It’s always tough to predict the success of college basketball teams year in and year out because of one unknown: freshmen.
Penn has four, but two in particular — Jamal Lewis and Tony Hicks — need to step up if Penn plans to compete in the Ivy League this season.
There are nine Ivy rookies who average at least five points per game, all of whom are on the floor for 17 minutes per contest or more. Hicks and Lewis both make that cut.
Some stand out more than others. In each of Dartmouth’s three games, freshman Alex Mitola has been on the floor for at least 33 minutes. He’s averaging 15.7 points per game, the same as Penn junior Miles Cartwright.
Only Harvard’s Siyani Chambers plays more minutes per game than Mitola. Chambers played all 40 minutes in Harvard’s loss to UMass on Nov. 13 and averages just under 10 points per game.
Lewis is third in minutes, averaging 29.8.
While Chambers, Mitola and Lewis take the floor more often than other Ivy freshmen, there are striking similarities within the group.
Four of the nine average between 10 and 12 points per contest, while another four average between five and eight.
In addition, every player in the group besides Mitola takes between six and seven shots on average. Mitola has a quicker trigger, taking 13 shots per game.
The good news for Penn is that Lewis and Hicks have been given the opportunity by coach Jerome Allen to make an impact this season, and each player has shown — in flashes — the potential to do just that.
In the season-opening win over UMBC, Hicks put up 13 points on 4-for-5 shooting, connecting on all three attempts from distance.
Last Monday, Lewis scored seven points to go with four rebounds and three assists in Penn’s loss to Fordham.
The difference between the Quakers’ rookies and the rest of the conference’s young guns is accuracy.
The freshmen who average over 10 points, Mitola not included, don’t shoot the ball more often than the Quakers’ youth. They’ve just been hitting more of their looks, as all of them shoot over 40 percent.
On the flip side, Lewis and Hicks shoot 31 and 34 percent from the field, respectively.
Penn’s freshmen also need to get to the line more often.
Chambers hasn’t shot the ball particularly well at 40 percent, but he gets to the charity stripe four times a game.
Hicks and Lewis have struggled drawing fouls and have attempted just nine free throws combined.
Still, these issues can be easily remedied. Both freshmen are bound to get more comfortable as the season goes on, and with comfort comes the willingness to be aggressive.
Penn isn’t looking for someone to put up numbers like Dartmouth is asking from Mitola. After all, they already have Cartwright and junior Fran Dougherty to carry the bulk of the workload.
Instead, they’re just looking for that third scorer, somebody who can reliably contribute 10 points every night.
They have two prime candidates to do so — it’s time for one to do it.
JOHN PHILLIPS is a junior English major from Philadelphia. He can be reached at dpsports@theDP.com.