Penn men’s basketball has won its first three games in conference play and looks to follow up on its promising yet disappointing 2017 Ivy League tournament run. Guards Ryan Betley and Darnell Foreman and forward AJ Brodeur return to the starting lineup and have provided continuity, while guard Antonio Woods has been a mainstay in the rotation after rejoining the team following a one-year hiatus. For the Quakers, the only starter who was not previously a fixture in the starting lineup is junior forward Max Rothschild.
After averaging 13.6 minutes per game and starting three games combined in his first two seasons at Penn, Rothschild has averaged 23.9 minutes per game this season, starting all 17 games. And so far, he has validated coach Steve Donahue’s decision to increase his role.
Rothschild’s usage rate (the percentage of offensive plays ending in a shot attempt, free throw attempt, or turnover in which the player is involved) has held at 21.3 percent, close to his career figure. He is also shooting 50.9 percent from the field, about two percentage points off his previous marks. More or less, he has maintained his stats while his playing time increased and he was being used in more situations, something not all players can accomplish.
With his usage rate and shooting percentage effectively constant, it appears Rothschild’s career-best 66 percent clip from the free throw line is helping him to a career-high 100.1 offensive rating, which estimates points produced per 100 possessions, up from his 92.5 career mark.
With more playing time, Rothschild has found more opportunities to show off his passing skills, as he has assisted on 16.9 percent of teammates’ field goals while he is on the floor, close to his 16.5 percent rate last season. He and Brodeur are combining to average five assists per game, which Donahue has acknowledged is rare for a frontcourt duo.
Brodeur addressed how playing alongside Rothschild has opened up the Red and Blue offense after the Quakers took down Cornell.
“A lot of the assists go big-to-big because a lot of teams realize they have to double down in the post on either me or Max,” Brodeur said. "We’re able to cut off that and that will lead to a chain reaction of other defenders having to pick us up and that leaves our shooters wide open.”
“That’s where passing out of the post becomes one of the most vital skills that me and Max have on offense, because it opens up all these different scoring opportunities for shooters, cutters and the other big,” Brodeur added.
The Quakers have a defensive rating of 98.61, second in the Ancient Eight to only Harvard, so it is not much of a surprise that all five Penn starters rank in the top seven in the Ivy League in the individual version of the stats. Brodeur leads the way, allowing 93.0 points per 100 possessions, while Rothschild and Foreman are second and third with 94.0 and 95.7 points allowed per 100 possessions, respectively. Rothschild’s defensive rating has decreased in each of his campaigns; the forward has cut it by almost 12 points from its high two seasons ago. Rothschild is also grabbing rebounds at the best clip of his career, and checks in at second in the conference in that category only behind teammate Brodeur.
Rothschild is playing the best basketball of his career as the Quakers are making a push for an Ivy League title, and they’ll need him to keep producing at a high level.
All stats from sports-reference.com.