It’s a new season and a new slate, with a few new Quakers.
“This crew has a lot of spunk,” senior Tyler Bernardini said during practice, to no one in particular.
As the team prepared for practice on Wednesday, the mood was light-hearted but focused, excited but intense.
And why not? The Quakers will remain undefeated with zero wins and zero losses, at least until Friday. All the preparation is for this, the regular season. On Friday, the time will finally be game time.
Two of the nation’s friendliest-sounding mascots will face off as the Quakers visit the Retrievers of Maryland-Baltimore County.
“I’m quite sure they’ll have a lot of fan support,” coach Jerome Allen said. “It’s a lot of excitement. It’s a new season. That’s normally the case.”
Penn is coming off a thoroughly exciting 74-72 exhibition win over Carleton, last year’s Canadian Interuniversity Sport champions.
After that game, Allen expressed his wish to see more from his team on the defensive and rebounding fronts.
He echoed that statement in the lead-up to UMBC.
“We took a lot from that exhibition game,” Allen said. “We are going to win basketball games this season because we defend and we finish possessions.”
Allen’s team will have to replace the rebounding and scoring ability of three frontcourt players who now play professionally abroad.
Jack Eggleston, Conor Turley and Andreas Schreiber averaged a combined 21.3 points and 11.7 rebounds per game.
For the 2011-12 season, Penn added three freshmen forwards, Henry Brooks, Keelan Cairns and Greg Louis, who will compete down the road to replace that production. Louis, however, will miss several months after recently having hip surgery. Brooks, who had surgery to repair a torn ACL last spring, did not play in either of the teams open scrimmages this preseason.
For now, sophomores Fran Dougherty and Marin Kukoc will step in as the Quakers will probably go small to take advantage of the abundance of talent in the backcourt.
Wings Miles Cartwright and Rob Belcore both sat out the Carleton scrimmage with ankle injuries, but both say they will be good to go for Friday.
The Quakers have been suffering from a moderate case of the injury bug this preseason.
“Right now, we’re a little banged up so to speak, but I’m quite confident some guys will be ready to play,” Allen said. “Come Friday, we’ll have five guys to put on the floor that want to compete.”
Downplaying the palpable anticipation and bounce in the steps of his players, Allen explained why his team is approaching the UMBC game just like the scrimmage against Carleton.
“Every time you get an opportunity to step out onto the floor and compete, whether it be in a practice setting, a scrimmage, an exhibition game, you want to be excited because it’s an honor and a privilege to be able to put on a Penn jersey.”
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