Undoubtedly, there are many people across Penn’s campus and the greater basketball landscape who are surprised by the immediate impact made by freshman AJ Brodeur.
Just don’t count the 6-foot-8 power forward or his coach among them.
“I won’t say that I saw [this level of success] coming, but I played with a mindset that I’m going to go out there and play like I know how to play,” Brodeur said. “I know that I can have an impact on our team. I don’t think it’s that surprising because I know what I’m capable of.”
Penn coach Steve Donahue, the man who has had his eye on Brodeur since he was in ninth grade, agrees with his new star player’s sentiments.
“Of all of the kids I have recruited, I’ve probably gotten to know AJ as well as any of them,” he said. “I’ve seen literally probably hundreds of his games, so I was pretty confident in what we were getting.”
This confidence in Brodeur’s abilities turned out to be well-warranted. The freshman dominates each game’s box score, leading the Quakers in scoring, rebounding, steals and blocks through the first six games of his career.
Donahue attributes this remarkable success to Brodeur’s unrelenting work ethic.
“The thing that jumps out at you initially is how hard he plays, and that’s not just during games,” Donahue said. “That’s every practice and every session that we have. He’s completely engaged in everything we do, and he competes at such a high level. I think that’s what you want out of every player.”
Brodeur’s high level of intensity did not just stand out to Donahue in the recruiting process, however. Coaches across the country were equally enticed by the forward/center’s playing style and demeanor. The impressive list of schools courting Brodeur included most of Penn’s Ivy League rivals along with Davidson, Boston College and Notre Dame.
After careful consideration, Brodeur realized that he ultimately wanted to play in the Ivy League, so Penn, Harvard and Yale became his top choices. Of those three, Penn was the school that finally emerged as the right one for him.
“Penn made the most sense for me basketball-wise and in terms of where I saw myself, where I wanted to be,” he explained.
Although one might think that an impressive stat line that includes 13.7 points and 6.5 rebounds per game would satisfy a freshman, Brodeur expects even more.
“The next step for me is to go above just making an impact and to really start to be dominant on the floor,” Brodeur said. “Being around the basket, ripping down every rebound, getting double-doubles every single game. Those are definitely my goals and my expectations. Even by the end of this season, I want to grow into that. I definitely think that’s possible.”
If Brodeur can fulfill these lofty expectations this year, Penn should be well-positioned to attain its ultimate team ambition.
“At the end of the season, our goal is to get the Ivy League championship,” Brodeur said. “That’s what we’re all looking forward to. That’s what we’re all working towards. That’s the final goal.”
With Brodeur in the program, Donahue already senses that the Red and Blue are more than one step closer to that Ivy League title, because Brodeur’s impact transcends his contributions to the stat sheet.
“People watch how hard he works and how hard he plays,” Donahue said. “They watch him, and they want to raise their level of play.”
It is that type of impact that has Donahue bestowing upon Brodeur the highest of praises.
“He has a chance to be one of the greatest players to ever play here.”
A prediction like that should put a scare into the rest of the Ivy League.