Basketball season is back.
This Saturday, both Penn men’s and women’s basketball will kick-off their seasons with the informal Red and Blue scrimmages in the Palestra.
The scrimmages will be intrasquad, so for their first taste of competition for the long season, the Quakers will find themselves.
Men’s coach Steve Donahue promised that his team’s scrimmage would be a good contest.
“We’ll make ‘em even,” he said of the teams. “[We’ll] try to make it as competitive of a game as we can.”
But with so many new faces, it’ll be hard to tell what level each player is at until they all hit the court Saturday morning. The women’s squad has five rookies to tout this year, while the men have four freshmen — plus the return of junior guard Antonio Woods, who spent almost the last two years away from the team after starring for the Quakers his rookie season.
Woods, along with freshmen Eddie Scott and Jared Simmons, are key players Donahue will watch closely on Saturday. The three could feature prominently for the Red and Blue this season, even it’s currently uncertain where they’ll fit on the roster.
“Eddie is probably one of the most athletic shooting guards I’ve seen,” Simmons said in praise of his classmate.
“Both Eddie and Jared have done a very good job,” Donahue said of the rookies’ preseason workouts. “I could see them helping us early on. And obviously [getting] Antonio back over the summer — I think he’ll make us a better team.”
The team improved from its low-point in February, when the Quakers bottomed out at 0-6 in the Ivy League with no hope in sight of making the inaugural Ivy League Tournament. They ended up finishing the season on a 6-2 run to make the tournament and give Ivy champs Princeton a real scare before losing in overtime.
Donahue was confident that the team’s momentum could carry into the new season.
“We’ve done a very good job over the last six months taking what we learned from last year’s run and making our team better,” he said. “I think we’re bigger, stronger, quicker, more experienced in all aspects of the game.”
The women’s team won’t have to worry much about a lack of momentum, either — the back-to-back Ivy League champs return the bulk of their team, having lost Sydney Stipanovich and Kasey Chambers to graduation.
The question their squad might have to answer on Saturday is who could feature in their starting lineup. A 6-foot-3-sized hole remains where Stipanovich left, but the inch-taller freshman center Eleah Parker could step in to fill that void.
A competition will be afoot for the first spots on the bench as well. Players like sophomores Kendall Grasela and Phoebe Sterba will seek to prove their case for a bigger role on the team.
On the men’s side, ‘prove’ was the word on senior Darnell Foreman’s lips.
“Guys have got a lot to prove, a lot to prove. If you’re a freshman, or even an older guy like me, you’ve got a lot to prove every time you step on the court,” the captain said.
Freshmen like Simmons will be facing their first time playing in front of fans at the Palestra. A feeling like that is something to behold, the rookie mentioned.
“There’s so many emotions when I think about it, but I’m just hoping that I can play well,” Simmons said.
He doesn’t who his teammates are for the Red and Blue scrimmage yet, but Foreman indicated they might know a couple hours before the game.
For now, though, both the men’s and women’s teams are just looking forward to getting back into basketball season and playing at the Palestra.
As Foreman put it:
“That vibe is just unreal.”
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