wbb-scrimmage-parker

Sophomore center Eleah Parker will be relied on heavily this season following the graduation of former front court partner Michelle Nwokedi.

Credit: Chase Sutton

On Saturday, Penn men's and women's basketball returned to the Palestra for the Red and Blue Scrimmages — the teams' first appearances in front of fans since last season. With the start of the men's and women's seasons both coming within the next three weeks, here are a few players from both squads to keep an eye on after their impressive performances today.

Eleah Parker

Parker begins this season as perhaps the Quakers’ most decorated returner. As the 2018 unanimous Ivy League Rookie of the Year, Big 5 Rookie of the Year, and a second-team All-Ivy and second-team All-Big 5 selection, the center will be one of the top players in the Ivy League in her sophomore year. 

“I think I have grown a lot from last year to this year,” Parker said. “My mentality about the game, my mentality about workouts have just changed. Pushing through fatigue and competing every practice hard, I think that’s the biggest difference between last year and this year.”

Parker believed the scrimmage was useful for diagnosing areas the Quakers need to improve upon.

“I think the Red and Blue scrimmage really helped point [weaknesses] out, especially defense as a team, that’s one area we really need to strengthen before our first game,” she said.

Mia Lakstigala

Credit: Chase Sutton

The freshman guard from Naperville, Ill. appeared to have what it takes to get significant minutes come game day. Mia Lakstigala’s performance at the Palestra demonstrated how she graduated with the second most career points in her high school’s history. With the Quakers’ current shortage of big-name starpower, Lakstigala has plenty of room to make a name for herself in the coming months. McLaughlin feels confident in her skill on the court as well.

“I think Mia Lakstigala has played really well, she’ll be in the mix,” McLaughlin said. “She’ll either start or get a lot of immediate playing time.”

Lakstigala enters into her rookie season with two other talented freshmen, Kennedy Suttle and Meg Hair.

“I think them three could be in the mix pretty quickly,” McLaughlin said.

Ashley Russell

Credit: Chase Sutton

After graduating big-impact players like Michelle Nwokedi and Anna Ross, upperclassmen will need to step up to fill leadership roles. Senior guard Ashley Russell leads the senior class in experience, having averaged 24.3 minutes per game last season. Russell could be the player to fill the scoring gap, as last year she averaged 7.5 points per game. 

Regarding her seniority and experience, Russell hopes to be able to lead by example.

“I kind of have just relied on my team-oriented style of play,” Russell said. “Trying to get extra possessions, trying to get offensive rebounds — I feel like those little things really gets the team going, really gets everybody excited, it gets the bench going, and so just leading by example in that sense.”

Michael Wang

Credit: Emily Xu

The highest rated recruit of coach Steve Donahue’s tenure did not disappoint in his first showing for the Quakers. Playing as more of a point forward than a center, Wang displayed a little bit of everything, showing off a wide repertoire of offensive skills. He led all players with 19 points, scoring from all areas of the floor. He drained three treys, two of which came on nearly identical plays — he caught the ball, pump-faked a defender, sidestepped, and swished the shot.

He also displayed the vision that Donahue expects from his big men, with several nice passes to set up teammates with open looks. And his off-the-ball movement was solid as well, as there was one specific play that senior guard Jake Silpe found him down low after a great cut.

“He’s a really good offensive player. That’s how he’s wired," Donahue said. "Incredible skill, the games kinda slow down for him. He may be our best passer. So he’s done that most of the preseason."

On the other side of the ball, Wang had both highs and lows. He crashed the boards very well and had several huge blocks, but he also struggled to stay with both smaller, quicker guards and larger, stronger forwards.

“Defensively I have to get better because this year, with AJ [Brodeur] and Max [Rothschild] I’ll be playing the three a little bit. I have to be able to guard little guards so that’s going to help me stay on the floor,” Wang said.

Wang will probably start the season on the bench, but if this scrimmage was any indication, he’ll get plenty of time to shine.

Devon Goodman

Credit: Biruk Tibebe

Perhaps the biggest unknown coming into the season for the Quakers is who will take over the point guard responsibilities after the graduation of Darnell Foreman. Today, Goodman took that mantle and ran with it.

"I think I led the team," Goodman said. "That's one thing I'm trying to work on as an upperclassman this year, just trying to lead the team by example.... I think I did a pretty good job of that." 

The junior guard finished the day with 15 points and a definite impact on the game. He showed the burst of energy and athleticism he provided at several points last year, but what was more striking was when he wasn’t zipping around the court. He took control of the offense, made smart passes, and found the open man from different places on the court, all of which the primary ball handler has to be able to do. 

He also played tight, tenacious defense, and had several steals to show for it. That improved defense is a huge sign for the Quakers, since they will next excellent play from their guards if they want to run with a potential three-big lineup.

“[Goodman] I thought did a great job playing better defensively. His feel for the game is much better. He’s slowing down and then he still has that burst,” Donahue said.

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