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High Hopes in Hoops

Men's basketball returns with a seasoned squad.
By Noel Hynd

THE CHAMPIONSHIP hopes of the football team chilled out on the tundra of Harvard Stadium. I've always thought the latter structure should be renamed The Quaker Burial ground and marked as such as a Boston tourist attraction. But enough. After a staggering start, at least the footballers managed to not lose more than they won.
   So it's time to stop thinking of pigskins and give some serious thought to Tiger hunting. Basketball, in other words. The great thing about the end of the football season is the beginning of winter hoops. This year's edition of Penn Men's basketball promises us another fine edition, thanks to the efforts of Coach Fran Dunphy. With a career record of 135-79 at Penn, Dunphy enters this season fourth on the list of all-time winningest Penn hoop coaches. Is it possible to derail Princeton from three straight Ivy championships? Well, that's what I meant about Tiger hunting.
   Last year, the Quakers finished (gasp!) fourth in the Ivies with an 8-6 record, the lowest Ivy finish in the Dunphy era. But wrapped in that negative is a huge positive for this year. What separated Penn from the three teams that finished higher last year -- Princeton, Harvard, and Dartmouth -- was an overall balance of experience, a factor that figured prominently in the 8-6 record. One loss to Yale was by two points, for example, and losses to Dartmouth and Harvard came in overtime.
   In the case of Harvard and Dartmouth, many experienced players picked up diplomas last spring, while most of Penn's key players have returned for the 1997-98 season. So, surprise: It is expected that Penn and Princeton will once again battle for the Ivy championship. "I like to think we're in the upper echelon of the league," Fran Dunphy said recently, and perhaps understating things. "But the team to beat is still Princeton."
   Last year's team did show growth over the course of the season. And with seven of the 10 first and second-team All Ivy selections being seniors last year, there is plenty of room for Penn players this year to step up in the league. Last year, sophomore forward Paul Romanczuk and freshman guard Michael Jordan (ours, not the "other" one) were relegated to Honorable Mention status in the All-Ivy selections. This year they have the ability to show they can be dominating players in the Ivies.
   "I don't care how the individual is perceived in the league," Dunphy says. "But this is Paul's year to establish himself as one of the best players in the league." The same can be said for Jordan.
   Last year, the 6 ft, 7 in. Romanczuk led the team in rebounding, averaging 5.1 per game, and was third in scoring with 12 points per game (ppg), while Jordan led the team in Ivy scoring, averaging 14 ppg. Giving a bit of an indication as to what the future might hold, Jordan was also the unanimous selection as Ivy League Rookie-of-the-Year after winning eight Ivy League Rookie-of-the-Week honors. Twice, he won the award three weeks straight. Jordan's eight awards, combined with two by freshman guard Matt Langel, gave the Quakers an attention-grabbing 10 out of a possible 11 awards -- and the last nine of the season. When Jordan won his sixth rookie award, he edged past some impressive company in the Ivy record books: During the 1991-92 season, Jerome Allen, W'95, won the rookie award five times and player of the week on one other occasion.
   In addition last year, freshman center Geoff Owens made his presence felt in the league. At 6 ft, 11 in., Owens is not exactly difficult to miss, but several opposing centers wished they had done just that. Owens had 33 blocks in 14 league games and 40 overall to set a new club single season record. The latter number might have been higher were it not for another number that got Owens in trouble: 74 fouls and four disqualifications, limiting his playing time. Bad luck seems to be persisting for Owens, however, as a hypertension problem has made him doubtful for this season, opening up a problem at the center position for the Quakers.
   Coach Dunphy also has three noteworthy freshmen this season: Lamar Plummer, a highly-athletic guard from Philadelphia, and two forwards, Josh Sanger and Jon Tross. Plummer is expected to challenge senior Garett Kreitz for playing time, even though Kreitz ranks third (135) behind Matt Maloney, C'75, (273) and Jerome Allen (178) in career three-point buckets at Penn. Sanger and Tross, at 6 ft, 8 in. and 6 ft, 7 in., respectively, could offer some rebounding balance -- another problem last year -- and hopefully some solid back-up for Romanczuk and junior forward Jed Ryan. Frank Brown, a junior who was an occasional starter two years ago but who lost most of last season due to knee surgery, is back and presumably again healthy.
   The Ivy season starts on the weekend of January 9-10, with road games against Brown and Yale. The season also features a west coast trip after Christmas. Penn plays in the Cable Car Classic at San Jose, California, with Stanford, Rhode Island, and Santa Clara as the other participants.
   
   Penn Women's Soccer, the stars of last month's column, did not disappoint us. The team ended up tied for second in the Ivy League with a 5-2 record, but then defeated Dartmouth (1-0) and Yale (2-1) to win the ECAC playoffs. Andrea Callaghan was voted the MVP of the playoffs. The team won 14 games, the most in the history of the program. Andrea Callaghan and Kellianne Toland were the first Penn players selected to the All Ivy team.

Noel Hynd, C'70, writes regularly on sports for the Gazette.


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