Were last year’s freshmen the best of all time?
Maybe not; but Penn men’s basketball certainly put together the greatest freshman class of recent memory. Last year’s rookie trio of AJ Brodeur, Ryan Betley, and Devon Goodman played massive minutes for the Quakers down the stretch during an unprecedented turnaround to earn a berth in the inaugural Ivy League Tournament. Now, a new set of freshmen are up to bat.
While the class only has five players, it is replacing an even smaller group of seniors that boasted only one major contributor in Matt Howard.
The freshman five have already proven they can win, boasting a total of five high school conference championships and one state title between them. Coach Steve Donahue was upbeat about the group and the recruiting process as a whole.
“We feel extremely confident that these five young men will have a tremendous impact over the course of their four years at Penn. We also believe they are the type of individuals who could immediately contribute to our growing success as we continue to build toward an Ivy League championship”, Donahue said in a Penn Athletics press release. “I cannot wait until we can start working with them in the fall!”
Donahue had to wait a little longer than usual to get one recruit, Mark Jackson, to come to Penn. The Salt Lake City, Utah native graduated from East High School in 2015, but spent the last two years on a Mormon Mission to Paris. In high school, the four-time letterman won All-State and All-Region recognition in his senior year. And while he took two years off between commitment and joining the Quakers, the 7’3” big man was a prize recruit in 2015, and is rumored to have chosen Penn over schools in conferences as big as the Pac-12.
Jackson is joined by Moon Area HS graduate Jarrod Simmons. Simmons was named All-Conference twice and Section Player of the Year once. He also won two conference titles. Simmons’ 6’8” height adds additional size behind Jackson.
Jelani Williams of D.C.’s Sidwell Friends School was a four-year letterman and three year captain. He was named All-Conference twice before an injury hampered his senior year. He won a conference title and was an Honorable Mention in the Washington Post’s All-Metropolitan team his junior year.
Fellow D.C. area recruit Eddie Scott joins Williams. Scott, was also a captain and four-year letterman, and is the only player to have won a state title. Ironically, though, he did it in a non-state location—blame the District of Columbia State Athletic Association for that confusion. Scott also won two conference titles, and was named All-Conference and Honorable Mention All-Metropolitan in the Washington Post his senior year.
Last but not least is Griffin Halpern. The only new Quaker to be listed under 6 feet, Halpern still managed to be named to the All-County team twice and All-State Honorable Mention once. He was also named Conference Player of the Year.
Donahue is excited for his incoming class. If they can match last year’s newcomers, the rest of the Penn community will be just as thrilled.
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