2011-12 SEASON REVIEWS
Today’s Player of Year feature/honors is the final story in Philahoops’ seven-day season-ending review. Here is the schedule.
Thursday: Drexel season capsule
Friday: Villanova season capsule
Saturday: Player of Year story/Philahoops honors
– Aaron Bracy
By AARON BRACY
Most college seniors hope for an upgrade in their living situations once they leave college.
Not Zack Rosen.
The Penn senior is going to miss his home – and we’re not talking about his dorm room.
Rosen spent most of his waking hours – and many wee hours – working on his game in the Palestra, Penn’s home court, during his four years at the Ivy League school.
“It’s a lot of mental but it’s so much…people don’t understand that I live in here,” Rosen said of the Palestra, when asked the key to his success. “That’s talent plus work ethic. I know I was short on the talent scale to begin with, but I’ve been blessed with the capacity to work.”
Work he did and the result was a player who will leave Penn as one of the best in the school’s storied history, finishing his career as the all-time leader in assists (588), games started (115) and minutes played (4,198), while placing third in scoring (1,723). This season, Rosen set program marks for assists (173), starts (33) and minutes (1,259), and his 602 points were the most since Tony Price scored 633 in 1978-79.
Along with coach Jerome Allen, Rosen helped the Quakers get back to their usual place among the Ivy’s elite this season by averaging 18.2 points and 5.2 assists as Penn went 20-13 overall and 11-3 in the Ivy League.
For his efforts, Rosen has been named the inaugural Philahoops Player of the Year.
Joining Rosen on the Philahoops First Team are Ramone Moore and Khalif Wyatt of Temple, Villanova’s Maalik Wayns and Drexel’s Frantz Massenat.
(The Second and Third Teams are listed below.)
“Here it is a work ethic thing,” Rosen said. “If you’re coming to a place like this, you’re not (Kentucky’s) Anthony Davis but if you work at it you can be a really good player. Just put your head down and work at it.”
Rosen’s hard work paid off this season, both personally and for his team, as Penn came within one win of the school’s first Ivy championship since 2007. That’s a big step for a program that entered this season 18-24 in the Ivy the last three seasons.
“I’m really disappointed that for the rest of my life I won’t be able to look up and see 2012 we did that,” Rosen said of an Ivy championship banner in the Palestra. “But I’m a firm believer in everything happens for a reason. Whether our efforts lead the next group, they learn from experiences they had and look up to the example that guys like Rob (Belcore) and I set that they take that and run with it.”
Coming out of heralded St. Benedict’s Prep in Newark, N.J., Rosen probably thought he’d be hanging four banners in the gym and dominating Ivy competition like no other player in league history. Well, it wasn’t quite that easy.
At St. Benedict’s, he played on a star-studded roster with the likes of Tristan Thompson (Texas and NBA), Samardo Samuels (Louisville and NBA), Greg Echenique (Creighton) and Scott Machado (Iona), among others.
“I was so arrogant coming out of high school because we always won and we never lost we’re just going to kill this thing I don’t care who (I’m against),” Rosen said. “And you realize in college basketball experience is Numero Uno and everyone has experienced guys because no one leaves early. This isn’t Kentucky.
“I don’t care who you are if you’re a senior playing college basketball, you’re strong, you have experience. Put a couple of those guys together and it’s going to be tough.”
Rosen experienced that in an eye-opening first season when the Quakers went 10-18 overall and 6-8 in the league, with Rosen averaging 8.1 points while shooting 35 percent from the floor, including 28.4 percent from the arc.
“Through the bumps and bruises I was humbled my freshman year,” he said. “And then I just went on a tear and said there’s no way they’re going to do this to me ever again.”
Helped by the ascension of Jerome Allen to interim head coach after Glen Miller was fired following an 0-7 start, Rosen took off as a sophomore.
He upped his scoring average to 17.7 points while raising his shooting percentage to 43.9 percent from the field and 42.5 percent from the arc.
“I’ve watched him over the past three years go from a young man who was considered a terrible shooter and a bad defensive player to being one of our best on-the-ball defenders and a phenomenal scorer,” Allen, who dropped the interim tag after the 2010 season, said. “And it’s all a function of the work he put in.”
With Allen’s guidance – and high demands – Rosen led the Quakers to seven straight league wins down the stretch this season before losing in their regular-season finale on March 6 at Princeton. A win would’ve given Penn a share of the Ivy title and a one-game playoff with Harvard for the league’s NCAA berth.
But it wasn’t to be. The Tigers raced out to a 23-6 lead and Penn couldn’t come back, as Rosen scored 19 points but needed 24 points to get there. His performance was similar to Penn’s home loss at Harvard when he needed 21 shots to get 16 points.
“I got a lot of tough looks and I’ve been hitting a lot of tough looks all year,” said Rosen, who was named the Ivy League Player of the Year. “In two games in the league they didn’t go down, Harvard here and Princeton away. I don’t like to take responsibility when we win but I will take it when we lose.”
That loss stung and Rosen went home to the Palestra, sat on the bench and stared out at the court until 4:30 a.m.
“I was numb,” he said. “I couldn’t move.”
A week later, he was able to positively reflect on his time at Penn.
“The process was a highlight,” he said. “What this team did, I’m so proud of these guys for what we did and proud of coaching staff for job they did. I hate saying we overachieved but we did some good things that I think a lot of people didn’t expect us to do.
“I think we left it better than we found it and I’ll sleep easy knowing we gave it our best. That’s all we can do. We had so many obstacles. To say we overcame so much and did what we could with what we had, that’s all you can ask for. I’m so thankful.
“I’m not satisfied in terms of results, but very, very proud and happy about what we accomplished.”
Now, Rosen will take the next step and likely will make a living playing the game he loves. Perhaps he could be a backup in the NBA, or maybe a lengthy career overseas. Rosen isn’t setting limits.
“My goal is to take this thing as far as I can take it, wherever it leads me is great,” he said. “I’m going to give it everything I’ve got. If we evaluate weaknesses, I’m going to make them strengths and get better.”
How? Well, of course, he will work hard.
Philahoops Postseason Honors
Maalik Wayns, G, Villanova
Frantz Massenat, G, Drexel
Ramone Moore, G, Temple
Zack Rosen, G, Penn:
Khalif Wyatt, G, Temple
Tyreek Duren, G, La Salle
Damion Lee, G, Drexel
Langston Galloway, G, St. Joe’s
Samme Givens, F, Drexel
Mouphtaou Yarou, C, Villanova
C.J. Aiken, F, St. Joe’s
Ramon Galloway, G, La Salle
Carl “Tay” Jones, G, St. Joe’s
Earl Pettis, G, La Salle
Halil Kanacevic, F, St. Joe’s
Player of Year: Rosen
Coach of Year: Bruiser Flint, Drexel
Newcomer of Year: Lee
Final City 6 Rankings: 1. Temple, 2. Drexel, 3. St. Joe’s, 4. La Salle, 5. Villanova, 6. Penn