With sophomore Julian Harrell logging 17 minutes of action in his first collegiate game at Monmouth Tuesday night, and freshmen Tony Bagtas, Matt Howard and Dylan Jones all seeing time in the opening two contests of the season, which first-year contributor do we expect to make the biggest impact this season for the Quakers?
Sports Editor John Phillips: I think you have to say Harrell simply because he has spent a whole year learning coach Jerome Allen’s system. While Bagtas will be one of the primary point guards off of the bench for Allen, Harrell provides something that Penn has been missing for a few years.
He is a wing who can get out and run, can use his length to get rebounds and who can also play shutdown defense. He had five rebounds last night, good for third on the team. We haven’t seen what he can do offensively yet, but the same can be said for Bagtas, Howard and Jones.
Sports Editor Steven Tydings: While Harrell was impressive against Monmouth on Tuesday, we haven’t really seen a significant impact out of any of the first-year contributors in the first two games. Moving forward, I don’t see any of the players as huge parts of the Penn squad moving forward, but Jones may be the one that makes the biggest impact.
During the Monmouth game, the frontcourt combo of Fran Dougherty, Darien Nelson-Henry and Henry Brooks got into foul trouble, which may become a consistent problem. If Penn’s big men can’t stay on the floor, Jones will get some solid playing time, showing off the rebounding and post presence that got Jerome Allen to recruit the Houston native.
Sports Editor Ian Wenik: I still think that Matt Howard has to be the guy to lead Penn’s freshman class. He’s on this team for his shooting ability and basketball IQ, and the Quakers need someone available on the wing to take pressure off of Hicks and Cartwright so they don’t have to handle the outside scoring load and get overtaxed on the floor. But we haven’t seen the production yet from Howard.
Going 0-2 from the field and missing three free throws against Temple made for an ugly debut in the box score, to be sure. But give him credit for attacking the basket, getting onto the free-throw line, and fighting for rebounds (he pulled down three in that Owls game). If he just gets playing time, I’m sure his shots will start to fall and he’ll develop into another offensive weapon at Allen’s disposal.
Senior Sports Editor Mike Tony: Tony Bagtas got valuable minutes in the season opener against Temple and seemed to settle down after a while. I like his chances to contribute more as his rookie campaign progresses, if only because of his value in slashing and driving to the basket.
He is instant energy, especially on the offensive end, and that gives him a niche that both Jamal Lewis and Cam Crocker lack in the point guard rotation. If Hicks and Cartwright need their offensive burden lessened, Bagtas has the tools to step in for them by midseason. He may not look like a basketball player, but he produces like one.
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