PHILADELPHIA – The 2014-15 season has finally arrived! The University of Pennsylvania opens the campaign with three games at The Palestra, the first coming Saturday when the Quakers tip off with Delaware State at 4:30 p.m. This game comes on the heels of the Penn-Harvard football game, which kicks off at 1 p.m. in Franklin Field.
The Series with Delaware State
*Despite their relative proximity, this is the first meeting between the Quakers and the Hornets in men’s basketball.
*This is just Penn’s second meeting with a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) school. The first came almost exactly seven years ago -- on November 17, 2007 -- when the Quakers lost, 80-65, to a Howard team that was led by longtime Penn assistant coach Gil Jackson.
Home is Where the Wins Are
Penn enters the 2014-15 season with 809 wins at The Palestra, which opened in 1927. In an informal survey of the other NCAA Division I programs, only Washington (946 wins at Hec Edmundson Pavilion) and Butler (834 wins at Hinkle Fieldhouse) boast more wins in their current home than the Quakers. The Edmundson Pavilion was opened in 1927, while the Bulldogs opened Hinkle in 1928.
The Quaker Notemeal of Note
*Junior Tony Hicks is expected to be the leader of this year’s youthful squad. An All-Ivy honorable mention honoree as a freshman, he led the Quakers in scoring last year as a sophomore (14.9 points per game) while finishing first on the team in free throws made (84) and second in assists (78) and three-point baskets (37).
*Like Hicks, junior center Darien Nelson-Henry figures to play a major role in the success of the Quakers this season. He played in 24 of the Red and Blue’s 28 games last year -- missing four at midseason due to injury -- and averaged 10.6 points and 5.3 rebounds per game. Nelson-Henry also led the Ivy League in field-goal percentage both overall (.590) and in conference play (.654).
*Junior Jamal Lewis played in 26 games last year, starting eight. He averaged 2.8 points and 1.4 rebounds per game, dishing out 44 assists and grabbing 15 steals. Lewis is coming back from a lengthy illness, and has no timetable on a return.
*All three seniors on the roster are coming off injury-plagued seasons as juniors. One of them, Greg Louis, also missed his entire freshman year due to injury and thus still has an extra year of eligibility. He averaged 4.6 points and 2.9 rebounds in eight appearances last year, including four starts at forward.
*Another senior, Patrick Lucas-Perry, was Penn’s top three-point threat two years ago -- 38 of his 49 field goals came from beyond the arc, and he led the Quakers in that category. “PLP” had a trio of 15-point games -- UMBC, at Temple, at Brown -- and 14 against Cornell. Last year, Lucas-Perry played in just five games before being shut down for the season. He has missed much of the preseason due to injury, and has no timetable on a return.
*The third senior is guard Camryn Crocker, who started eight games as a sophomore and played in 27 and had one of the best assist/turnover ratios in the Ivy League (1.38). He was shut down after just six games last year.
*Sophomore Matt Howard looked like he might be emerging as a breakout freshman last year after a pair of solid performances during Penn’s Ivy home weekend with Cornell (8 points) and Columbia (7); however, he suffered a season-ending injury the next week in practice. In 17 appearances overall, Howard averaged 2.1 points and 1.6 rebounds.
*Sophomore Dylan Jones will be expected to pick up more of the slack in the frontcourt after seeing time in 21 games last year. He averaged 1.6 points and 1.2 rebounds per contest, highlighted by a 10-point, five-rebound game against Big 5 foe Saint Joseph’s.
*The third sophomore on the roster, Matt Poplawski, is actually a converted men’s soccer player who joined the program late last season after a solid season with the JV team. An All-Ivy soccer player as a freshman for the Quakers’ Ivy title-winning team, he made four appearances for the hoop team last year and scored his only points against Harvard. Don’t expect to see Poplawski today, as the Quakers soccer team closes out its regular season with Harvard tonight at 7 p.m. on Rhodes Field.
*Penn actually has two players on this year’s roster who were a part of the JV program last year. The other is senior Matt Hanessian.
*Among the freshmen, Darnell Foreman helped Pitman High School win the Group I state title and earned South Jersey Times Player of the Year honors as well as first-team All-South Jersey by the Courier Post, the Philadelphia Inquirer, and South Jersey Times.
*Another freshman, Antonio Woods, played his high school basketball for former Villanova and 76ers standout Michael Bradley. Woods was City, Conference and District Player of the Year last year, and helped Summit Country Day to conference, sectional and district titles each of his four years.
*Sam Jones comes to Penn after helping his high school team, Gilbert Christian, win a pair of Arizona Interscholastic Association championships. He was the AIA’s Division III Player of the Year as a senior.