2016 has already been a noteworthy year for two Penn basketball players no longer with the team.
Mere hours before the Quakers tipped off their Ivy League opener against arch rival Princeton on Saturday, Penn Athletics revealed that Antonio Woods, a sophomore guard who led the team in minutes and assists while scoring 10.7 points per game, is academically ineligible for the remainder of the season.
According to a release from the program, the Cincinnati native is no longer with the Quakers "due to insufficient academic progress under University policy" and cannot re-enroll at Penn until the spring of 2017.
Meanwhile, Tony Hicks, the former Red and Blue star who was slated to serve as a team captain in his final season with the Quakers before leaving the program in October, has elected to transfer to Louisville. He will be eligible to play for Rick Pitino's squad during the 2016-17 season after his graduation from Penn in May.
The news of Woods' departure from the team in the middle of the season sent shockwaves through the Palestra on Saturday. Following the Red and Blue's 73-71 overtime loss to the Tigers, coach Steve Donahue revealed that he and the coaching staff had only found out Woods was ineligible late Friday night.
According to Athletic Director Grace Calhoun, once she and Donahue were informed of the situation, they brought the matter to both the media and Woods' attention.
"We talked to Antonio and we said that, in short, as we released in the statement, he made inadequate progress toward Penn's academic standards," Calhoun told The Daily Pennsylvanian on Tuesday. "So we felt it important to state [in the release] that it was not NCAA ineligibility, it was not any sort of misconduct."
With Woods out of the picture, the Quakers' backcourt looks decidedly different. Heading into 2015-16, Woods and Hicks' scoring ability — along with newcomers Jake Silpe and Jackson Donahue, as well as veterans Darnell Foreman and Jamal Lewis — was projected to guide the Red and Blue, while providing the team with immeasurable depth as it adjusted to a new offensive system.
Now, as evidenced by Penn's heartbreaking defeat to Princeton over the weekend, Donahue will instead have to rely heavily on his younger talent throughout Ivy play. Silpe and Jackson Donahue started against the Tigers, combining for 27 points, nine rebounds and seven assists.
Moving forward, it remains unclear what exactly Woods will do from both an academic and athletic perspective. Because he was not declared ineligible by the NCAA, the sophomore could attempt to transfer to a different school.
In the meantime, Woods is unable to re-enroll at Penn for two semesters, and he will not be able to play for the Red and Blue until what would be the second half of his junior season. He is also unable to use the Quakers' athletic and training facilities.
"Obviously, time will tell what Antonio chooses to do. The indication is, from what he's told us, that he'd like to stay around Philadelphia," Calhoun noted. "We'd love to have him back in our program at some point. Coach Donahue, I think, has found to really view Antonio not only to be a talented player, but more importantly to be a real solid, high character person he wants in his program.
"So we'd love to think that we'd get Antonio back."
As for Hicks, the two-time All-Ivy honorable mention confirmed early last week that he would play at Louisville as a graduate transfer next year. After taking in the Cardinals' home win over Wake Forest in person on Jan. 3, the South Holland, Ill., native spoke with Pitino the following day, opting to spend his final season at Louisville over Oregon, Miami and Nevada.
"I wanted to choose a school where I felt I would be a priority," Hicks told the DP last week. "I didn't want to go somewhere where a school called last minute and was just trying to fill a roster spot.
"So once I got the call from Louisville, it was an opportunity I couldn't pass up. They're an ACC school, they play a phenomenal schedule every year and play some of the best basketball in the country."
Adding graduate transfers has become something of a trend for Pitino of late. The Cardinals' two best players this year are concluding their college careers at Louisville after spending a bulk of their tenure at other schools, as guards Damion Lee and Trey Lewis have averaged a combined 31 points per game since leaving Drexel and Cleveland State, respectively.
In fact, it was Lee — Hicks' close friend from their mutual time in Philadelphia — that put Louisville on the senior's radar.
"As soon as he heard that I wasn't playing, he contacted me to see if I was okay and things like that," Hicks said of Lee. "He also told me not to be surprised if Louisville came calling. So I was just at home during winter break and he gave me a call and asked me to come to a game to see how it is and if I liked it."
By voluntarily sitting out his final year with the Quakers, Hicks retained the right not only to graduate from Penn, but to transfer to any program immediately without having to sit out another season.
For Hicks, the opportunity to play at Louisville represents both a chance for him to play against some of the nation's best teams while filling one of the team's biggest perceived holes next year.
"[Lee and Lewis] are their leading scorers, and they don't have a ton of guards right now," Hicks said. "They're very big-heavy and very young right now besides those two seniors, and I just felt I could come and fill that void.
"Hopefully I'll score some points and play some good defense for them. I am just there to do whatever they want, they just want me to come be myself and I just want to come help them win games and try to be the best teammate I can be."
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