Playing in the Palestra with Penn Men’s Basketball 

An interview with a graduating student-athlete and an overview of the 2023-2024 season.

Photo credit: Visit Philly / “A veritable cathedral of college basketball.”

By Ryan Wolff

After going 11-18 overall and 3-11 within the Ivy League Conference in 2023-24, Penn Men’s Basketball looks forward to making headway in the upcoming 2024-2025 season. 

Highlighted by a dramatic upset win over basketball powerhouse Villanova, the team was dogged throughout by injuries and inconsistent play. Wharton senior Andrew Laczkowski spoke to the Penn Post about Penn Basketball’s 2024 season, the upcoming 2025 season, his experience as a Division I athlete, and Ivy League sports. 

There have also been significant roster changes this offseason, with freshman guard Tyler Perkins—the Quakers’ leading scorer in 2023-2024—transferring to rival Villanova. The team will also be without Clark Slajchert, a senior guard, who will play for USC in his fifth and final year of college eligibility. Slajchert is subject to Ivy League regulations barring students from competing at Ivies for a fifth year, as the Ivy League states that graduate students are ineligible for sports.

Penn has successfully recruited sophomore guard Ethan Roberts from Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. The 6’5” Roberts did not play last season due to an injury, but was named Patriot League Rookie of the Year when he played for Army in 2022-2023.

Andrew Laczkowski, a guard on the team, contextualized the 2023-2024 season and its results. He said, “We lost [2023 Ivy League Player of the Year] Jordan Dingle to the transfer portal… so we were coming in a little bit lighter and a little bit younger than expected… We ended up having a good start to the season, winning a couple of games, and obviously, the Villanova game was the highlight,” describing it as “probably the best experience of the year.”

Laczkowski also mentioned star player Clark Slajchert’s December 30th injury, which he believed hurt the team’s chances, as Slajchert—the team’s leading scorer up to that point—was injured shortly before the Ivy League season started. The team managed only a 3-11 record in Ivy League play, in what Laczkowski described as a “disappointing” year that “[none] of us predicted.” It is hard to imagine that this record didn’t affect team morale, especially after the victory against Villanova.

Regarding next season, Laczkowski said, “They [the players] are hungry to get back and go again next year, so overall not what we wanted but I know there’s a lot you can take from it and those guys will move on, and be good next year.”

Laczkowski said that although the team will lose seniors Colin Chambers, Clark Slajchert, and himself, the “current junior class will move well into [leadership holes]” and, among others, basketball holes as well. He added that they “have a really good mindset,” and he is “really confident and happy for them” in that way.

The senior guard also emphasized that “the biggest issue is losing your main scorers from last year, so you’ve got to… fill that role.” Freshman guard Sam Brown is a prime candidate that could step up for the Quakers. He ranked third on the team in points per game this past season, with 10.9, and is a consistent threat from the three-point arc. Brown led the team in 3-point field goals this past season, with 61.

Speaking about his own experience playing, Laczkowski said “Penn Basketball’s been really important to me… the most important thing about it isn’t putting a ball in a basket but the people I’ve met and have great relationships with.”

He then added broader commentary on the complications of Ivy League regulations that disadvantage the conference’s sports programs. Of this, Laczkowski explained, “first and foremost we don’t give athletic scholarships. It’s really difficult to attract talent the way other schools can at a ground-floor level… They give scholarships and you don’t have to pay for rent, food, your books, and a bunch of other things on top of that.”

Secondly, he mentioned the Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) policy and market, where student-athletes can earn money via sponsorships or advertisements. Laczkowski said that this was a secondary factor driving away recruits in addition to the lack of athletic scholarships.  

At the same time, Laczkowski commented, “I don’t think people really realize how good the Ivy League is compared to the rest of the country.” Indeed, of the 33 Division I conferences in the U.S., the Ivy League is ranked eleventh. In the March Madness tournament since 2010, Ivy League teams have an 8-13 record. Despite their reputation for relatively worse athletics compared to other D1 programs, the Ivies seem to be plagued by perception— a lack of school spirit—rather than a lack of ability.

On playing college basketball, Laczkowski said “Playing Division I basketball to me has meant everything… I’ve had a really great experience with college basketball and it’s something I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”

It will be interesting to see how the Penn Men’s Basketball team plays in the 2024-2025 season, but if Laczkowski’s story is any indication there will be no lack of heart on the court of the Palestra.

Ryan Wolff is a sophomore in the College studying Health and Societies and History from New York, NY. Ryan is also the Sports Editor for The Pennsylvania Post. His email is 

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