Substance over style

Without any flashiness, AJ Brodeur leaves his mark as an all-time Penn basketball great.

Sitting six rows above the Penn basketball bench, a silver-haired 88-year-old man in a red sweater clapped politely when, with just under 10 minutes remaining in the Quakers’ regular-season finale on March 7, senior AJ Brodeur set a screen, slipped behind a Columbia defender, received a bounce pass from classmate Devon Goodman, and calmly finished a layup at the rim.

AJ Brodeur and Ernie Beck shake hands.
Ernie Beck congratulates AJ Brodeur after Brodeur passed Beck to become the all-time leading scorer in Penn men’s basketball history. (Image: Dave Zeitlin)

In almost any other situation, it would have been a nondescript play in a comfortable victory. But that basket gave Brodeur 1,829 points for his college career—two more than the red-sweatered gentleman, Ernie Beck, had scored from 1950–53.

Until that moment, Beck had been Penn’s all-time career points leader for a whopping 67 years—the longest-standing scoring record of any NCAA Division I program in the country.

“Well, records are made to be broken,” says Beck, who led the Quakers to the 1953 NCAA Tournament before a seven-year career in the NBA. “I can’t complain. I like [Brodeur] as a player. I watch him on TV. I love his moves, and he’s a wonderful passer.”

Although it’s difficult to compare players from different eras (and also to compare career stats, since Beck was only eligible to play three seasons on varsity), Brodeur is, in many ways, a fitting choice to rise to the top of Penn’s scoring chart. Like Beck, the senior was a brutally efficient interior player who had great footwork in the post, wore down defenders, and always got a good shot. And on the other end, he was a true rim protector—the “best defensive player in the league,” according to head coach Steve Donahue.

Read more at the Pennsylvania Gazette.