Love it or leave it, the Ivy League’s policy on scholarships and recruiting is, well, dynamic. Here’s a list of pros and cons to a massive incoming freshman class like the one Penn announced yesterday.
PROS — Cast a wide net. With no worrying about roster size or scholarship dollars, the program has no excuse not to get as much talent on the roster as possible. If you can secure eight recruits, maybe four or five will turn out alright over their four-year careers. That’s better than two good players coming out of a four-man recruiting class. The Cornell effect. How did Cornell play its way to the NCAA’s Sweet Sixteen this year? With a lot of players — 19 to be exact. And during that run, the media couldn’t get enough of the Cinderella’s seniors, all nine of them, who lived together in one house (think The Real World: Ithaca). That team and class chemistry is vital. “It’s a built-in group of friends that you’re gonna have for your whole four years,” Class of 2011 member Jack Eggleston said of recruiting classes. Survival of the fittest. A little friendly competition will go a long way in terms of motivating these freshmen. They’ll have to have both a stellar work ethic and talent to get minutes this year. It will also push the older players, and keep them from getting complacent.
Eggleston said, “I’m helping them but seeing them in there working hard is making me push even harder, and I hope that’s how it is with everybody else as well. That’s how we’re going to get better.” Body count. The Red and Blue have had their share of injuries over the past few years. Many have simply passed this off as bad luck (a story for another day). But whatever the cause of Penn’s health issues, there will be reserves at every position this year.
CONS — Quality over quantity. I’m a foodie. I’d much rather have a nice 8 oz. cut of sirloin than a pound and a half of chuck meat. Instead of filling roster spots with potential talent, go out and find some recruits who are guaranteed to make a difference on the team from day one. I guess it depends on how hungry Penn is.
Playing time. No matter how much they tell you that it’s great just to be a part of the team, every college basketball player needs minutes like Penn grads need jobs. College sports are a huge time commitment, if you don’t get to play a few minutes here and there, you start to wonder whether you ever will. I remember chatting with rising senior Dan Monckton after his first opportunity to start last season, and that was just what he told me.
Development. This relates to the minutes issue. I can see only two scenarios next year: a few freshmen get a decent chunk of the minutes, or they all share and play very few. As much as practicing or playing on the JV team helps develop players, in-game varsity experience is irreplaceable, and no matter how Jerome Allen shakes it, the freshmen (and older players too) will lose out on that valuable gameplay experience. To quote my man Ben Franklin, “Experience keeps a dear school, but fools will learn in no other.”
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