WICHITA, Kan. – Darnell Foreman had just played his final game for Penn, but the senior point guard was still leading.
Foreman had 10 points, six rebounds, and five assists in 35 exhausting minutes during a 76-60 NCAA tournament loss to top-seeded Kansas on Thursday at Intrust Bank Arena.
If anybody has a perspective on Penn basketball, it is Foreman. When he was a freshman, the Quakers were 9-19 in coach Jerome Allen’s final season. The next two years under current coach Steve Donahue, the Quakers were 11-17 and 13-15, That set the stage for this year’s 24-9 unit that earned the Quakers their first NCAA berth since 2007.
In a quiet and cramped locker room afterward, Foreman was already challenging his teammates to build off this dream season in which the Quakers beat Harvard, 68-65, in the Ivy League championship game to earn their NCAA berth.
“We have to start thinking that this is only the start,” Foreman said. “We are saying that Penn basketball is back, but the only way that is true is if we keep it going, string together good season after good season to compete with the other eras of Penn basketball that have done so.”
Foreman, who led Pitman to a Group 1 New Jersey title his senior year in high school, finished this season averaging 10.7 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 3.5 assists. But his biggest contribution was his leadership.
Coach Steve Donahue said Foreman didn’t practice for the final six or so weeks of the season because of a foot injury. Foreman kept up his conditioning by riding a stationary bike.
His effort to play through the injury inspired his teammates.
— Marc Narducci (@sjnard) March 16, 2018
“I am sure it was terrible that he couldn’t practice, but his leadership he showed, despite being injured, and to play as well as he played, speaks volumes about him,” said Ryan Betley, who averaged a team-high 14.3 points.
Foreman, while stung by Thursday’s loss, appreciated the way he closed out his career.
“Just the complete turnaround from where the team was my first year to now is something that makes you appreciate this journey,” Foreman said. “I guess it is what every college basketball player wants, to take your situation and improve on it.”
As for playing hurt, Foreman gave credit to Penn trainer Phil Samko.
“I have been around that guy too much, but he took care of me and made sure I was ready to play,”
Foreman never thought about shutting things down. He was there for the lean times and wanted to lead the team to its current situation.
In addition to leadership, he brought an attitude to the Quakers.
“He created a great culture and chemistry with that group and it is something I don’t take for granted and we will have to work on his replacement for sure,” Donahue said.