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Junior guard Jonah Charles dribbles during the second half of a game against Yale at the Palestra on Jan. 22. Credit: Kylie Cooper

41st and Chestnut hasn't changed much in the past couple of decades. The sprawling red brick church, with its distinctive maroon awning, still remains. Despite revamping the old storefront with a new façade, the cozy pizza joint stands the test of time.

The timeless home on the corner of 41st and Chestnut is no exception. The only thing that’s changed about the residence is the tenants.

Today, it’s inhabited by Penn men's basketball’s Jonah Charles. Unbeknownst to Charles when he signed the lease, the 41st and Chestnut residence also housed his former coach two decades prior. His high school coach at Rutgers Preparatory School in New Jersey, Matt Bloom, attended Penn from 2000 to 2004 while acting as a manager on Penn men’s basketball team.

Charles — a junior guard in the College — made his long-awaited debut as a Quaker this season. After missing his freshman season due to injury, and subsequently his sophomore season to COVID-19, Charles’ yearning for the court finally came to fruition. 

Despite the time off, Charles' hard work behind the scenes prepared him to excel in his Penn debut.

“He's a gym rat,” Bloom said. “He’s the first one in the gym and always the last one to leave — it's funny, because my biggest struggle with Jonah [in high school] was to get him out of the gym and tell him how important rest might be.”

It’s not just Charles’ work ethic that has contributed to his quick success at Penn, where he’s averaged 8.1 points per game on 41.3% shooting from three.

“Without [Coach Bloom] I wouldn't have been as prepared as I was for the college game,” Charles said. “So I wasn’t surprised that I had a leg up on other guys when I came here.”

With Bloom’s experience working in basketball operations at both Rutgers and La Salle University — in addition to a stint with the Brooklyn Nets as a consultant — he was able to teach Charles how to be a professional on and off the court.

“In high school, you usually don't scout or do film, you just go out there and play the game,” Charles said. “When I got [to Penn], studying film was kind of a struggle for some of the other guys, really locking into all that information. But that's something that I had a good grasp on because of Coach Bloom.”

When Bloom took the head coaching job at Rutgers Prep in 2017, Charles was a returning junior.

“I was really excited about a couple of ninth graders that we had coming in,” Bloom said. “But what excited me the most was the group of juniors — and Jonah was the leader.”

Bloom knew right away that Rutgers Prep could win now with Charles; it wasn’t going to be a rebuild of any sort.

“It was great for me as a new coach to have someone like Jonah, who was almost like a coach on the floor and just goes about his business the right way, in all aspects,” Bloom said. “He got it done in the classroom and was almost exactly like what we want every kind of student-athlete to be like.” 

To Bloom, it wasn’t just Charles’ actions on the court or his work in the classroom, but his dedication to the team and its success.

“For me, personally, he stuck with me and he stayed,” Bloom said. “A bunch of the other juniors left and went to different schools, but Jonah stayed.”

Charles has stood by Bloom since their first time on the court together. The pair may never share the court again, but they’ll support each other on and off the court for years to come.

“I haven’t been able to stop by the house while [Charles] has been living there, but I plan to at some point soon,” Bloom said. “It’d be pretty cool to see everything, twenty years later — a lot has changed at Penn, but 41st and Chestnut is the same.”