Here's part 2 of my conversation with Ibby Jaaber, in which he shares his memories of Penn basketball and his hopes of getting back into the Penn community in the near future. Part 1, meanwhile, focused on the evolution of his Muslim beliefs and his professional basketball future.
Daily Pennsylvanian: No one else in Penn history has close to having as many steals as you did. I know you averaged almost two steals per game just in your last season in Euroleague. What is the key to you racking up so many steals and how big of a part was that of your defensive game?
Ibrahim Jaaber: Everybody asks me, ‘What’s my secret, what’s my secret?’ And I’m never really able to answer this question. It’s something that I’m just good at. And I think that many people with my level of athleticism and knowledge of the game could be good at it they were cultivated properly. I always had coaches that allowed me to develop that skill. In high school, I was allowed to develop that skill. In college, Fran Dunphy, and when I was at Peddie [School ], Chris Potash allowed me to develop this skill and make some mistakes. I gained the trust of the coaches and they recognized my ability, that’s the first thing. And second, most of it is timing and positioning. Knowing the habits of the person you’re guarding. Or with general basketball players, when they’re going to cross over, when they’re catch the ball and put it in the net. Knowing where the defender is going to put the ball next and to get into position just to get a fingernail on it.
DP: The 2004-05 team your sophomore year wasn’t expected to win an Ivy title from a lot of outsiders but you went 13-1 in Ivy play and proved a lot of people wrong. Did you guys go into that season thinking you were going to have that level of Ivy dominance?
In first game since the passing away of Fran Dunphy's father, Penn defeats La Salle, 62-58 January 14, 1999
Emotions can sometimes distract a team from the true goal. And for the Penn team and coaching staff on mithis week, there was no shortage of emotion. But instead, they used that emotion as motivation to beat La Salle at Tom Gola Arena and remain perfect in the Big 5.
Fran Dunphy, Sr., father of legendary coach Fran Dunphy, passed away the Sunday morning before the game against the Explorers. Dunphy Sr. attended most Penn basketball games, sitting just two rows behind the bench. Despite the heavy hearts, the Red and Blue kept their composure and won the game in memory of their "No. 1 fan".
La Salle's defense frustrated the Quakers all night by shutting down their perimeter shooting and holding Penn's leading scorer Michael Jordan to just 10 points. But this gave other players the chance to step up.
The Quakers’ near upset of Temple on Monday night calls to mind another near upset of an even bigger powerhouse back when Fran Dunphy manned the sidelines. Though knocking off Temple would have been sweet, such a win wouldn’t compare to an upset over a school like Pitt — the Big East school, currently No. 9 in the country, comes to town over Thanksgiving break. This week’s segment turns back the clock to when nationally-ranked Big 12 power Kansas visited the Palestra back in 1998.
On this day in Penn sports history …
November 17, 1998: Led by future Hall of Fame coach Roy Williams (Naismith inductee, 2007), the Jayhawks visited the Palestra for Penn’s season opener and entered the game ranked No. 8 in the country. Williams had chosen to add the Quakers to his team’s schedule — not worrying about the travel time or strength of schedule hit from playing an Ivy team — because he wanted his players to experience the Palestra (according to the DP’s 1998 article). Little did he know that the Palestra, with its crowd of 7,852 Red and Blue supporters, would not only get to his players, but also to him.
Penn had lost to Kansas the previous year, 89-71, at a neutral site and were coming off a decent season, finishing 17-12 overall, 10-4 Ivy. Though the Quakers entered the year favored to win the Ivy League, they had missed the NCAA Tournament for the previous three years — the longest such streak during Dunphy’s tenure. To prepare his team for both the Jayhawks dynamic offense and the primetime tip-off time, Dunphy had his team practice at 8pm the night before and had the reserves wear Jayhawks’ blue in practice and run Kansas plays.