With seven of its top nine scorers returning from an Ivy championship team, it’s fair to say there aren’t too many personnel questions for Penn men’s basketball.
But even with such a veteran group coming back, there’s one spot that still needs to be filled — a spot responsible for 19 first-half points in last year’s . So, now that former captain Darnell Foreman has graduated, the natural question is: who’s going to be filling that point guard spot?
The most obvious answer seems to be junior Devon Goodman. After coming off the bench for 3.8 points and 14.0 minutes per game last season, coach Steve Donahue plans to at least open the season with Goodman in the starting five, joining returners Antonio Woods, Ryan Betley, AJ Brodeur, and Max Rothschild.
“At this point, he’s earned it,” Donahue said. “Dev is a different type of point guard; in some ways, he makes us a better offensive basketball team."
But if you spend even a few minutes around the Penn men’s basketball program, one theme is apparent: This group does not rely on solely one guy for anything. And the point guard position personifies this concept as well as anything else could.
Goodman isn’t even one of the two returning players who have started at point guard extensively before. Antonio Woods (in 2014-15) and Jake Silpe (2015-16) have each spent the majority of an individual season as the starter, in addition to spot duty in the years since.
Combine those two with freshman combo guard Bryce Washington — whom Donahue says has already “jumped into the picture” — and it’s clear that Penn’s notoriously deep squad has no shortage of options.
“What’s special about our team is that we have guards who bring something a little different to the table. We have guys who are flat-out scorers, ones who are play-makers, ones who can defend,” Silpe said. “With these back-to-back weekends, guys get tired, so that depth is important. And it’s really big that a lot of our guards have valuable experience; we’ve been in big games in crucial minutes.”
The concept of spreading the wealth doesn’t end there. Donahue’s offense is predicated on constant ball movement and reads, and the box scores reflect this. Six players averaged at least 7.5 points per game, but none hit 15. Four players averaged at least two assists per game, including both Rothschild and Brodeur, but none hit four.
The team strives to play positionless basketball. If no one person is solely relied on as “the” point guard, that means anyone is capable of being “a” point guard when needed.
“One big thing about us is that anyone can push the ball up,” Goodman said. “All of us can play like every position, and all of us can shoot. So that’s what makes us very hard to guard.”
Off the floor, though, Foreman’s impact was a bit harder to quantify. One of three captains last year, he was the of last year’s championship run, dominating down the stretch even with a stress fracture.
But just like with their basketball schemes, the Quakers have a plan to fill the void, and it’s exactly what you would expect: running things by committee.
“I’m not worried about our leadership this year; I might be worried about it next year, to be honest. Because this group is phenomenal, with Jake, and Jackson [Donahue], and Antonio, and Max — some of the best leaders I’ve ever been around,” Steve Donahue said. “[For them], nothing’s too small, and nothing’s too big.”
When opening tip-off comes around, Goodman and his fellow point men will have some work to do. Goodman’s shooting percentages of .379/.250/.538 were all the worst on the team among those with at least 20 field goal, three-point, and free throw attempts, respectively.
But if Goodman takes his game to a new level, and the depth behind him is as strong as expected, the Quakers might just have what it takes to take down favored Harvard for the second straight season.
“Darnell was definitely a great leader for us, and I don’t exactly have to be him,” Goodman said.
“I’m ready to lead the team by example, and it’s gonna be a lot of fun.”
For more about the upcoming season, check out the project page for the 2018-2019 Penn basketball preview.