Penn Lefkowitz Labels Spring Break An Embarrassment

Posted: November 20, 1986

Penn center Bruce Lefkowitz went to Miami for spring break last semester, along with teammates Chris Elzey and Johnny Wilson. The trip was a last-minute deal.

"We thought we'd be somewhere else at the time," said Lefkowitz, the Quakers' 6-8 senior center.

Penn thought it would be making a return visit to the NCAA Tournament. But the Quakers, who finished 15-11, were left out in the cold when they let the Ivy League championship slip away in a lost New England weekend against Dartmouth and Harvard.

Instead, Brown found itself in the unlikely position of representing the Ivy League in the NCAAs. The Bruins lost to Syracuse, 101-52, in a first-round game.

"I think every single one of us were embarrassed," Lefkowitz said. "Not so much for Brown, but for ourselves, knowing had we gone there, we would have been much more competitive. And, to some extent, I don't like that reflection on the Ivy League.

"It's a negative reflection on the Ivy League. People look and they say, 'What league do you play in? Oh, Brown's. They lost by 50.' And it's tough telling people, 'But we only lost to Villanova by four. We beat USC.' "

Lefkowitz plans to do his talking on the court this season. So do his teammates, who hope to replace embarrassment with victories.

"We're going to rectify that this year," Lefkowitz said, "and I think the fact we have five seniors who have been in the fires before can only help us."

Lefkowitz, Elzey, Wilson, Perry Bromwell and Abe Okorodudu are all members of Penn's class of '87. With the exception of Bromwell, a 6-2 All-Ivy guard who transferred from Manhattan at the end of his freshman year, they have been together for four years.

"They all come from different backgrounds and all have different personalities," Penn coach Tom Schneider said. "Perry stays by himself. Johnny is more gregarious. Chris Elzey is a classic small-town kid from the Midwest. Abe is very studious. And 'Lefko' is the mayor of University City."

Lefkowitz is an extroverted New Yorker who spent last summer working in the Big Apple for Sports Illustrated's speakers' bureau. Elzey, a 6-5 swingman, grew up in Oxford, Ohio, and arrived at Penn sporting a Jerry Lucas crew cut. The two have been roommates every year.

"I think they roomed Chris with me so I could show him the ropes," Lefkowitz said, laughing. "Once we both got over the East-Midwest culture shock, we became best friends. Chris is coming home with me again for Thanksgiving. It's like my sister-in-law says, 'What would a Lefkowitz family holiday be without Chris Elzey?' "

Elzey introduced Lefkowitz to some of the finer things in life when the two

went to Florida.

"I taught him how to fish," Elzey said. "We did some fishing in a brackish lake behind the place where we were staying."

"That wasn't the ocean?" Lefkowitz asked, with a smile.

"I caught something about this big," he added, using his hands to estimate the size of a minnow.

It is hard to tell where Penn would be without its version of "The Odd Couple." Lefkowitz, who averaged 14.2 points and 7.8 rebounds last season, has been the Quakers' starting center the last three years and is one of the better post players in the Ivy League. The versatile Elzey, another three-year starter, averaged 12.3 points and emerged as Penn's best pure shooter.

Lefkowitz and Elzey have experienced ups and downs.

"Freshman year, we really took our lumps," Lefkowitz said. "Sophomore year, we really came back and showed we had the talent to win it. I think it's important for us, because of the talent we have, to re-establish the tradition that's been here."

Penn went to the NCAA Final Four in 1979, beating North Carolina, Iona, Syracuse and St. John's to earn a trip to Salt Lake City.

"I don't think you'll see an Ivy team in the Final Four again until they give scholarships," Lefkowitz said. "But I think we'll surprise some people this year. We're not a cream puff."

The Quakers do not play a cream-puff schedule, either. Penn has ambitious non-league games against Notre Dame, Villanova, St. Joseph's, Alabama, Temple and Georgia Tech - all NCAA teams. The Quakers also play Vanderbilt.

"It's ambitious," Schneider said. "But if there was ever a time to do this, it is when we have this type of team."

This might be the Quakers' most talented team in the last five years. It is certainly Penn's deepest team and could be its most versatile group since 1980.

Penn does not have overwhelming size up front and Lefkowitz might have trouble defending the post against the bigger teams. But the Quakers have more athletes than anyone in the Ivies, including Yale.

Bromwell, who averaged 13.5 points, might be the best pure athlete in the league. Wilson, a 5-10 lead guard (6.5 points per game, 5.9 assists per game), and 6-4 junior forward Tyrone Pitts (12.5 ppg., 5.2 rebounds per game), are also back, although Schneider is toying with the idea of turning 6-6 sophomore John Stovall into a starter and bringing the energetic Wilson off the bench.

The Quakers can go 10 deep, and we haven't even mentioned improved sophomore guard Walt Frazier Jr. (1.4 ppg.). Schneider even has discovered some reinforcements at center with the rejuvenated Okorodudu and 6-10 freshman Kent Milholland.

Milholland, who averaged 16.9 points, 9 rebounds and 5 blocks for Waverly Central (Tenn.) High, is one of four good recruits who should give the Quakers the best freshman class in the Ivies. The others are 6-2 freshman guard Ken Fikes, of Mount Hermon Prep in Northfield, Mass., 6-4 forward Jose Tavarez, of Bronx High School of Science in New York, and 6-5 swingman Jerry Simon, of Marshall High in Los Angeles.

Simon rates special mention because he averaged 34.8 points in the Los Angeles city league and was selected LA's Class AAA Player of the Year.

Fikes, who was recruited by Clemson in football, did not play last year

because of a broken bone in his foot, but seems like a natural heir to Bromwell. Tavarez (22.3 ppg., 10.5 rpg.) was a first-team all-star in New York's public league.

"I think the chemistry on this year's team is very similar to my sophomore year when we won the league," Lefkowitz said. "We had Karl (Racine) and Rick (Maloney) and that group of seniors. To be honest, I think we have more talent now. There is the same kind of chemistry, the good-natured joking and the fact I think the freshmen do look to us for leadership."

The freshmen will have time to learn. This season belongs to the seniors.

"It would be a culmination of a lot of hard work and improvement," Schneider said. "I didn't see them play in freshman and sophomore year, but I've watched the films and you can see the strides a player like Johnny Wilson has made to contribute. If they go out successfully this year and win their second Ivy League title, it would mean a lot to them. There aren't too many kids that get a chance to do that."

PENNSYLVANIA AT A GLANCE

Record: 15-11 overall, 9-5 (second) in Ivy League, 1-3 in Big 5.

Coach: Tom Schneider, second season (15-11)

Key Returning Players: Perry Bromwell, 6-2 senior guard (13.5 points per game); Chris Elzey, 6-5 senior swingman (12.3 ppg.); Bruce Lefkowitz, 6-8 senior center (14.2 ppg., 7.8 rpg.); Johnny Wilson, 5-10 senior guard (6.5 ppg., 5.9 assists); Tyrone Pitts, 6-4 junior forward (12.5 ppg.); John Stovall, 6-6 sophomore forward (4.8 ppg.); Abe Okorodudu, 6-8 senior forward (1.8 ppg.); Walt Frazier Jr., 6-2 sophomore guard (1.4 ppg.).

New Faces: Ken Fikes, 6-2 freshman guard, Northfield (Mass.) Mount Hermon Prep (20 ppg. as a junior, missed entire senior year with broken bone in foot); Kent Milholland, 6-10 freshman center, (16.9 ppg., 9 rpg., 5 blocks at Waverly Central, Tenn., High); Jerry Simon, 6-5 freshman swingman (34.8 ppg. at Marsahll High in Los Angeles); Jose Tavarez, 6-4 freshman forward, Bronx High School of Science (22.3 ppg, 10.5 rpg.).

Strengths: Experience, depth and versatility. The Quakers have all five starters back, including the athletic Bromwell, a two-time, first-team All-Ivy player. Schneider can go 10 deep on his roster, without experiencing too much of a dropoff. Team should by hungry after letting the Ivy title slip away.

Questions: Quakers must show they can defend at the power positions. They must also cope with a dangerous non-league schedule.

Evaluation: Quakers should improve record to 18-10, win the Ivies, go to NCAA Tournament.

|
|
|
|
|