While Princeton currently sits atop the Ancient Eight, rookies from some of the Tigers’ closest competitors are making headlines as they compete for Ivy League Rookie of the Year.
Penn’s Keiera Ray heads into the final 11 games of the season as one of the contenders, along with Harvard’s Temi Fagbenle.
Ray has been exactly what the Quakers have needed this season. She has taken over the point guard position left vacant by junior Meghan McCullough’s injury just three games into the season, and has averaged 24.5 minutes per contest.
Thus far this year, Ray has led all Ivy League freshmen with 8.9 points and two assists per game, while starting 14 of Penn’s 17 games.
“She came in ready to play. She came from a good high school program,” coach Mike McLaughlin said. “The injury to Meghan gave her an opportunity a little bit sooner than she would have had.”
Because of the injury, Ray was asked to play point guard from the start of her freshman year, despite her background as a shooting guard. However, she prepared herself coming into the season to improve at the point if called upon.
“In high school, I really didn’t play point guard that much,” Ray said. “But I knew heading into college I would have to get my ballhandling better and be a more versatile player.”
On Saturday at Cornell, Ray showed off her new-found versatility, putting up 15 points and three assists in Penn’s winning effort. McLaughlin believes such a performance will only help her going forward.
“That has to give her great confidence,” McLaughlin said. “She already has great confidence in herself so this can only help that. She really played a terrific game.”
This isn’t the first freshman to excel for the Red and Blue in recent memory. Just two years ago, Alyssa Baron won Ivy League Rookie of the year while Kara Bonenberger put up 8.4 points per game as a freshman last season.
This season, Ray has drawn on her teammates’ experience to become acclimated to Penn women’s basketball.
“It is a big difference from high school and college,” Ray said. “And the whole team helped us freshmen adjust to that.”
One of Ray’s top competitors for Ivy rookie of the year is Harvard sophomore forward Temi Fagbenle. Fagbenle couldn’t play last season due to eligibility issues but has averaged 11.9 points and 7.2 rebounds in a strong rookie campaign.
Additionally, Fagbenle played for Great Britain’s Olympic team during the 2012 Olympics in London.
“She is an elite level player, an Olympian,” McLaughlin said. “She is a special player, a top-10 kid in the country and she is a great addition to our league.”
While both players are competing for the same award, McLaughlin sees very few similarities between the two rookies.
“Almost night and day. [Temi] is a big kid around the rim,” McLaughlin said. “They are on two different ends of the spectrum, a point guard and a five.”
While Fagbenle may have the inside track on the award, Ray has still put up an impressive season and filled a large need for the Quakers in just her first year on the team.
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