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Credit: Tyler Kliem

Despite NCAA Division I men’s basketball programs being scattered around the country, Penn’s team is particularly concentrated in the Northeast. 

Of the 16 players on the Quaker roster heading into the 2022-23 season, eight of them are from the Mid-Atlantic and New England. Three — junior guard Colin Chambers, sophomore guard/forward Eddie Holland III, and senior guard Lucas Monroe — hail from the Philadelphia metro area. 

For some players, staying close to home is a perk, and can even serve benefit in recruiting. 

“I was getting recruited by a lot of Big 5 schools,” Holland said. “The Big 5 was definitely a big part of my recruitment just because I was a local student.” 

But not only did Holland’s closeness to Penn make him a more attractive prospect to the school, it also made the Quakers an ideal destination for the 6-foot-6 graduate of Friends’ Central School in nearby Wynnewood, Pa. Despite not having a preference in recruiting, staying nearby did have its perks, especially when it came to his family coming to games. 

“My family is here almost every home game we have,” he said. “It's good for my whole family, not just my mom, dad and brother.”

But while Holland plays basketball close to home, freshman guard Cam Thrower intentionally chose to play college hoops across the country. Growing up in southern California, Thrower attended the powerhouse Harvard-Westlake School, which counts among its alumni MLB pitcher Max Fried and UCLA basketball star Johnny Juzang. 

Initially, Thrower wanted to stay close to the West Coast for college. Yet during the recruitment process, which involved mostly Ivy League and Patriot League schools, he changed his mind. 

“Once the recruitment process unfolded ... the East Coast was probably the best thing for me in terms of just being able to mature and live on your own away from your parents,” he said, “and based on all the options I had once I visited Penn, it was a great choice.”

Holland is lucky enough to see his family in the Palestra’s stands most games, and Thrower was able to choose to continue his basketball career elsewhere. But for freshman Chris Ubochi, that was never really an option. The 6-foot-9 center/forward hails from Lagos, Nigeria, where he never played basketball as a child. He instead pursued soccer, but only as a hobby. 

By the time he picked up a ball and put it through a hoop, he was a freshman at Victory Christian Academy in Chula Vista, Calif. However, the moment Ubochi stepped onto the court, it didn’t take long for him to realize that hoops could be a path to college. 

One key moment came when he transferred from Victory — whose former coach, D.J. Gay, Ubochi considers a “guardian” who taught him very well — to nearby Mater Dei Catholic High School. It was there, under coach Jason Bryant, that Ubochi realized that college basketball could be in his future. 

However, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Ubochi decided to take an additional prep year following his fourth season in high school. He spent it at Williston Northampton in Massachusetts, where he played for coach Ben Farmer and was recruited to join the Quakers. 

“My goal was playing in the Ivy League,” Ubochi said. “I had other [interested schools], but Penn was the first to offer me.” 

Despite the ups and downs, Ubochi’s family has still never seen him play basketball, something he hopes to change before his time at Penn concludes. Even though they might not always understand the sport, Ubochi said that they are now very supportive and encouraging of his basketball career.

Distance doesn't impact team success, though. At the end of the day, all Quakers on the Penn men's basketball roster share a collective priority — representing the Red and Blue, not their hometowns.