Penn basketball is back.
On Saturday, the Palestra hosted the annual Red and Blue Scrimmages for both teams. In the women’s game, the Red team defeated the Blue team by a score of 70-51, and later in the men’s game, the Blue defeated the Red, 84-71.
The action began with the women’s scrimmage. The contest was highlighted by a defensive effort that allowed the Red team to control the game from start to finish. The Red team forced 14 turnovers while also tallying five blocks and seven steals. Senior guard Kendall Grasela, the Quakers’ defensive specialist, led the way for the Red team defense.
For this year’s Quakers, it is important that Grasela can utilize her defensive skills to create scoring opportunities for those around her.
“I didn’t shoot much [in the scrimmage], but I was getting the ball to people who were open, and I was forcing turnovers,” Grasela said. “[I tried to get] my hands on the ball to allow that to translate into transition."
The scrimmage also featured a strong performance from junior center Eleah Parker, who put up a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds. Parker, the reigning Big 5 Player of the Year, will likely play a large role in how well the Quakers perform this season.
Following the losses of Ashley Russell and Princess Aghayere, fans were curious to see which players would step up for the team. From the tip, it became obvious that one of those players would be freshman guard Kayla Padilla, who led the contest with 18 points and four three-point shots.
Padilla, who played with Penn’s starting five, has already impressed her teammates and coaches.
“I think Kayla had a good showing for her first time out. [She] made some shots in the beginning, [and] it gave her a great deal of confidence,” coach Mike McLaughlin said.
In addition to giving new players the opportunity to adjust to team play, the Red and Blue scrimmage provide the team with the ability to put practice into play.
“Even though it was just intersquad, it was nice to just be in the Palestra, have people watch us, and finally just put in our sets and see our results from practice,” Padilla said.
Saturday’s action at the Palestra continued as the men’s team took the court for the first time since last season’s Ivy League Tournament.
The contest between the Blue and Red teams featured strong performances from returning players. Senior forward AJ Brodeur, a unanimous first team All-Ivy selection last year, tallied 16 points, while playing strong in the paint. Guards Eddie Scott and Devon Goodman also performed well offensively, putting up 18 and 10 points, respectively.
Another familiar face returning for the Red and Blue was senior guard Ryan Betley, who took the court for the first time since suffering a ruptured patella tendon in last season's opening game. A long year of rehab was finally capped off when Betley scored the first basket of the scrimmage and totaled eight points for the game.
While the team has relied heavily on Brodeur in the past, this year’s team offers the Quakers more options on the offensive end.
“We go through AJ so much, and now we have some really good perimeter players,” coach Steve Donahue said. “I think we [have] a lot of players that can help us. I think we’re deeper than we’ve been the last couple of years.”
Helping to take the load off Brodeur are sophomores Michael Wang and Bryce Washington, both of who were double-digit scorers on Saturday.
“When we played well last year is when Michael [Wang] and Bryce [Washington] were shooting the ball and were scoring the ball,” Donahue said. “Bryce Washington has taken a huge step in terms of where he was last year.”
The Quakers are also hoping that their freshmen can have an early impact on the team’s success. Freshman guard Jonah Charles figures to be a perimeter weapon for the Quakers this year after making 4-of-8 from beyond the arc in Saturday’s scrimmage. The team also hopes to involve freshman Max Lorca-Lloyd, who showed potential as a threat in the paint.
As Saturday’s scrimmage showed, the Quakers have a handful of players that can contribute this season.
“We could play a lot of guys right now. Now, who is going to play over another one, it’s up to them to decide,” Donahue said.
Both basketball squads will look to use this weekend’s scrimmage as a step toward their preparation for the season. The men will open the season on the road when they face Alabama on Nov. 5. The women’s team will start their season just four days later at home against Siena.