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Triple Crown?
Men’s basketball is poised for a “threepeat.” By Noel Hynd

 

Where does the time go? Can it really be the season for winter hoops again? Well, actually, yes, and so my thoughts turn toward the Palestra. Men’s basketball is coming off another highly successful season under Coach Fran Dunphy and his staff. Last year Penn won its 20th Ivy League title, featured the Ivy League Player of the Year (Michael Jordan C’00) and Rookie of the Year (Ugonna Onyekwe) and earned the first tournament championship (Golden Bear Classic) since 1993-94.
    But, alas, that horrible word: graduation. Gone are three starters from that squad: Jordan (who recently signed with the Boston Celtics, by the way) and first-team All-Ivy League honoree Matt Langel W’00, plus Frank Brown W’00. Gone are their 34 points per game and on-court leadership. Now what?
    “Of course the loss of two players who consistently score a lot of points per game is going to affect us,” said Dunphy recently. “But we are not looking back to what was. We now have to see what will work for us this year. We have an excellent corps of players returning and every one of them wants to repeat as Ivy champions.”
    Dunphy coached Penn to its sixth (and his fourth) undefeated Ivy League season with the help of those three graduating seniors. But returning to the Palestra hardwood this season will be two second-team All-Ivy League honorees: Onyekwe and the 2000-01 team captain, senior Geoff Owens. Accompanied by eight returning letter-winners and three incoming freshmen with the ability to contend for starting roles, this season should be full of excitement. Can you say, “threepeat?”
    “This team will be looking to Geoff to be an effective leader—both on and off the court,” said Dunphy. “His leadership will come from his work ethic and the respect he gets from his fellow teammates. Geoff’s accomplishments and dedication to basketball are what earned him the title of captain this year and we look for him to flourish in that role.”
    Owens is coming off an outstanding third season with the Quakers and will be the focal point down low for opponents. He finished the 1999-2000 campaign with 54 blocks, which was good for second on the all-time single-season blocks list. Owens also owns the top season record with 58 blocks, set in 1998, and the career record for blocks with 152. Appropriately nicknamed “Big,” Owens averaged nine points and 7.3 rebounds per game last season and earned All-Ivy League honors for the second consecutive year. He shot 50.5 percent from the field in all games and 59.5 percent in Ivy games. Look for Owens to bully opponents a little more this season with some added strength and experience gained during summer-league ball.
v “We lost a lot of minutes and a lot of points from last year’s team,” said Dunphy. “This is a great opportunity for younger players to step up and show what they can do.”
    Onyekwe, Penn’s sixth Ivy League Rookie of the Year, earned his stripes after completing a very successful freshman season. He averaged 11.7 points per game, third highest on the team, and pulled down six rebounds per contest. His 47 blocks were good for second place on the team. Onyekwe is a consistent performer on both sides of the court and displayed confidence against the top teams in the nation. He scored 14 points and grabbed eight rebounds in his first collegiate start against Kentucky at Rupp Arena in the pre-season NIT and then scored 30 points and pulled down 12 rebounds against Portland State and California in the Golden Bear Classic. Onyekwe also recorded a season-high 20 points against St. Joseph’s at the Palestra and did it again in Penn’s rout of Princeton in the regular-season finale.
    Returning to run the 2000-2001 offense will be sophomore Dave Klatsky, who had a great opportunity to play behind and with Jordan for a season last year. As a freshman, Klatsky had nearly a 2-to-1 assists-to-turnovers ratio, with 52 assists in 29 games. Klatsky has a firm grasp of Dunphy’s style of offense and should provide some much-needed points and experience in the backcourt.
    After leaving the team for personal reasons in 1999-2000, senior Lamar Plummer returns this year and should provide experience and depth in the backcourt. In the six games he played as a junior, Plummer scored 14 points and was effective behind the three-point line. His summer experience in the Sonny Hill League could help make up for his lack of playing time last season. Sophomores Duane King and Harold Bailey will look to increase their playing time in 2001. King played in 23 games last season and scored 27 points, while Bailey saw action in 15 contests and was a consistent performer. These three will have plenty of opportunities to battle it out for playing time in the early part of the season.
    Moving back to the frontcourt, another student-athlete looking to make a bigger impact as a sophomore will be Koko Archibong. The 6-feet, 7-inch forward has the edge at the three-spot after the departure of Langel and Brown. Archibong started the first 12 games of the season as a freshman before being sidelined with a concussion.
    “Koko had some things he needed to work on over the summer,” said Dunphy, “and if he did that, he will be a stronger player for us on the court, physically and mentally, which will make us a stronger and deeper team.”
v Staying with the Quakers’ inside game, seniors Josh Sanger and Jon Tross return for their final season. Both players have a strong physical presence on the hardwood, and Dunphy looks for them to continue improving their game. Also joining this group in the frontcourt is junior Dan Solomito, a versatile swingman who has become a fan favorite in his first two seasons because of his enthusiasm and great hustle.
    Penn men’s basketball is also looking forward to the arrival of three newcomers: freshmen Adam Chubb, Jeff Schiffner and Charlie Copp. Each of these players brings a different talent to the team. It will be interesting to see where they fit into Dunphy’s plans and how quickly they adjust to the college game.
    In addition to the absence of Jordan and company, another familiar face is missing from the basketball program this year. Steve Donahue, an assistant coach at Penn for the past 10 years, has been named head men’s basketball coach at a certain rival Ivy university in Ithaca, New York. As an assistant at Penn, Donahue served as the team’s recruiting coordinator and developed the team’s offensive strategy. In his time as a Quaker assistant, Donahue was instrumental in the Quakers winning six Ivy League titles in the last eight years, advancing to the NCAA tournament five times and earning national recognition with a top-25 ranking. Look for Penn-Cornell basketball to have an extra edge in the next few years.
    Extra Point: In the Summer Olympic Games in Sydney, recent graduate Brandon Slay W’98 took home a silver medal after becoming the first Ivy League wrestler in 76 years to advance to the gold-medal match. Slay lost 4-0 to Germany’s Alexander Leipold in the 76 kg (167.50 lb.) category. [Slay was awarded the gold medal after his opponent failed a drug test.—Ed.]

Noel Hynd C’70 writes on sports for the Gazette.


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Copyright 2000 The Pennsylvania Gazette | Last modified 11/1/00

SCOREBOARD

Sept. 8 - Oct. 8

Men’s Cross Country
Fordham Invitational, 2nd Place
Delaware Invitational, 1st Place
La Salle Invitational, 1st Place

Women’s Cross Country
Lafayette Invitational, 2nd Place
Delaware, 1st Place
Rutgers Invitational, 1st Place
Paul Short Invitational, 10th Place

Field Hockey (2-6)
St. Joseph’s 3, Penn 2
Villanova 5, Penn 4
Harvard 3, Penn 2
Penn 3, Lafayette 1
Cornell 3, Penn 1
West Chester 2, Penn 1
Dartmouth 4, Penn 2
Penn 4, Delaware 0

Football (2-2)
Lehigh 17, Penn 10
Penn 48, Lafayette 25
Penn 48, Dartmouth 14
Holy Cross 34, Penn 17

Sprint Football (2-O)
Penn 20, Cornell 0
Penn 29, Princeton 0

Men’s Golf
Navy Invitational, 6th Place
James Madison Invitational,
5th Place

Women’s Golf
Yale Invitational, 12th Place
Princeton Invitational, 5th Place
Rutgers Invitational, 9th Place

Volleyball (12-6)
William & Mary 3, Penn 0
Penn 3, Delaware 2
Penn 3, Loyola 0
Penn 3, Lehigh 0
Elon 3, Penn 2
Penn 3, Youngstown State 0
Penn 3, Colgate 0
Penn 3, Drexel 2
Penn 3, Morehead State 0
Rutgers 3, Penn 0
Maryland (Baltimore) 3, Penn 1
Georgetown 3, Penn 2
Penn 3, Florida Atlantic 0
Penn 3, Drexel 1
Penn 3, SUNY Stonybrook 2
Penn 3, Long Island 0
Penn 3, Albany 0
Dartmouth 3, Penn 2

Men’s Soccer (5-4)
Penn 1, St. Francis (Pa.) 0
American 4, Penn 1
Richmond 6, Penn 1
Penn 2, East Carolina 1
Cornell 4, Penn 2
Penn 4, Temple 0
Dartmouth 1, Penn 0
Penn 1, Lafayette 0
Penn 4, La Salle 2

Women’s Soccer (5-3-1)
Delaware 2, Penn 0
Penn 5, St. Joseph’s 1
Penn 4, Drexel 0
Harvard 2, Penn 1
Penn 3, SUNY Stonybrook 0
Penn 2, Cornell 1
Dartmouth 1, Penn 0
Penn 1, Bucknell 0
Penn 0, Navy 0