Returning 14 players, including all five starters, to a squad that won the Big 5 and Ivy League championships a year ago, the Penn men's basketball team certainly doesn't need a whole lot of help going into the much-anticipated 2002-03 season.
Yet some is on the way.
Penn head coach Fran Dunphy is filling the two roster spots left vacant by graduated seniors Dan Solomito and Jon Tross with two highly touted freshmen recruits -- Friedrich Ebede and Patrick Haddan.
The Quakers also will welcome Eric Heil -- who is transferring from Lehigh after one season because of a coaching change -- to campus in the fall. Due to Division I transfer requirements, however, Heil will not suit up until the 2003-04 season, when the Quakers lose six players to graduation.
Heil, originally from Bettendorf, Iowa, was a strong inside presence for the Engineers in his first season playing collegiate basketball.
The 6-foot-8 forward averaged 6.3 points, 3.6 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in his freshman campaign, earning him a spot on the Patriot League All-Rookie team.
Heil will be looked upon to be a solid post player the season after next, perhaps stepping into the very large shoes of big men Koko Archibong and Ugonna Onyekwe after they move on.
But now all eyes are on the dynamic duo of Ebede and Haddan, a pair of very athletic players with enormous potential.
Both players were recruited at some big-time programs ---Ebede at Providence, Rutgers and Rice; Haddan at USC and Pepperdine -- and both players are expected to bring a ton of athletic ability to an already athletic team.
"I'm very happy to have these guys," said Dunphy, never one to gush. "Athletically, [Ebede] is very good, and he has his best days in front of him.
"[Haddan] is a good play maker with great speed and quickness. He needs to get bigger and stronger, but he will improve."
After leaving his native home of Yaounde, Cameroon for political reasons two years ago, Ebede found a home in America with the Morse family and enrolled at the Wilmington Friends school in Delaware.
After dominating the hardwood at Friends for a season, earning All-State honors for averaging 25 points, eight rebounds and eight assists per game, Ebede spent last year at Northfield Mount Hermon, a Massachusetts preparatory school, where he polished his English skills and refined his game.
Ebede led his team in points and rebounds, and the talented scorer drew attention from around the country. But in the end, Ebede, who has always taken his academics very seriously, decided that Penn was the perfect match.
"I always like the challenge," said Ebede, in perfect English. "Penn is a good choice. It's a big-time basketball program in a big-time city, and it's a big-time academy."
Sounds like he's ready for the big-time.
Standing at six-foot-six, Ebede is a natural shooting guard or swingman, who uses his raw athleticism to get to the hoop.
"The thing I know is that I like to score points," the Cameroon native said. "There are so many ways to score -- I like to explore all the ways."
Haddan is also no stranger to scoring points, as he piled in an average of 14.7 per game as a senior at Woodbine High School in Irvine, Calif. The true point guard also dished out 3.8 assists per game to lead his team to a 19-10 record and a trip to the state quarterfinals.
Haddan did get some early interest from west coast powers USC and Pepperdine the summer before his senior year, but those calls eventually gave way to the calls of the Ivy League, specifically that of Penn and Princeton.
Haddan toiled over the decision between the two Ivy powers, eventually deciding on Penn, because of its atmosphere and basketball tradition.
"It just felt right," Haddan said.
Haddan, who stands at six-foot-one, is a very quick and athletic player, who can run the court and even get up and dunk the ball. But the Californian knows he must work hard to learn the system, and is eager to work under senior point guards Andrew Toole and David Klatsky when he arrives in August.
"I'm a freshman - I'm not expecting a whole lot of playing time," Haddan said. "I just want to give it my all."
One thing is for certain - the 2002-03 Quakers have loads of talent. Addressing the issue of playing time (there is a logjam at almost every position), Dunphy said only that it would be a "tremendous challenge." Still, Dunphy and his players must be more than excited to begin a season with so much promise.Comments powered by Disqus
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