NEW YORK CITY – One of my favorite things to do when I’m in New York City is observe people who clearly haven’t been there in a while.
It’s obvious to identify these individuals – oftentimes painfully (albeit humorously) so.
These are the people who constantly bump into the ever-present waves of incoming pedestrians with somewhere to be. Who seem utterly lost when everybody else seems to be on a mission. Who are so transfixed by the towering buildings and bright lights that they forget to put one foot in front of the other.
I can classify these individuals easily because I myself am one of these unfortunate individuals. This was made painfully clear in my several futile attempts to make it one block from a parking garage to Levien Arena, where I was supposed to cover Penn women’s basketball take on Columbia on the road.
A couple months ago, at the beginning of the season, Penn’s underclassmen bore a striking resemblance to these wannabe New Yorkers.
I can’t say anything about their respective abilities to navigate through the actual Big Apple, but they certainly looked a little out place trying to gel with the rest of the Red and Blue (19-7, 10-2 Ivy) on the court. This contributed the a relatively rough start to the Ivy season for a Penn team coming off
Of course, all of this is completely to be expected. If you lived all of your life in, say, the middle of Nebraska and made your way to NYC for the first time, it’s reasonable to assume that you’d be pretty lost.
And for many athletes, the transition from high school to college is just as drastic as the transition from the American heartland to the big city. In college, the pressure is greater, the game is faster and the training is tougher.
But while Red and Blue freshmen Beth Brzozowski, Anna Ross and – most notably – Michelle Nwokedi may have struggled with the transition initially, those struggles are long in the past. In fact, it’s tough nowadays to distinguish between the freshmen and the seniors from their respective demeanors on the court.
“I have noticed that,” coach Mike McLaughlin said when asked about this comparison. “That’s the hope always … We try to coach them that way.”
I did eventually navigate my way through the bust New York streets to the game, and the freshmen did not disappoint.
Nwokedi continued her streak of dominance in the paint, notching a cool nine rebounds and three blocks while also showing off her jump shot on offense. Ross has emerged as a steadying presence with the ball in her hand and had 12 points of her own.
Even Brzozowski, who struggled shooting throughout the game, provided plenty of her trademarked energy off the bench and helped earn the Quakers a hard-fought 50-36 win over the Lions (8-19, 2-11).
This isn’t just an isolate occurrence or a forced NYC metaphor either. It’s a bona fide trend: the Quakers haven’t lost in over a month, and these three freshmen have a lot to do with that.
Not only have the Quakers not lost in the past month – it hasn’t even felt like they were going to lose in the past month. Each of their eight past consecutive wins have been by double-digits, and when Columbia made a bit of a run in the middle of the second half, it never seemed like Penn was at risk of losing.
Nwokedi, for one, credits much of her personal success to the team’s senior leadership.
“At the beginning of the year we were all like timid freshmen,” she said. “And know [we have] the green light to just play … With their leadership and their help it’s been easy.”
As those seniors surely remember, a few years ago, the Quakers were excited to break .500 on the season. But the culture of the program has changed: winning is the expectation.Comments powered by Disqus
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