It hasn’t been easy being a fan of Penn men’s basketball over the last few years, considering that Red and Blue supporters used to take NCAA tournament trips for granted.
As rough as it has been, though, imagine the last few seasons without Zack Rosen.
A two-time All-Ivy first-teamer and three-time captain, the senior point guard had a plethora of options coming out of high school.
And as strong as Penn basketball was as a program — the Red and Blue had missed the NCAAs only twice in seven years when Rosen entered as a freshman — Ivy League basketball cannot compare to the powerhouse conferences of college hoops.
Seton Hall, Rutgers and Louisville — all from the Big East — were among the schools interested in Rosen, and Villanova recruited him hard.
“I loved the place,” Rosen said of Villanova. “I visited there unofficially.”
But he already had a familiarity with Penn.
Growing up in Colonia, N.J., — about a 15-minute drive from New York City — Rosen “got CN8 games, and Penn was always on.”
“I knew a lot of guys that had come down here and been successful and liked the program,” he added.
Not surprisingly, Penn’s academic reputation was a huge factor. His dad, his high school coach and his headmaster at St. Benedict’s Prep all made sure he took that into consideration.
“They weren’t going to let me go to a place where I wouldn’t be using my brain,” Rosen said.
“He would have been an idiot if he were to pass it up,” remarked Dan Hurley, his former coach at St. Benedict’s, on Rosen’s opportunity to attend Penn. “I was really that blunt with him.”
Hurley, who Rosen said “had a major impact on [him] as a person and as a player,” also knew that Rosen wanted to make an immediate contribution to whichever school he chose.
“He’s such a competitor, I don’t think going and being a backup point guard for a year or two was something he was going to handle very well,” Hurley explained.
At Villanova, that likely would have been the case. At the very least, he would have been splitting time. Wildcats coach Jay Wright maintained that his school’s interest in Rosen never waned throughout the recruiting process.
“We didn’t back off Zack,” Wright wrote in an email. “What happened is that another guard we were recruiting at his position committed and [Zack] looked at other options.”
Wright added that Rosen is certainly “good enough to play in the Big East,” though the point guard “made a great choice” choosing Penn.
Another aspect Penn had in its favor is that it “was there from day one,” according to Rosen.
“When [former coach Fran] Dunphy was here, they started sending me letters. They were one of the first schools involved,” he said.
After three years with the Quakers, Rosen has certainly achieved a number of individual accomplishments, but he has had to watch Villanova reach the Big Dance every year while his team sat at home.
This year provides one final chance to change that.Comments powered by Disqus
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.