This season the Quakers really struggled. And unfortunately, it has become a common occurrence. In the past 6 years, Penn has had only 1 winning season, all under former head coach Jerome Allen. This previous season, I thought the team was looking to be very strong. They were built well and I thought this would be a successful season for the club.
They had a go-to scorer, Tony Hicks. The junior averaged nearly 16 points in his sophomore campaign. They also had big man presence with Darien Nelson-Henry, who is a towering 6’11 and 265 pounds. He averaged 10 points and 5 rebounds in his sophomore year. And there was another sophomore, Jamal Lewis, who started multiple games at the point guard position and saw a lot of minutes. Although his stats were not jacked, Lewis was a facilitator and did the little things well. They had shooters, backup big men, and even talented freshman. Despite the departure of seniors Fran Dougherty and Miles Jackson-Cartwright, the Quakers looked like they could compete for the Ivy League championship.
But the season was no different than the ones before, as Penn piled up more and more losses. They finished the season with a more than disappointing 9-19 record. It is hard to point at one thing that derailed the season. You could mention the multiple nagging injuries. You could say that their struggle at the beginning of the season (0-5 in first five games) had a negative impact on the entire year. Or you could even credit head coach Jerome Allen for not preparing the team to the best of their ability.
However, that was the past. Today is the present. And the question arises: how do the Quakers rebound from last years’ woes? I think there are multiple areas that Penn has to improve on to be successful:
Have a more consistent inside present
It is not hard to see that the offensive productivity of big man Nelson-Henry decreased this season. They need Nelson-Henry to do more than just rebound. He needs to score. He averaged 10 points and shot nearly 60% in his sophomore campaign. But in his junior year, the big man averaged only 8 points and shot a little better than 50%. That cannot be the case next season if the Quakers want to win some games.
They will also lose senior, Greg Louis, to graduation. The 6’7 forward started most of the games this year and played about 20 minutes per outing. They will need sophomore forward Dylan Jones and freshman Mike Auger to step up, play more substantial minutes, and score the ball more consistently to open up more options for Hicks and guard Matt Howard
Get off to a good start
The Quakers got off to a real slow start this season and I think it set a bad vibe from the beginning. They lost their first five games of the year and then 2 out of the first 3 in Ivy League play.
This next year, they need to come out of those first couple games with some solid wins. That momentum will be really important to carry into the early games of the Ivy League. It will also give a reason for fans to show their faces at games and cheer on the team.
This season, Penn averaged 60 points per game. This ranked them 325th in the NCAA in team scoring. The Quakers need to score more if they want to be good. They only had 7 games in which they put up more than 70 points and only had one player averaging in double figures. If they want to win, this team is going to need to give Tony Hicks some scoring help. Without it, the Quakers are bound for another sub-.500 season.
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