Ever since he came to Penn, coach Mike McLaughlin has always had a freshman standout in each of his recruiting classes. Whether it was Alyssa Baron, Kara Bonenberger or, just last year, Sydney Stipanovich, one of the first-year players has had a big role for the Red and Blue.
This season, the freshman class as a whole will be playing a big role from the opening tip on Nov. 14 in Tennessee.
The Quakers have four freshmen on this year’s squad, with guards Anna Ross and Beth Brzozowski figuring to see time in the backcourt while Lauren Whitlatch and Michelle Nwokedi add to Penn’s already strong depth in the frontcourt.
Due to the graduation of Alyssa Baron and Meghan McCullough, each of whom started every game in the backcourt, the Red and Blue will be looking to their younger players to take over ball-handling duties.
McLaughlin expects Ross to be the point guard to begin the season while sophomore Melanie Lockett will also take on a big role at guard after playing limited minutes off the bench last season. Brzozowski may take some minutes after playing a prominent role at the Red and Blue scrimmage.
“Right now, we’ve been going with Anna Ross ... who’s done well, who’s shown signs every day of understanding the college game,” McLaughlin said.
“We scrimmaged the other day and played against extremely athletic teams. As the game went on, she began to adapt to the game much better. Hopefully she’ll be able to do that quicker as she gets more experience.”
While McCullough was one of Penn’s definitive leaders last season in more of a distributing role, Ross is “a different type of player than Meghan,” according to McLaughlin. The 5-foot-8 guard has been more of an attacking point guard and has been touted for her driving ability.
The only thing that may hold Ross back at first is her inexperience, an inherent issue for a freshman.
“Her biggest weakness right now is what she doesn’t know,” McLaughlin said. “She does have the ability. I see her having a nice career here at Penn and it is going to start right out of the gate.”
In the post, Nwokedi will also have a role from the opening tip, as she was the first forward off the bench for the Quakers during their most recent scrimmage. Though Bonenberger (illness) and Stipanovich (back) were out for the game, Nwokedi will be behind them going forward in the lineup, making her mark in fewer minutes.
“With Michelle, everything is new, but it is nice to have a solid group of post players that she can come into,” senior captain and forward Katy Allen said. “And it’s not like we have a bunch of new forwards. It’s nice to be able to add a few.”
Though Nwokedi will be playing right away, Whitlatch may have to wait for playing time. Normally a guard, Whitlatch has played a bit of forward to help fill in for Penn’s injured forwards.
“I think she’s got a bright future,” McLaughlin said. “She might have to be patient a little bit, let her body stretch a little bit. But I like what she is doing.”
No matter what role each player ultimately takes on, each will have to make the tough adjustment to NCAA hoops.
“Coach always talks about the pace of the college game being different from high school,” senior captain Renee Busch said. “[It is important to] set the example in individual workouts, practice, going hard against them so they aren’t shocked when they get into a game.”
No matter the leadership surrounding this new class, it might not be much of an adjustment period.Comments powered by Disqus
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