Palestra a potential site for AAC conference tourney

It appears that the old Big East's loss could be the Palestra's gain.

Sources close to the American Athletic Conference recently reported that the Palestra is one of the potential sites for the new conference's basketball tournaments moving forward.

The conference hit the hardest by realignment was, without question, the Big East. One of the premiere basketball leagues in the nation, the Big East was hampered when schools like Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Louisville decided to make the move to the ACC.

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Q&A: Robert Morris coach and former Penn basketball player Andy Toole

I asked current Robert Morris men’s basketball coach and former Penn basketball player Andy Toole (C’ 03) Thursday about his relationship with fired Rutgers coach Mike Rice, under whom he served as an assistant coach from 2007-10 at RMU while Rice was head coach. Toole declined comment twice on the scandal two days after Robert Morris athletic director Craig Coleman absolved Toole of any suspicious behavior while announcing the findings of an internal investigation into Rice’s practices there from 2007 to 2010.

But Toole did have a lot to say about the state of Robert Morris’s program following a memorable first-round NIT home win over Kentucky last month and why he never wants to go up against Penn again.

Daily Pennsylvanian: There was obviously a lot of talk about you going to Siena — now that you’re back at RMU, where do you see this program headed in the next couple of years?

Andy Toole: I’m very excited about the direction of this program. I think we have a quality group that’s coming back, so I think what we’ve done here in the last six years and try and continue to just push the envelope in terms of our recognition as a program.

DP  What did it mean for your program to get that much-publicized win over Kentucky in the NIT?

AT: It was extremely exciting … For [the players] to get some of the recognition that they’ve gotten is terrific. Any time you can get that much national exposure, it helps in recruiting, it helps in notoriety and helps increase the brand of Robert Morris University basketball. That helps exponentially.

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Recruit Roundup: Greg Dotson’s all-important ACT exam

Jeff McDevitt from over at City of Basketball Love reported yesterday that Greg Dotson of Germantown Academy told him he wants to play at Penn next year. But Dotson still needs to qualify academically. McDevitt says Dotson told him he needs to get a 24 on his ACT exam which will take this Saturday to qualify, and his current score is 22.

In a December interview with PhilaHoopsHigh, Dotson said he had offers from Delaware, Canisius, Dartmouth, Lafayette and Sacred Heart.

But a February Philly.com article focusing on Dotson's resilience in response to a left hip injury mentioned that Penn, Brown, Lafayette and Canisius were all recruiting Dotson "with passion."

The 6-foot-5 Dotson is known for his strong defense and solid wing play, averaging 16.2 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game in his senior 2012-13 campaign.

 

Roundtable: Who should be Penn’s starting point guard in 2013-14?

In this week’s roundtable discussion, our editors ask who should be Penn basketball’s starting point guard in 2013-14:

Associate Sports Editor Steven Tydings: This one is tough. While Tony Bagtas told me he is going to “run the team” next year, I think this is a two-man race between Miles Cartwright and Tony Hicks. When Cartwright was running the point effectively, the team played some of its best basketball, and I’d have to think that coach Allen will give the soon-to-be senior the first opportunity to win the job.

That being said, Penn’s best player in the second half of the season was clearly Tony Hicks. His performances at Cornell and at home against Harvard showed he has the potential to be one of the next great point guards in Penn history. But at the same time, I don’t think he should be the point guard to start the year. Cartwright should be given the chance at point guard to start the year. He may not stick. And that’s why it’s important that Hicks is there.

Former Sports Editor Mike Wisniewski: Jerome Allen needs to put the guy there who runs the offense best. My guess is that guy will end up being Miles, at least in the beginning of the year. But if they start the Ivy season and begin losing games, and at that point it becomes clear to the team (because it will probably already be clear to everyone else) that Penn will not win the Ivy League, it will be time to once again look to the future, something Miles will not be a part of.

In that situation, why not give Hicks or Bagtas the bulk of the work to better develop the team for 2014-15? Realistically, Penn won’t be in it next year, but with the young crop of guys they have — if developed properly — they could be in contention the year after next.

Associate Sports Editor John Phillips: I think we’re forgetting about Cam Crocker, who started every game going down the stretch at the point. He had the highest assist to turnover ratio on the team and showed the true passing skills that Cartwright and Hicks don’t naturally have.

But the reason that he should run point over Cartwright or Hicks is really due to what Cartwright and Hicks can do when they are not running the point.

Hicks thrived when he moved without the ball, and Cartwright performed better during the season when he could ease into a contest. When he has the ball in his hands from the opening tip, he tries to do things too quickly. What started to work as the season progressed is that three-guard lineup, with Cartwright, Crocker and Hicks all out on the floor at once. If Cartwright started heating up, then he would start taking the ball up as the game went along.

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Reminiscing with former Penn guard Scott Kegler

COURTESY OF LAUREN KEGLER | DPFormer Penn basketball three-point specialist Scott Kegler (center) has coordinated Saturday morning pickup hoops sessions at the Palestra for over a decade. Andy Baratta (left) has also coordinated the games in the past. Michael Root (right) is one of many participants in the tradition, which dates back to 1989.

COURTESY OF LAUREN KEGLER | DP
Former Penn basketball three-point specialist Scott Kegler (center) has coordinated Saturday morning pickup hoops sessions at the Palestra for over a decade. Andy Baratta (left) has also coordinated the games in the past. Michael Root (right) is one of many participants in the tradition.

I caught up with former Penn guard Scott Kegler earlier this month for a story on the long tradition of Saturday morning pickup sessions at the Palestra. 

But we also talked about the upward trajectory of Penn basketball from his freshman year of 1991-92 to his senior year of 1994-95, and how a program that had single-digit wins before the Class of '95 came on the scene won the final 43 Ivy games of Kegler's Quakers  career. Here's the '90s rise of Penn basketball as "Kegs" remembers it:

"When we showed up, the team wasn’t very good. The year before they were 9-17. It was coach Dunphy’s either second or third year, I can’t remember. And so it was intense. The team wasn’t any good, we weren’t any good. We wanted to be good, we didn’t know how or if we’d be any good. And the first year, it was just a struggle. We all were competing against each other for playing time. Our freshman class was Jerome [Allen], Eric Moore, Shawn Trice, and me. All those guys wanted to play. We were just beating each other up in practice. Jerome was playing, Shawn was playing, Eric was playing, I was playing a little bit. And we got better.

We beat Penn State that year in Hershey [87-86 2OT on Jan. 25, 1992]. It was a funny game because we won the game in regulation, we went into the locker room, we were celebrating, changing our clothes. The referees came in and said the game’s not over. Something happened, there’s still time left on the clock, you’ve gotta come back out and play. So we had to come out on the floor and play a couple of seconds to win. But that was a big win for us because it was a Big Ten team, a scholarship school and we win, let’s build on that. We were in the Ivy League hunt until we played at Yale, and Yale had this guy named Casey Cammann, and we lost and that really put us out of contention.

We lost to Princeton and we lost to Yale, so we knew we couldn’t win. We watched the game video - coach Dunphy was so mad - we watched the video all the way from New Haven to Brown. He’s slamming the overhead bins. And we practiced the next day at Brown hard. He lined us all up on the sideline, rolled the ball out on the floor and it was a game of if you could dive on the floor and get it first. We were running sprints, we won that night.

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Recruit Roundup: Nigel Johnson headed for Ivies now?

Brandon Parker of AllMet Sports (The Washington Post's source for high school sports) reported this afternoon that Nigel Johnson has decommitted from George Washington after orally committing there in September.

Why does this matter to Penn? Johnson is a senior point guard at Riverside Baptist in Upper Marlboro, Md., and he has who has stood out as one of the best  As a junior, Johnson led all Virginia Group AAA players in scoring last season with an average of 29.5 points per game, and he's certainly one of the area's top point guards.

And Johnson had offers from American, Bucknell, Cornell, William & Mary, Northwestern, Brown, Princeton, Lehigh, Robert Morris, Delaware, Drexel, UNC Greensboro, Florida International and Quinnipiac before originally committing to GW. That's three Ivies and another City 6 rival who have another shot at nabbing Johnson, who remains ESPN's No. 8 Maryland state recruit.                                               

 

Recruit Roundup: Class of ’17 commit Matt Howard wins slam dunk contest

Class of '17 commit Matt Howard won the Carolinas All-Star Classic Friday night at Myrtle Beach High School in South Carolina. Howard averaged 26 points per game this season for A.C. Flora.

Howard may be a flashy dunker, but his work ethic has also been documented here and we'll get another glimpse of him at the inaugural City vs. State All-Star Classic at Benedict College on March 30.

 

Recruit Roundup: Jack Williams

We haven’t even seen the Class of 2017 step onto the court for Penn basketball, but it's already time to start talking about the Class of 2018.

Jack Williams, a junior at Chaminade (CA) High School, will make his first official visit to Penn beginning May 3.

Williams is a 6-foot-8, 185 pound power forward from West Hills, CA and has already received offers from Arizona State, Colorado and Rice.

He was originally being recruited to Arizona State by then-Sun Devils assistant coach Scott Pera, who has since become an assistant under Jerome Allen.

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La Salle representing a few former Quakers in the Sweet 16

While Penn basketball’s season came to a close two weeks ago, there is one Big 5 team keeps on going.
                                                                                                                                                               La Salle, which won a share of the Big 5 Title this season, is still dancing, having won three games to make the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.
The Explorers' run began in Dayton as one of the final four teams into the tournament, where they defeated Boise State to get into the main field of 64.
                                                                                                                                                                               Next up was a trip to Kansas City, where the 13th-seeded Explorers pulled out two close victories over fourth-seeded Kansas State and 12th-seeded Ole Miss.
                                                                                                                                                               But this La Salle team has some firm connections with the Red and Blue other than simply playing in the Big 5.

Turn Back the Clock: March 26, 1979

In 1979, Penn enjoyed its one and only Final Four appearance, of course making an improbable run before falling at the hands of Magic Johnson and Michigan State in the national semifinal.

But that wasn’t the end.

Until 1981, the NCAA Tournament featured a third-place game for the two teams that lost in the Final Four. So despite a crushing 34-point defeat against the Spartans, the Quakers had to stick around in Salt Lake City to face DePaul.

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