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
A 2-4 record through their first six games of non-conference play may not be the ideal start for Penn, but the Quaker's play should fuel optimism for their fans. They have competed well and have shown signs of being a complete, two-way basketball team that will be formidable force in Ivy League play. Besides the two-point loss on the road to a Navy team that uncharacteristically shot 47% from three (the Midshipmen average 35% on the season), Penn's losses have been to teams that simply out match the Quakers on size and skill. Nothing to be ashamed about with that.
The Quakers schedule has not been on their side. Not only have they played big-time programs like Villanova, University of Miami, and Temple, but five of their six games have been on the road, and their home opener was against the defending national champions. While this is a challenging way to start the season, it may benefit the Quakers in the long run.
“Playing on the road is such a challenge,” said head coach Steve Donahue, “it lets us figure out who we are. It's normal now. The crowd is against you and it almost helps you focus more.”
As Penn's schedule becomes more friendly, they still have a chance to enter Ivy League play with a winning record.
“We've had a tough stretch of games, but I imagine we're going to start winning soon,” A.J. Brodeur reflected following the Villanova loss.
For their next five games, the Quakers play at the Palestra against Lafayette, George Mason, Drexel, and Fairfield, with a trip to Orlando to play UCF wedged in the middle. This is certainly the favorable portion of the non-conference schedule for Penn.
Home court advantage and a lighter schedule is not the only reason Penn can start getting some wins. They have received exceptional play out of two newcomers, in A.J. Brodeur and Caleb Wood. When expectations are as high as they are for Brodeur, a guy who Steve Donahue has been courting since his days at Boston College, playing up to the expectations while acclimating to the new school is a challenge. With the potential that Max Rothschild had shown last season, it was unclear how Brodeur would impact the team this year, but he has rose to the opportunity.
He currently leads the Quakers in minutes played with 29 per game, points with 13.7 per game, rebounds with 6.5, steals with 1.6, blocks with 2, and player efficiency rating with 22.4. It is safe to say, that five games into his collegiate career, Brodeur is the best player on his team.
Caleb Wood was also another question mark for the Quakers as the season started. Part of the reason being that he is a transfer from junior college, and unlike fellow starting transfer Matt MacDonald, Wood did not benefit from already being with the program for a whole season.
While Wood was a high-level Junior College player, playing teams like Miami, VIllanova, and Temple is an entirely different experience. Wood, however, has adjusted very nicely to Division I ball with 11.2 points per game on 43% shooting from three and a perfect 10-10 from the free throw line.
“Terrific three-point shooter,” Donahue said of Wood after Penn's throttling of Central Connecticut State. “It's been him getting used to us and us getting used to him. If anything, I want him to be more aggressive.”
While the Quakers are limited physically on paper, Coach Donahue would prefer his team to be more tailored to skill rather than size anyway. Penn's shooters have rewarded coach Donahue's trust in them by shooting 36% from behind the arc. While that may not put them in elite company as far as perimeter shooting, if the law of averages kicks in, and normally solid shooters like Jackson Donahue and Sam Jones can get their averages closer to their previous seasons, Penn will be in a much better position to win close games.
“This group is way more committed to winning,” coach Donahue remarked following the Central Connecticut win. “They are making priorities and making sacrifices on and off the court to be a better basketball team.”
Even when the shots are not falling, coach Donahue will take the way Penn has competed.
“After watching the film,” Donahue told the Daily Pennsylvanian after their loss to Villanova, “I thought we competed really well. We competed hard when nothing was really going our way in terms of balls falling, so I am encouraged and pleased, but we have to keep working to get better.”
Certainly, the Quakers have room for improvement, as do all other teams this early in the season. But they have been trotting out a starting lineup with three players new to the program, and have grinded through a schedule that had them away from the Palestra for 5 of their 6 games. As the Quakers become more familiar playing with one another and find their identity, more wins are sure to come their way.
Photo: Ananya Chandra/ The Daily Pennsylvanian
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
Benjamin Simon & Benjamin Boswell
The Empire will be running periodic op-ed columns throughout the season called “Ben vs. Ben.” Editors Benjamin Simon and Benjamin Boswell will square off and take different sides on topics, defending their points of view through statistics and analysis. Join the conversation by commenting on the website and social media with your opinions. We want to hear what you have to say too!
Benjamin Simon: Yes, Jackson Donahue will be an All-Ivy League selection
When Jackson Donahue hit his first three pointer against Temple, he was already 0-3 from deep on the night and his team was slowly being defeated. Temple was finally gaining momentum and starting to wear down the Quakers, having stretched the game out to 10 points with 10 minutes left in the game prior to Donahue’s first three of the game.
Not for long though.
In the next minute and a half, Donahue would hit two more three pointers and cut the Temple lead to 5 points with 9 minutes left. Then, with 50 seconds left in the game, he would hit another three, once again cutting the lead to 5. He sparked the Quakers, a team who looked like they had played hard but was going to run out of energy. Donahue had saved them. 19 days later against Villanova he would do the same, solidifying himself as a consistent presence in the Quakers’ starting lineup.
Donahue didn’t score a single point in the first half against Villanova. Penn found themselves down 39-11 halfway through the game, severely overmatched against the eventual national champions. Donahue got the nod in the second half and it didn’t take but 2 minutes and 7 seconds for Donahue to turn the tides, nailing a three pointer off a Darien Nelson-Henry assist. Donahue would score 15 more points that half, including 5 three balls and 3 steals.
These two games were a representation of Donahue’s play: energy filled, relentless, sharp shooting, and unafraid. There wasn’t another day during the season that you couldn’t mention Penn basketball without bringing up Jackson Donahue’s name.
For the next 16 games, Donahue played over 30 minutes in all but one game, more than earning his spot in the regular rotation. During that span, he averaged 14 points and 3 three pointers per game, adding up for a three point percentage of 39%. Given the minutes, he showed his true and full potential. Had he not sat for much of the beginning of the season, Donahue would have been an All-Ivy League player last season. Of the six guards who earned All-Ivy League honors, Donahue’s averages during the last 16 games would have ranked him fourth in scoring and third in three point percentage between the players.
Even without playing much during the first 14 games, Donahue still made the 7th most three pointers in the Ivy League throughout the season. He added to that by ranking in the Ivy League’s top 20 in True Shooting Percentage and 4th in Effective Field Goal Percentage. His strong offensive play gave him an Offensive Box Plus/Minus of 2.6, ranking him 9th in the Ivy League. He finally showed that he was more than equipped to handle the defensive pressure of college basketball players, finishing with a turnover percentage of 9.2, good for 2nd in the Ivy League.
In the second half of the season, Jackson Donahue was easily Penn’s most impactful player. Even when he wasn’t shooting well or scoring much, Donahue affected the game with his energy, enthusiasm, and defense. There wasn’t a time throughout the season that the freshman guard didn’t dive on the floor for balls or run around trying to create a jump shot for himself. Despite being asked to play 30 plus minutes almost every night, Donahue never ceased to play like his job was on the line. And this was just in his freshman season.
Donahue now enters his sophomore year loaded with major minutes under his belt. He will have a strong supporting class, as coach Steve Donahue brings in a talented freshman and transfer class and returns many common faces, only having lost two players from last season. Donahue will also have more time to get more accustomed to his large, high scoring role. Last year, the guard from Northfield Mount Hermon played a mere 21 minutes in his first 8 games, but was then thrust into a starting role for the rest of the season. Now, he will have minutes under his belt and will prepare the entire offseason practicing with the first team as one of the team’s best offensive players.
The bottom line is that Donahue played like a top Ivy League player for the second half of the season. Whether it was against some of the country's top teams (Villanova and Temple) or versus the Ivy League’s best teams, Donahue never failed to perform. Despite enduring treacherous minutes as the year went on, Donahue always produced at a high level on the defensive and offensive end.
Benjamin Boswell: No, Jackson Donahue will not be an All-Ivy League selection
There is no doubt that Jackson Donahue’s play surpassed expectations last season. After averaging just over six minutes and two points in his first nine games, Jackson Donahue was anointed into the Quaker’s starting lineup and began doing what he does best, stretching opponent’s defense with three point sharpshooting. Donahue had a strong conference season, averaging almost 13 points in 35.5 minutes per game while shooting 39% from the three point line. While those are encouraging numbers for a freshman to put up, to say Jackson Donahue will be an All-Ivy guard next season is putting too high expectations on him that he, in all likelihood, will not match.
For starters, the amount of development he would need over this offseason to get his play to the level of what the recent All-Ivy guards have performed at will be difficult. This is especially true when you look at Donahue’s competition in the other Ivy League backcourts and see who he will have to out-perform to be given the All-Conference recognition.
The table below charts the past four year’s First Team All-Ivy guards and the numbers they put up during that season. It is then averaged out to give a base stat-line of what an All-Ivy guard should look to replicate.
As you can see, Donahue will need to improve his statistics significantly in order to compare to recent All-Ivy performers. Even if Donahue doubled the amount of points he produced last season, he still wouldn't match the average of the past four season’s First Team All-Ivy guards.
If Donahue is to improve his numbers, he would need an even bigger role than he was given last season.
Part of what made Donahue such a weapon offensively for the Quakers last season was his efficiency. Shooting 38% from the three and turning the ball over merely .9 times per game are nice looking numbers for a starting guard to put up. But if Penn head coach Steve Donahue does decide to hand Jackson Donahue the keys to the offense and continue to play him for 35 minutes, while improving his role in the offense, so that his usage percentage matches the All-Ivy guards of season’s past, Donahue’s biggest strengths, his 3-point shooting and turnover numbers, will surely decline.
The next table compares Jackson Donahue’s statistics to six other Ivy League guards that will also be in contention for All-Conference recognition next season. Surely Donahue’s biggest competition is Malakai Mason as he was a first team All-Ivy league guard last season. Matt Morgan looks to build off of an excellent freshman year where he was named to the All-Ivy Second Team. Siyani Chambers, who is returning from injury, should also be seen as favorite after being an All-Ivy first teamer in 2013.
Not only does Donahue need to improve his numbers significantly for All-Conference consideration, but there is plenty of competition that is already near the level of an All-Conference performer that Donahue will need to out-play.
Now that we have a base for what Donahue will need to do and how stiff the guard competition will be, it is time to address the loss of Penn’s best player Darien-Nelson Henry and what that means for Donahue next year.
A good big man is a guard’s best friend. Offensively, DNH’s low post skills demanded that teams double team him down low, giving perimeter players room to work. Even when he wasn’t scoring, you can see that Nelson-Henry’s sheer offensive gravity created space for Donahue to put up open three point shots, contributing to his great shooting numbers. Although sophomore Max Rothschild and freshman A.J. Brodeur have talent and will be solid players in due time, they will not require the same amount of double teams and overall attention from the defense as Darien Nelson-Henry did. This will hinder Donahue and ultimately cause him to see a drop in his shooting numbers.
Being recognized to the All-Ivy team requires excellent play on both sides of the floor. Last season, Jackson Donahue’s 113.8 defensive rating was worst among all of Penn’s regular rotation players and it will not get any easier for him next season with DNH’s graduation. DNH’s interior defense played a part in Penn’s opponents shooting 520 3-point shots last year, 13th most in the entire nation. With Darien Nelson-Henry gone, and no clear defensive anchor down low, expect opponents to attack the Quaker’s rim. For an undersized (6-foot, 175 pounds) guard like Donahue, defending without inside help will be a challenge.
All in all, although Jackson Donahue is a talented shooter that opponents will need to account for whenever he is on the court, he would need to develop his game to a much higher level of play to be considered for the All-Ivy team. The quality competition that Donahue will need to out-play and the team’s young and interior presence also makes his case even more unlikely.
Photo: Luke Risher/PhillyEmpire