The-BALL (or Basketball Alumni Legends League) is a brand-new East Coast summer league for former college basketball stars. Fans who show up to the games get to see famous alumni from local colleges in more intimate arenas. Many of the American players spend the regular season in the D-League or overseas, but this provides them with an additional source of income during the off-season and a chance to get seen by scouts in person or on a local TV network. It is also the most innovative league in the history of the sport, featuring rules such as a four-point shot, a five-second backcourt violation, two-point free throws, etc. Jon Teitel got to sit down with a number of players and coaches after each game and take a walk down memory lane. Former Penn star Zack Rosen was not able to make it down to DC for the game against the Pennsylvania Ball-Stars, but was kind enough to pick up the phone to discuss his career.
In 2008 you helped lead St. Benedict’s Prep to a New Jersey Class A state title with a roster full of future Division One (D-1) players: what did it mean to you to win a title, and which of your teammates do you think will end up being the best player? We actually won the state title in my second year there. It was one of my most special experiences as a player and person. Coach Dan Hurley did a great job. We had 16 D-1 guys in the same gym, so it taught us how to work hard every single day and bring everything we have. The guy who will be the best pro is Tristan Thompson. He averaged almost a double-double for Cleveland last year, so I do not even know his ceiling.
You decided to go to college at Penn, why did you choose the Quakers? Honestly, it was not my choice! I wanted to go to a bigger program like some of my teammates so that I could play on TV, but the decision was made for me to go to Penn.
At the 2010 Maccabiah Games in Israel you won a gold medal as part of team USA. How big a deal are the Maccabiah Games for a Jewish basketball player like yourself? It was a very special experience. My teammates and I still make a point to stay in touch, and going to Israel was pretty cool too.
In a 9-game stretch in 2011 you played in five games that went to overtime. Is there any difference between regulation and OT (mental/physical/other)? We did it on purpose based on the scouting report. We never started games well that season but would play great in the second half. Overtime is totally different mentally: shooting FTs, staying focused, etc.
In 2012 you were named All-American/Ivy POY. What did it mean to you to win such outstanding individual honors? I go back and forth on this: individual awards are nice, but I would give anything to be able to go to the Palestra and point to a banner in the rafters that I was able to help put up there. It is nice to be respected by the coaches who vote on those awards.
You finished that season by leading the conference in scoring at 18.2 PPG. What is your secret for being a good scorer? I would not consider myself a great scorer: I tried to be a playmaker and was just able to execute the plays that were run for me.
What are your memories of the 2012 CBI (you scored 11 points in a 10-point loss to Butler)? It was the final game of my college career. We were not so excited about playing in the CBI, but when we found out we would be playing against Butler we got psyched for it. I had someone ask if I could chat with Brad Stevens after the game, and we ended up talking for 20-30 minutes. He is such a good guy and we just clicked.
You were the first three-time captain in school history. What is the key to being a good leader? I should not have been a captain during my sophomore year. My leadership style changed a lot during college, Coach Jerome Allen taught me to do other things besides lead by example. I tried to be the first guy in the gym and the last guy to leave, which worked on some levels, but I could have been more effective.
You graduated as the school’s all-time leader with 588 career assists, did you realize at the time how prolific a player you were, and do you think that anyone will ever break your record? When I broke the record it meant that I beat Jerome Allen in something, and until I die that is good enough for me!
Last summer you played pro basketball in Israel. What is the biggest difference between college basketball and pro basketball, and what do you hope to do in the future? People do not understand how huge the difference is. The Ivy League has its own pace, so when the shot clock is reduced from 35 seconds to 24 seconds it is a drastic change. There is better coaching, scouting, etc., but the shot clock speeds everything up. On offense you have to take the first good shot you can.