Kevin Esteves | Zack Rosen putting it all together
November 21, 2011, 12:30 am · Updated November 21, 2011, 12:31 am·
When Zack Rosen launched a wide-open, corner three in the second half against Robert Morris, there was little doubt about what the result would be.
An open look is way too easy for a guy who is making the incredible look routine this year. The senior point guard is averaging 22.8 points and 5.8 assists through four games, all the while shooting a potent 59.3 percent from the field. Even more absurd? His numbers from three-point land.
Rosen’s 17 threes have him tied for first in the entire nation and his almost comical 65.4 percent rate from distance is second in the country among those with 11 or more three-pointers made.
Yes, over the first four games, Rosen has played out of his mind. But, in a way, this should have been expected.
After all, Penn basketball’s only three-time captain ever — the guy who wants to win more than anything but has suffered through three losing seasons — is facing his college basketball mortality with each passing game. Maybe these amazing bucket-list performances, like the 27 points he hung on Temple, are just the culmination of everything he’s worked for over his three years on campus and not just a streaky anomaly.
Let’s call them the byproducts of Zack Rosen 4.0, the best model we’ve seen yet.
Earlier versions were productive, yet they had their glitches. As a freshman starting point guard, Rosen was thrown into the fire, where he showed an unquestioned ability to lead, but sported a suspect jumper.
The next year, he addressed those concerns as he averaged 17.7 points on 44 percent shooting, despite being targeted by every opponent as Penn’s most dangerous scorer. However, the team, fractured by injuries and a mid-season coaching change, was not in a position to compete for a title, as Rosen and Co. had only a 6-22 record to stare at come springtime.
Then last year, paired with a healthy scoring wing in Tyler Bernardini and crafty rookie guard Miles Cartwright, Rosen 3.0 was able to adapt his game to be more of a facilitator. The Quakers improved to 13-15, but still fell short of contending for the Ivy championship.
But now, Rosen 4.0 is putting it all together, averaging similar scoring numbers to version 2.0, but doing it so much more efficiently. He’s facilitating when he needs to facilitate — he didn’t take a single shot in the first half at Rider — and making big-time shots even with defenders draped all over him.
“Clearly, he’s worked so hard on his ability to shoot the basketball,” said RMU coach Andy Toole, a former Penn hoops player who has known Rosen for about 10 years.
“That’s the result of the summer,” Rosen explained. “Now it’s a body of work. I know the shots that I’m taking — I’ve taken a million times before.”
The gaudy shooting percentages speak to that, but Rosen 4.0’s success is as much team-based as it is individually, which also makes this version unique. It’s the whole team’s efforts — the crazed defense of Rob Belcore, the hustle of Mike Howlett, the timely scoring of Cartwright and Bernardini — that has helped ensure that Rosen’s 20-point games are resulting in meaningful ‘W’s and not ‘L’s.
Rosen’s individual success is overlapping with his team’s now more than ever — Penn is off to its best start since 2005-06 — which means fewer downward gazes at press conferences and more smiles and laughs like on Saturday.
Yes, this Zack Rosen will be having fun senior year, all the while torching his opponents.
KEVIN ESTEVES is a senior communication major from The Bronx, N.Y. He is Sports Editor of The Daily Pennsylvanian. His email address is esteves@theDP.com.