Penn basketball had a season to remember in 2017-18. Needless to say, the men's team made all kinds of history — winning the Ivy League and advancing to March Madness for the first time in 11 years, this team made headlines from start to finish as it surged from fourth to first. And on the women's side, though the year might have been disappointing relative to the program's lofty standards, a second-place finish in the Ancient Eight and a second-round finish in the NIT are still nothing to laugh at.
With good results often comes good veteran talent, though, and both teams will have some strong seniors to say goodbye to this offseason. For both the men and women, seniors played key roles, ranging from Anna Ross to Caleb Wood to Darnell Foreman to Michelle Nwokedi and more. Our editors take to the roundtable to debate, which senior will be missed most?
Marc Margolis, Associate Sports Editor — Darnell Foreman
Of all the seniors who are graduating from both basketball programs, Darnell Foreman is the only one to start an NCAA tournament game in his senior season. The Camden, NJ native played an instrumental role in Penn’s resurgence, leading the Quakers with 3.6 assists per game to go along with 10.7 points per game.
Still, his year-end stats do not capture the impact he has had on Penn basketball. Over the course of his four years, whether he was the established starter or fringe rotation player, Foreman set the tone as one of the hardest working players in program history. The senior captain was instrumental in changing the culture of Penn men's basketball and returning the program to being a yearly Ivy league contender.
Additionally, Foreman also provided a bevy of clutch performances, none more memorable than his 19 point first-half outburst against Harvard, which featured a buzzer beater to end the first half. Next season, coach Steve Donahue may have a tough time replacing what Foreman brought to Penn basketball on and off the court.
Sam Mitchell, Associate Sports Editor — Caleb Wood
There are lots of reasons a team will miss its graduating seniors, but they all hinge on whether or not that athlete’s specific skill set leaves holes that the remaining team will have difficulty filling. That’s why there’s no question that Caleb Wood will be the most missed member of Penn basketball next season.
Wood’s spark off the bench and ability to get red hot from three is a crucial skillset, and it’s not clear who among the up-and-coming members of men’s basketball can fill that role. Sure, both Brodeur and Betley are consistently productive offensive forces. But their consistency belies why neither will make up for Wood’s absence.
Wood had only the sixth-most minutes per game this season, and only started once, but still managed to average 10.2 points per game, good for fourth-best on the team. This gave him an average of 20.7 points per forty minutes, which makes him the best per-minute scorer by far.
What this stat encapsulates is that Wood didn’t need to start to have an impact, he didn’t need to play all game to have an impact, and he didn’t need to be involved in every play to have an impact. All he needed was to come in, get the ball in his hands, put it up, and get a bucket. Or two. Or three.
His style of play gave him the power to single-handedly pull the offense out of slumps, cut deficits to shreds, and breathe life back into the team. That’s something that Penn men’s basketball is definitely going to miss.
Jonathan Pollack, Senior Sports Editor — Anna Ross
Penn women’s basketball is losing a former Ivy Player of the Year, but that’s not the player the Quakers are going to miss the most. While the Red and Blue will undoubtedly miss the production and presence of forward Michelle Nwokedi down low, it’s the steady hand of guard Anna Ross that will be the biggest loss.
Ross, the primary point guard this season, graduates as the program’s all-time assist leader. But even that doesn’t explain just how important she was to this team. She started every single game in her four years at Penn, and she was always there when the team needed her most. She might not have been the loudest or the flashiest, but she was a huge leader for the team.
And it’s not like the Quakers have a seasoned veteran to step in like they did last year, when Ross resumed her point guard duties after the graduation of Kasey Chambers. The two most likely candidates on the team to take up the ball handling responsibilities are sophomore Kendall Graesela and freshman Katie Kinum, both of whom have limited experience as the floor general.
Ross was perhaps the Quakers’ most dependable option over the past four years. Replacing her is going to be a tough task.