Brandon Penn stepping up at right time
“I always look at the scoreboard but only to see how close the game is,” Penn quipped through a smile after the Rider men’s basketball team finished practice Wednesday afternoon.
Penn matched a career high in points with 26 and set a career best in field goals made (eight) and rebounds (15) in the Broncs’ 74-62 win over their in-state rival.
The Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference rewarded him with Player of the Week honors.
“I didn’t know I was (Player of the Week) until one of my brothers told me,” Penn said. “I thought I could have got it a few times before but it’s nice to be recognized and finally get something like that.”
Coach Tommy Dempsey told Penn before the season started that he thought this could be the senior’s breakout year.
Penn has always been second fiddle to Justin Robinson, Mike Ringgold and Novar Gadson. But with Robinson and Ringgold graduating and Gadson struggling with injuries the Broncs need somebody to step up.
Penn provided that lift against Monmouth.
“He’s playing with confidence,” Dempsey said. “He’s one of those guys we’ve really grown to rely on.”
Now it’s up to him to continue to play with that confidence. Penn might not get 26 and 15 every night – he’s averaging 11 points and four rebounds per game – but Dempsey thinks he can be a difference maker the second half of the season.
“I know that he can make shots,” Dempsey said. “If he continues to rebound the ball like he did the other night and continues to be a leader that is probably more important to me. He’s always been a high percentage shooter and it’s more the rebounds and the leadership I’ve grown to appreciate through these last few weeks.”
Rider (3-10) has won two in a row and begun to show signs of life after starting the season 1-10. Its defense, which was allowing 82 points per game, has given up less than 80 in the last three games.
The Broncs, who had three days off for Christmas, travel to 4-6 Stony Brook Friday night before starting the New Year Jan. 2 at Manhattan.
Penn said they’re feeling like a team refreshed.
“We feel good,” he said. “We’ve had some good practices and we feel like we’re getting off to a new start.”
And his New Year’s resolution.
“Hopefully,” he said, “that is getting more wins.”