While Penn will have to replace two key players, a talented freshmen trio and a redshirt freshman who missed last season because of injury should keep the Quakers contending in the Ivy League.
Darnell Foreman and Caleb Wood are gone from a 24-9 team that won the Ivy League tournament and lost to Kansas in the opening round of the NCAA tournament.
Coach Steve Donahue said he has commitments from three prospective freshmen: 6-foot-10 Michael Wang from Mater Dei (Cal.) High; 6-5 swingman Alex Inegwu of New Jersey’s Seton Hall Prep; and Bryce Washington, a 6-4 guard from Southfield Christian (Mich.) High.
The headliner is Wang, who was born in China.
“Michael Wang shoots it and is somebody who we think is going to be able to play right away,” Donahue said in a phone interview. “He translates to the college basketball game really well because he shoots and passes well and has good size. We expect him to be competing for playing time from day one.”
Inegwu played for one of New Jersey’s top programs and averaged more than 16 points per game.
“He is a physical player who is a really good spot-up shooter,” Donahue said. “He can guard multiple positions.”
Washington’s athletic ability stands out. This past season he helped lead his team to the Michigan Class D state championship. Washington is also a former state high-jump champion, winning in a leap of 6-foot-5 as a sophomore.
“He is an athletic guard, a track guy who makes stand-still shots,” Donahue said. “He is really athletic, can guard multiple positions, and knows how to play.”
Donahue is also excited about redshirt freshman Jelani Williams, a 6-5 point guard who missed last season after tearing his ACL during his senior year at Sidwell Friends in Washington. Williams returned to action when Penn played three games in May in Italy.
“He was somebody we thought, if he hadn’t torn his ACL, he would have played right away,” Donahue said. “He was one of the guys in particular that we were excited to see play [in Italy].”
The trip to Italy, where Penn went 2-1, was encouraging to Donahue on many fronts, especially concerning Williams.
“Although he is not 100 percent and not yet back to where he was, he was very good and led us to believe that he is going to be a really good basketball player for us,” Donahue said. “He is 6-5, can get to the rim, and also has really good vision and is a good passer.”
Donahue said Williams is still working his way back.
“He practiced a little toward the end of the season,” Donahue said. “He still doesn’t have the burst he had, but we are still months away and we are really happy with what we saw.”
Penn figures to be either the preseason Ivy League favorite or picked no lower than second. Harvard, which won the regular-season title and lost to Penn, 68-65, in the Ivy League championship game, has a veteran team returning and could end up being the preseason pick if it isn’t the Quakers.