palestra

The cathedral of college basketball will no longer be the site of the Ivy League basketball tournaments after hosting in each of the last two years.  

Credit: Chase Sutton

Fresh off an Ivy League Tournament Championship and a trip to March Madness, Penn men’s basketball is set to reload for the 2019 season.

This past week, the Quakers announced their 2022 recruiting class, a class tasked with replacing the since-graduated tournament hero Darnell Foreman and sharp shooter Caleb Wood, among others.

Still, the crux of the championship squad remains intact, and if these four new faces can provide a lift, Penn could be set for a repeat performance.

Headlining the class is Alex Imegwu, an athletic 6-foot-6 guard from Seton Hall Prep. The New Jersey native led his team to a Super Essex Conference title in 2018 and was named a first-team All-Super Essex Conference member in his senior season.  Head coach Steve Donahue praises Imegwu for his shooting prowess, and with Wood having graduated, such a skill set could be in high demand for the Quakers next season.

Joining Imegwu in the backcourt next season will be Bryce Washington from Southfield, Michigan. Washington graduated Southfield Christian as the program’s all-time leading scorer and was a USA Today All-USA (Michigan) selection. In addition to playing basketball, Washington also lettered in track and field and earned all-state honors for the high jump. As the tri-sport resume would indicate, Washington is an elite athlete, one by which coach Donahue is very excited.

“[Bryce] is going to be a great athlete in this league,” Donahue said.” “He’s won everywhere he’s played. He’s shown the ability to score, and he might be someone that, when we get into the practice setting, shows us that he’ll be able to help us right away.” 

Yet another guard in this year’s recruiting class is Griffin Ryan from Winnetka, Illinois. Playing for New Trier, Ryan earned recognition as a Central Suburban League all-conference member for his senior year. Displaying his athletic versatility, Ryan lettered in baseball and football, in addition to basketball.

Rounding out the class is Michael Wang from Taiyuan, Shanxi, China. The 6-foot-10 center spent his high school career at Mater Dei in California. Wang demonstrated his prowess immediately, playing on the varsity team all four years and winning Trinity League titles each season. As a senior, Wang particularly excelled and earned first-team All-CIF Southern Section honors.

“Michael Wang played at such a high level of high school basketball and AAU and performed so well,” Donahue said. “With his size, he’s not someone that will be tasked with handling the ball a lot. I think that he’s someone that we expect to come in and be a pretty main contributor early in his career.”

Although Wang may have the size of a traditional big man, Donahue, when discussing his prized recruit, describes a diverse and exciting style of play that fits with the more modern, high-tempo basketball favored today.

“He was one of those kids that we saw on the AAU circuit in the Nike EYBL, and I couldn’t believe his skill level at that size to be honest,” Donahue said. “He really passes well and shoots well and has a good post game. It really jumps out at you.”

However, not to be lost in the excitement of these incoming recruits is the fact that replacing Foreman, Wood, and others will be a collaborative, interclass effort.

Aiding the freshmen in this venture will be a group of players with which casual Quaker fans may not be overly familiar.

Thanks to poor injury luck, sophomores Jelani Williams and Eddie Scott missed nearly the entirety of their freshman seasons, but now, they’re healthy and ready to contribute. 

“Now that Darnell and his point guard leadership are gone, I think you’ll see a bit more of that from Antonio Woods, but at the same time, I think Jelani Williams is someone that could be a terrific point guard for us as well,” Donahue said. “He’s a year older and a year healthier. With his size, he’s a better scorer than Darnell. He adds another dimension.”  

In fact, Donahue appears almost ready to consider the injuries that afflicted last year’s freshmen to be somewhat of a blessing in disguise. 

“We didn’t feel this way last year, but we feel fortunate right now because our freshmen who were injured most of last year got a season to sit and learn and experience a championship from the sidelines.” 

That mix of championship experience and fresh, healthy legs could go a long way towards securing a second-straight title for the Red and Blue. When you add in these four new freshmen, coach Donahue’s roster becomes even scarier for Ivy League opponents. 

So don’t expect the Quakers to rebuild. They’re reloading.

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