NEW HAVEN, Conn. — Looking back at the path Penn took to the Ivy League Tournament, it’s obvious to say that AJ Brodeur, Devon Goodman, and Antonio Woods led the way.
It’s also quite possible that the Quakers wouldn’t be here without Jarrod Simmons.
If your first reaction to that was Wait, who?, you might not be alone. But Simmons really was that important in last weekend’s sweep of Yale and Brown that clinched the tournament berth. Penn will play Harvard in Saturday’s first semifinal (12:30 p.m., ESPNU).
Before last weekend, Simmons had played 121 minutes total all season. He sat out 11 games entirely, including nine in Ivy play. But when Michael Wang was shut down for the season with a knee injury earlier this month, Penn coach Steve Donahue turned to Simmons, a 6-foot-8 sophomore from suburban Pittsburgh.
The bet paid off in Simmons’ career-high 20 minutes against Yale. He grabbed seven rebounds, including three at the offensive end. One of those boards led to an assist, and another became a made basket of his own.
Simmons also had a block that forced Yale into a shot-clock violation, and almost had a second block amid a spell of tenacious defense on Yale star Jordan Bruner.
Against Brown, Simmons played just eight minutes, mostly while Max Rothschild was in foul trouble. But he made the most of his time, including an impressive block on Bears forward Tamenang Choh midway through the second half.
Donahue saw the contributions as a just reward for Simmons’ efforts behind the scenes.
“He comes every day, really competes, brings us a level of length and physicality that we didn’t have, and he has continued to progress,” Donahue said. “In particular against some of the more athletic teams in this league, I think he’s helped us greatly, and I’m anticipating that he helps us this weekend.”
Simmons’ teammates were just as impressed, including frontcourt colleague Brodeur.
“I saw a fire in him," Brodeur said. "If he wants to step up, and he can show that he can really perform and produce for us out there, then he’s going to be a very valuable asset for the tournament.”
Ivy League executive director Robin Harris said she did not know of either scandal before it became public.
“Obviously, the alleged behavior, particularly regarding the recent charges, is incredibly troubling,” she said. “It’s completely antithetical to our values as a league, and the integrity of our admissions process. We’re monitoring the situation, and at this point, it’s just not appropriate for me to comment.”
Donahue was asked whether he knew of Ira Bowman’s alleged involvement in the Allen scandal while Bowman was on Donahue’s staff from 2015-18.