With Fran Dougherty likely out for the year — the question has once again arisen as to who will step up in the rotation for the Quakers.
But instead of the usual suspects — Henry Brooks, Greg Louis, etc. — how about someone completely different?
How about Cameron Gunter?
The 6-foot-9 center, oft unnoticed by both fans and media alike, may be just who the Quakers need to get back on their feet and back into the Ivy League race.
Gunter sightings this season have been brief — a spot start and six minutes against Lehigh here, 13 minutes and a block against Butler there. But in his limited action, the junior has made strides towards being the defensive space-filler that he was envisioned to be when Glen Miller first recruited him.
Still, Gunter has received just 93 minutes of playing time (second fewest on the team) despite appearing in 15 of the team’s 20 games this season.
Though some may merely attribute his lack of playing time to a logjam of forwards on the roster, there are other factors that have kept Gunter from truly asserting himself on the floor.
“It’s difficult for him,” assistant coach Ira Bowman said. “I think it’s more physical limitations than anything else … it’s always hard to be able to justify or figure out exactly what’s going on with him and I feel for him at times, but I know that those two, three minutes [he plays] are valuable minutes and we wish that we’d be able to play him for longer periods of time, but I think we’ve got to play with the hand that’s been dealt.”
That “physical limitation” would happen to be Gunter’s unusually slender frame. Weighing in at only 208 pounds, Gunter isn’t quite the presence down low that a Nelson-Henry type is.
Gunter, though, has worked tirelessly over the years to build himself up, withstanding adversity such as Miller’s midseason firing in 2009 with poise.
“I came in very underweight compared to a lot of the other centers and still kind of am,” Gunter said. “But it just took a lot of me working on my body, working on my skill set, my footwork and stuff to adjust my game to where it needed to be.”
Gunter’s efforts to bulk up and make himself a serviceable part of Penn’s rotation have been lauded by the coaching staff.
“He does a good job of working hard, every day in practice, doing the things that we ask of him on both ends of the floor,” head coach Jerome Allen said. “He’s definitely one of the leaders on the team.”
“Cam is a great team player,” Bowman added. “I think he’s developed a lot. He’s one of the kids that you know what you’re getting out of every day, he comes and pours his heart and soul into every practice, every workout.”
The results have already begun to show.
Gunter has already logged a career high in total minutes played, amassing double digit minutes in five different games so far this season. Entering the year, Gunter had only played 10 minutes or more in a game three times in his career.
For Gunter, things may finally be falling into place for him to truly make his mark on the program, even if the stat sheets don’t show it.
“To be honest, it hasn’t really been an offensive mindset for me,” Gunter said. “I understand that the most important thing for us right now is team defense and help defense and just getting it done in ways that other people might not have focused on.
“While I can score and rebound and [do] those types of things, I understand that my place on the team, in the limited amount of time I might get on the floor, is probably better spent focusing on the defensive end of the floor and getting stops.”
With all the injury buzz swirling around the Quakers now, it could be Gunter’s time to show what he can do all over the court.