Just as one shouldn’t praise Jerome Allen solely due to last season’s 20-13 finish, one should also not judge him based on Penn’s current 3-15 campaign.
Last year, the Quakers finished just one game shy of playing for the Ivy League title behind the stellar senior performances of Zack Rosen, Tyler Bernardini and Rob Belcore — none of whom Allen recruited.
And this season, a gaping hole left by former Penn coach Glen Miller has forced the Quakers to embark on an undesirable path without any senior leadership. The results have been unsurprising.
So what, then, should be the measuring stick for Allen’s success in the next couple of years?
It should be Darien Nelson-Henry, Tony Hicks, Henry Brooks, Greg Louis — the assets whom Allen was responsible for bringing into the program on his own and grooming into college basketball players.
Twelve months from now, when these future sophomores and juniors make up the core of Penn’s squad, it’ll be troublesome if the Quakers’ record at all resembles what it looks like now.
As a freshman a season ago, Brooks showed the most promise from Allen’s first recruiting class. The 6-foot-8 forward started 24 games and averaged 4.6 points, but his inability to stay out of foul trouble limited him to 14.3 minutes per game.
A year later, Brooks still can’t stay on the floor. His 59 personals (3.5 per contest) lead the Ancient Eight. He’s had flashes of improvement — he played 31 minutes against Temple, scoring 10 points and picking up just one foul — but overall, his development in this area has been minimal. And that’s a problem.
Louis, a 6-foot-7 sophomore who is essentially a freshman since he didn’t play last year, has performed well when called upon.
His double-double of 19 points and 11 boards against Delaware on Dec. 21 appeared to be his breakout game, but he later turned in a four-point, 2-for-9 shooting clunker at Butler and has seen more than 15 minutes just once in six games since.
It’s been the same story for Tony Hicks, Patrick Lucas-Perry and Jamal Lewis. All have excelled at times but none have stood out as being future stars for Penn in the Ivy League.
The exception — and perhaps Allen’s best grab thus far — is center Darien Nelson-Henry. Serving as Penn’s primary big man with Fran Dougherty out, DNH has started coming into his own.
In his last five games, three of which have been starts, the Kirkland, Wash., native has averaged 14.8 points in just 25.2 minutes on the floor. Better yet, it’s come on 32-for-50 shooting (64 percent).
His 10-for-19 showing at the charity stripe over that span is something that definitely needs to improve in the future, and it should with time.
But perhaps the most exciting prospect about Nelson-Henry is his still undeveloped 6-foot-11, 265-pound, frame. Sometimes he may evoke the appearance of a softie from the sidelines, but a summer in the weight room should turn him into an intimidating physical force around the net.
“[He’s] absolutely a load down there,” Temple coach Fran Dunphy said after Wednesday’s game. “He’s going to make some noise over the next couple of years at Penn. He’s really difficult to guard.”
Even Temple, a perennial tournament contender, had no match for DNH down low. No player for the Owls is taller than 6-foot-10 or weighs more than 230 pounds. Imagine what Nelson-Henry will do when he bulks up.
All of this, of course, is speculation on Nelson-Henry’s and the others’ potentials. It could all change over the course of a year — DNH could regress or another underclassman could make unexpected strides.
Either way, it’s the play of these players upon which one must pass judgment on Allen, and the time for that hasn’t arrived just yet. But it’s coming.
MIKE WISNIEWSKI is a senior classical studies major from Philadelphia and is a former sports editor of The Daily Pennsylvanian. He can be reached at dpsports@theDP.com.
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