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Zack Rosen is already a junior.
It still seems that Penn's do-it-all guard only just got here. Maybe that's just me, though - this is my ninth season covering the Quakers in some form or another, and each year goes by more quickly than the last. But it really hit me as I walked over to 33rd Street yesterday for Penn's media day.
Time may be relative, but Rosen's role as a leader for Penn is absolute. He has been the focal point of the Quakers' offense since the day he first stepped on the floor at the Palestra, and he has taken on more responsibilities each season.
It would be one thing if he had just been the Big 5's top freshman two years ago. It would have been another if he had just been first team all-Ivy League, and a real candidate for the conference's player of the year, as a sophomore.
But now Rosen has a new challenge, and the potential for an even greater reward. For as much as Penn struggled last year, the bond between Rosen and Quakers coach Jerome Allen has been abundantly clear. Now, as Allen begins his first full season at the helm of his alma mater, Rosen has been called upon to be even more of a leader on the floor.
Penn probably won't win the league this year. They aren't the most talented team, and there are so many freshmen that they aren't the most cohesive either.
But the Quakers are clearly on the right track, and in Rosen they have a real star who still hasn't reached his full potential yet. If Rosen steps up even more this season - and if his notoriously brittle teammates manage to stay healthy - Penn might finally start climbing back to the top of the Ivy League.
In the audio player below, you can hear from Allen, Rosen, Darren Smith, Tyler Bernardini and assistant coach Dan Leibovitz. The former right-hand man to John Chaney is back in Philadephia, and like Allen he is a Penn alum. He is also returning to life as an assistant coach after four years in charge at Hartford.
Zack Rosen on carrying the burden of leadership:
Leadership is something that I've asked for ever since I've been on a basketball team. It's a position that I've been in, and I've tried as much as I can to lead the group, and tried to take young guys under my wing and just be an example for everyone.
People would say that with a losing record, there's bad leadership across the board and all that, but I think I've learned a lot as a leader, how to lead, learning about people.
Jerome Allen on being picked fourth in the Ivy League preseason poll:
I probably don't pay that much attention to other guys' predictions or their assessments of what's going on here. We know that we can't finish in ninth place, and I say that jokingly, but in all honesty I just think that we just want to take it out there night in and night out and not worry about other people's perceptions of where we might finish. I think we've got a solid group, and who knows, if we hold on to our principles, where we'll end up.
Tyler Bernardini on finally being at full health:
It's been a while since I've been healthy, and I feel excited to do some things that people haven't seen me do in a while. Just being more athletic, making a lot more plays. And other than that, just making a lot of shots is my plan.
Darren Smith on where Penn is compared to past years:
I would say we're working to get back to the top, where we need to be. We're nowhere near where we were the past few seasons. We've made great strides in the offseason, and in the preseason guys have been working very hard. So it's looking good. I think everyone's excited, we've all bought into what the coaching staff has brought to the table. It should be fun.
Dan Leibovitz on returning to being an assistant coach
In some ways it's been very easy, in some ways it's been an adjustment. You have to sometimes learn to bite your tongue and let coach Allen do what he needs to do. I think it’s made me a better assistant coach, because I know some of the things I might have wanted from an assistant when I was a head coach.
It’s still a feeling-out process, for as well as I know coach Allen, just to understand exactly what he wants and exactly how he works. But I think it’s helped me in a lot of ways.