Coach Jerome Allen thinks his team can compete. Really.
“I can honestly say this is a really talented group, and we have a chance to really, really, really be good,” Allen said during the Ivy men’s basketball teleconference Wednesday morning.
Despite finishing second in the Ivy League preseason media poll to Harvard, which received every first-place vote, Allen was very confident in his team’s chances heading into the 2013-14 season and still believes his team has a chance to be a strong contender in the Ivy League in his fourth full season as Penn’s head coach.
With everyone returning from last season and a few new freshmen to help out, Allen’s roster certainly looks as though it should compete.
A large part of that will be determined by the frontcourt — especially how senior Fran Dougherty and sophomore Darien Nelson-Henry play alongside one another, as it was only after injuries kept Dougherty out of the lineup when Nelson-Henry hit his stride.
While those two players, along with senior guard Miles Cartwright and sophomore guard Tony Hicks, certainly seem to be the leading candidates to start, Allen wasn’t quite ready to name them just yet.
“I won’t go in to say who the starters will be,” Allen said. “But I will say I like our frontcourt players against anybody that we’ll play against.”
And with good reason. Dougherty started last year off on a hot streak and Nelson-Henry was just heating up at the end of the season. But the weight won’t just be on them. With returners like junior Henry Brooks and senior Cam Gunter, Dougherty and Nelson-Henry will be able to stay fresh throughout games.
Meanwhile, Hicks spent his summer working on his offensive game.
“He’s really stepped it up,” Allen said. “He’s taken on the responsibility to improve on the offensive end.
“It’s hard to find someone in the league more talented than that kid, and to his credit, he’s worked hard.”
Hicks ended the year averaging 10.4 points per game, but in the last 13 contests since February, he took on more of an offensive load, putting up 15.2 points per contest.
While Hicks and Nelson-Henry were the biggest bright spots from last year, Allen is using the 9-22 season as a positive as well.
“You need to have those types of experiences in order to get better,” Allen said.
The Quakers definitely progressed throughout the 2012-13 campaign. After winning just three games outside of Ivy play, Penn won six league matchups, giving people enough reason to be optimistic about the Red and Blue heading into their season opener against Temple on Nov. 9.
But just because the Quakers rank second in the preseason media poll doesn’t mean that Allen has to care either way.
“It doesn’t make a difference whether we’re picked or we’re not picked,” Allen said, “whether we’re liked or we’re not liked.”
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