As the Class of 2017 gets adjusted to its new surroundings in Philadelphia, five student-athletes have the added burden of trying to make a name for themselves as Penn basketball players.
The five freshman Quakers — Tony Bagtas, Matt Howard, Dylan Jones, David Winfield Jr. and Preston Troutt — may be from different regions of the country, but they all share one goal: getting on the court for the Red and Blue.
It’s a daunting task, but with patience and perseverance, coach Jerome Allen thinks they can have their own impact on the season.
“The biggest thing for them is that they have to learn their way,” Allen said.
In high school, these freshmen were at the top of their game and fielded many offers to play basketball at Division I schools across the nation.
And now they each have to prove themselves all over again.
Luckily for all five players, Allen won’t be reliant on them from the start of the season as the freshmen learn from the upperclassmen.
“Our core group of players have a season to reflect on positives and negatives,” Allen said. “Hopefully they can help the younger guys out in the sense of helping them along in the process.
“The beauty of it is that, the large part of the freshmen class, we won’t have to depend on them right away as opposed to last year starting three freshmen.”
Here is a player-by-player preview of the new handful of freshmen for the Red and Blue.
Tony Bagtas: Coming from Atlanta, Ga., there is a lot to like in the freshman guard’s game. His ability to drive the lane and create shots on his own allows him to make an immediate impact in the Quakers lineup alongside senior Miles Cartwright.
Before the season, Bagtas told the DP he would “run the team,” but after the first few weeks of practices, he was unsure of where he would fit in with the Quakers.
“I haven’t really gotten a good feel for [my role on the team] yet,” Bagtas said. He hopes to give the Quakers some support at the point position this year.
Matt Howard: After turning down offers from Stanford and Virginia Tech, Howard chose to come to Penn for both athletics and academics.
“It’s a great school,” Howard said. “It’s hard to pass up on Wharton.”
Howard looks to combine his mid-range talents with high basketball IQ to wreak havoc on defensive matchups. Coming off the bench behind Cartwright and sophomore Tony Hicks will allow Howard to change the pace of the game with his relentless assault.
“My role will probably be to come in and be an energy guy and give as much effort as possible,” he said.
Dylan Jones: Hailing from Houston, Jones originally committed to Pepperdine before having a change of heart and choosing Penn. Jones finished his senior season by dominating the high school competition he faced.
Jones plans to rely on his excellent defense and rebounding to help Penn battle for supremacy on the boards this season. The depth at the forward position could hurt his chances to get significant playing time, but his defensive focus should bode well with the defensive-minded Allen.
“I believe my rebounding and playing defense will help this team,” Jones said.
David Winfield Jr.: The son of Hall of Famer Dave Winfield Sr., this 6-foot-10 center from Southern California brings plenty of raw athleticism to the Quakers. However, a growth spurt during his junior year has led to persistent knee issues for Winfield.
During his senior year for Harvard-Westlake (Ca.), he missed the first part of the season before slowly increasing his minutes. When healthy, he displayed the potential to score and rebound in the paint.
Winfield has played very little during Penn’s preseason due to his injury history. But, once healthy, Winfield could serve as a secret weapon for the Red and Blue due to the fact that he hasn’t shown up on any game film yet.
Preston Troutt: This Dallas sharpshooter has shown promise early with his three-point shot. Troutt, son of billionaire Kenny Troutt, was the third-leading scorer all time for Trinity Christian Academy (Texas) thanks to his reliability on the perimeter.
At Penn’s Red & Blue Scrimmage on Oct. 26, Troutt displayed his long-range jumper and made the most of his minutes.
While talented, he will be competing with a myriad of guards for playing time this season. Troutt has also battled injuries coming into this season. So until he can stay healthy, he’ll stay stashed away on Penn’s bench.
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