot, score, and facilitate will work perfectly with coach Donahue’s vision for the team. They also bring in another transfer, Matt MacDonald, who won’t be so new to his teammates. MacDonald, a transfer from Fairleigh Dickinson, practiced and participated in all team events last season after having to sit out the year due to transfer rules. He was voted team captain and will bring leadership to a young team.
The other new faces will have a hard time finding the floor on a crowded Penn roster. Goodman and Jerome will be the most likely to find minutes early on of the remainders. Goodman, who was the MVP of the Inter-Ac last season, is ready to play, but finds himself pinned behind Wood, Jake Silpe, and Darnell Foreman on the depth chart. The other freshmen guards, Jerome and Betley, have the skills to play, but just not the space. Jerome is an athletic wing who can shoot and could find minutes for a quick blow here or there. Betley is a scorer and shooter, as he knocked down 48% of his threes on the Adidas Circuit the summer going into his senior season. He could find minutes as the season progresses because of his ability to shoot. Finally, big men Mjakowski and Kaminsky provide depth and sustainability.
Projected Starting Lineup
G: Caleb Wood (Proj. Stats: 12 PPG, 4 APG, .43 3p%)
Caleb Wood joins the Quakers as a rare JUCO transfer. He just happens to be the perfect fit. Not only is he a true point guard with fantastic ball handling ability, but he is a knockdown three point shooter -- perfect for the Quakers’ system. Last season for Lassen Community College, Wood averaged 23.2 points per game, 5.4 rebounds, and 4.7 assists, nailing 49% of his three pointers. At 22 years old, Wood is mature and seasoned, but still has two more years left to play. He brings an offensive punch and experienced skillset that the Quakers desperately needed from their point guards last season when Antonio Woods left.
G: Jackson Donahue (Proj. Stats: 17 PPG, 2 APG, .41 3p%)
The sophomore guard returns arguably as Penn’s best scorer. Last season, he averaged 14 points per game in the final 16 games of the season when he finally started to earn minutes. He capped that off by showing off his long range, averaging 3 three pointers per game as well during that stretch. Donahue is a legit scorer and competitor who doesn’t quit attacking. Playing besides an experienced point guard crew and a young, talented big man in AJ Brodeur, Donahue will thrive in his second season at Penn.
G: Matt MacDonald (Proj. Stats: 10 PPG, 5 RPG, .46 FG%)
Matt MacDonald will hit the hardwood after sitting out a season because of NCAA transfer rules. At Fairleigh Dickinson, where MacDonald spent his first two seasons, he started in all but one game, earning captain of the team in his sophomore season. MacDonald averaged nearly 30 minutes per game in each of his seasons at FDU, giving the Quakers some experience at the 3. Now, as a voted team captain, MacDonald will get the opportunity to finally suit up as a Quaker. As he has already been with the team for a year, he is familiar with the system and poised to play major minutes. At 6-foot-5, 200 pounds, he is the ideal size for a starting off-guard and should have no problem adjusting into the starting role.
G/F: Matt Howard (Proj. Stats: 13 PPG, 5 RPG, .48 FG%)
Last season, Matt Howard emerged as one of the Ivy League’s most well rounded players. As a 6-foot-4 hybrid player, Howard averaged 12.3 points per game and 5.7 rebounds per game, while shooting 46% from the field. He also expanded his offensive game, adding in a three point shot. Although he struggled to connect, it showed coach Donahue’s confidence in his perimeter shooting ability which gives hope for improvement. But it was on the defensive end that Howard did much of his work. From covering Princeton’s star guard Henry Caruso to Dartmouth's Evan Boudreaux, Howard was as versatile a defender as they came. This season he comes back as a captain and presumed starting player. He will undoubtedly compete as one of the best all around players in the Ivy League.
F: A.J. Brodeur (Proj. Stats: 7 PPG, 5 RPG)
The highly touted freshman from Northborough, Massachusetts is primed for a shot at one of the starting big man spots. Brodeur plays with his back to the basket, but can also step out and hit a jump shot if needed. At Northfield Mount Hermon, Brodeur averaged 15.6 points per game and 8.7 rebounds. In Penn’s first scrimmage against Keiser, the young forward got the starting nod, scoring 14 points and bringing down 15 rebounds. With the loss of Darien Nelson-Henry, there isn’t a better time for such a talented freshman to come along. He has all of the tools and complementary pieces to have success in his first year at Penn.
Ryan Betley (G, Fr.), Dan Dwyer (F, Jr.), Darnell Foreman (G, Jr.), Devon Goodman (G, Fr.), Tyler Hamilton (G/F, Soph.), Ray Jerome (G, Fr.), Dylan Jones (F, Sr.), Sam Jones (F, Jr), Max Rothschild (F, Soph.), Collin McManus (C, Soph.), Jake Silpe (G, Soph.)
The Quakers will be deep and have lots of options off of the bench. Sam Jones will likely start the season as the 6th man. He began the year as a starter last year, but his inconsistency forced him onto the bench. With that said, he is a stellar three point shooter who can get hot at any moment. The backup point guard role will be an interesting battle between Darnell Foreman, Jake Silpe, and Devon Goodman. Silpe, who started the majority of the games last season, will likely see the most minutes of any of the point guards off the bench. Foreman returns after an up and down season last year that featured three double digit scoring games in the final 7 games. He is a strong defender, who is long and relentless. Tyler Hamilton should also see some minutes in the lineup as well after a promising freshman season. Although Hamilton only played 4 minutes in their scrimmage against Keiser, coach Donahue liked what he brought to the table last season.
Max Rothschild, Collin McManus, and Dan Dwyer will all most likely get minutes off the bench in the frontcourt. Rothschild is by far the most smooth offensively of these big men. In the 2015-16 season, the big man from Chicago averaged 5 points per game, including two 18-point outbursts against Brown and Dartmouth, respectively. McManus struggled to find minutes last season, but is a big body who is still developing. Dwyer always found ways to etch out minutes last season. He will provide energy and defense if needed.
However, everyone knows that after a year under coach Steve Donahue, the lineup and roster is bound to change many times. Last year, he experimented constantly with new players and lineups throughout the season. A rotation will never be set in stone for the Quakers.
at Temple (Dec. 3rd, 2016)
Penn has a tough schedule to open the season. Defeating Miami will be a tall order, but they also have a chance against Temple early in the season. Their fellow Big 5 rival lost 4 seniors and look vulnerable to start the year without Josh Brown. It would be a great win for Penn against a team that has defeated them consistently for the past decade.
at Princeton (Jan. 7th, 2017)
Last year when the Quakers and Tigers met during conference play, the games were emotional and well played, with Princeton winning both contests by slim margins. Donahue and company will look for revenge this year when they go against a Princeton team picked to finish atop the Ivy League. However, when it comes to the Penn vs Princeton basketball rivalry, preseason polls do not play a role in the electric energy that both teams play with.
vs. Cornell (Feb. 11th, 2017)
In coach Donahue’s first season at Penn, the Quakers beat Cornell twice, but the game on February 11th is the definition of a trap game. The Quakers will have three games that week in the middle of conference play and may be tired for their last game of the week against a lesser team. With that said, Donahue spent ten years coaching Cornell so there’s a little bit of extra motivation for the second-year coach to beat the Bears. Penn will look to repeat last year’s success against Cornell, who was picked to finish 7th in the Ivy this season.
The Quakers face a tough conference and nonconference schedule, but this team is one of their best in recent years. At each position, they have depth, talent, athleticism, and size. While they will struggle to compete in early season matchups with Miami and Villanova, they will have many evenly matched games that they should win. The toughest stretch will come during conference play, where they will have to face off against Princeton, who returns three All-Ivy League honorees, and Harvard, who brings in a recruiting class with 4 players in the ESPN top 100. Even Dartmouth, ranked 6th in the Ivy League preseason rankings, comes into the 2016-17 campaign loaded with star sophomore Evan Boudreaux at the helm. The Ivy League is full of talent, but Penn is too. Their depth will give them advantage night in and night out.
“I am very pleased with how our schedule came together for this season. A challenging non-conference schedule will provide us with tremendous opportunities to make some noise this season.” -Head Coach Steve Donahue in a statement, found via The Daily Pennsylvanian
“I think A.J. Brodeur is pretty clearly ready to help us immediately. I think he’s going to be one of the better frontcourt players in this league. He is very talented and skilled but he also has a natural ability to compete and it means something instinctively right away where some kids are trying to fit in.” - Head Coach Steve Donahue via City of Basketball Love.
“I completely agree with these two choices! Both have proven not only to be leaders on the court, in the weight room and in the classroom, but they are also tremendously mature individuals. In addition, Matt and Matt have shown that they want to win, no matter how it gets done, and that is a concept we constantly stress to our student-athletes.” -Head Coach Steve Donahue in a Penn Athletics press release on the team’s decision to label Matt Howard and Matt MacDonald as captains.
“I think from starting two weeks ago until today, [Betley and Goodman] have made great progress. I think they both have great potential. Honestly, I’m seeing stuff at this point that I thought would take a couple months with how they both played.” -Head coach Steve Donahue via The Daily Pennsylvanian
“I just keep looking at the calendar and the schedule. It’s been a long time since I’ve played an actual game. But I’m just excited to play with these guys, these guys are awesome, they’re my best friends, my brothers, so I just can’t wait to play. -Matt MacDonald via City of Basketball Love
Photo: Ananya Chandra/The Daily Pennsylvanian