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Since taking over as head basketball coach, Jerome Allen has been hot on the recruiting trail. But even after reeling in seven intriguing prospects, the glaring need for a legitimate big man remained.

That changed Thursday.

Penn received a commitment from 6-foot-10, 265-pound center Darian Nelson-Henry to add a third member to its Class of 2012.

Twelve days after his Sept. 17 visit, the Kirkland, Wash. product chose the Quakers over Columbia, Washington State, Boise State and Gonzaga.

“I just knew right after the visit that Penn was the right place,” Nelson-Henry said. “They have a great basketball history, and the Palestra is awesome. And the education is unbeatable.”

The big man’s decision gave Allen and his staff their second commit in the span of three days. Wednesday, highly regarded Chicago guard Tony Hicks joined Washington, D.C., guard Jamal Lewis in the Class of 2012.

Nelson-Henry said visions of playing with that talented backcourt of the future were on his mind.

“It’s hard to pass up the opportunity when you know you’re going to be playing with two very high-quality players,” he said.

And the two incoming guards will certainly enjoy having a player like Nelson-Henry in the middle.

Graded an 88 on, he is touted for his size, mobility, hands and soft touch. Nelson-Henry himself described his biggest strength as his “back-to-the-basket game” and agreed with reports that his athletic ability is a weakness.

But in order to keep pace with Harvard and 6-8, 260-pound freshman Kenyatta Smith, Penn will need players like Nelson-Henry for his size alone.

The center said the coaches had that in mind when recruiting him.

Of the current underclassmen, only freshmen Henry Brooks and Keelan Cairns, and sophomores Fran Dougherty and Cameron Gunter are taller than 6’8, and each weigh less than 230 pounds.

“Obviously [the Quakers] have tall players, but they don’t really have a true, true center that’s bigger and … broader,” Nelson-Henry said. “[The coaches] just said they need a player with my abilities that can rebound and take up space.”

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