NEW YORK - “this sh*t tough man.”
Those were the words posted to sophomore Tony Hicks’ Twitter less than an hour after a game in which he was ejected for punching Columbia guard Meiko Lyles in the jaw during the second half of Penn’s loss to the Lions.
And he’s right. This season has been a tough one for Hicks, as well as for all of Penn basketball. It was clear on his face throughout the game, in which he went just 2-for-11 from the field. It was clear in the way he hid his head in his jersey as the referees reviewed the tape to see whether or not he had indeed thrown a punch. And once he was finally ejected, it was clear from the downtrodden manner in which he walked off of the court, escorted by a security guard and the trainer.
But that’s no excuse.
There are a lot of bad teams in college basketball. There are a lot of teams that don’t rebound, that have poor shot selection and that turn the ball over far too often.
What distinguishes Penn basketball from those teams is that the Quakers are not simply bad. The Red and Blue are an undisciplined, insubordinate team, one that Allen lost a long time ago.
Two Decembers ago, five players - Darien Nelson-Henry, Henry Brooks, Hicks, Steve Rennard and Miles Jackson-Cartwright - were suspended for substance abuse, sitting out against Delaware.
In March of the following year, the frustration of a difficult season poured out after a loss to Yale on the road, with numerous yells sounding from the Quakers’ locker room after the game, with Allen having to cut short an interview to go and corral his team.
That December, just a few months ago, Hicks himself was involved in another physical altercation, shoving a Wagner player into press row once the Seahawks had sealed a game in overtime that the Quakers could have won.
Tonight was just the latest in a long list of moments from the last two season in which the Quakers showed that Allen has lost this team, not just as a team that can win, but one that respects him, their teammates and the game of basketball.
Not only was Hicks ejected, but Allen was forced to sit Nelson-Henry and Brooks for reasons into which Allen would not delve following the contest.
He gave no comment when asked if their discipline was complete, for whatever action caused them to be suspended.
This was the second incidence in both players’ time at Penn in which Allen has had to discipline them.
So, when considering the problem with Allen as he relates to Penn going forward, don’t think simply about wins and losses.
Think about the fact that next year, there will no longer be a Dau Jok, or a Fran Dougherty serving as an example to play the game the right way on and off the court.
Hicks and Nelson-Henry will be the team’s best players next year, but they are not ready to lead this team.
And Allen doesn’t have enough control of those players to turn them into leaders.
After the game, Allen admitted that Hicks’ actions were on his shoulders. “I should have spotted it earlier,” he said.
It is clear from Penn’s record over the last two years that Allen is unable to get the most out of his talent on the court.
But tonight served as yet another example that Allen doesn’t have enough of a pulse on his players to keep them in check.
And while a 7-19 record looks bad, three suspensions just from one game - Hicks won’t play against Cornell tonight per NCAA rules - looks much, much worse.
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