Darnell Foreman (C ’18) doesn’t really animate until about halfway through our conversation—and when he does, it’s right after we start talking about basketball.
He sits across from me at Metropolitan Bakery and shakes my hand, smiling. He’s either preternaturally charismatic or has been media–trained. Or both. Probably both. He talks with his hands and flashes the Nike rubber wristband he wears, with the trademark swoosh and the word “ATTITUDE” embossed in white on a blue background.
Darnell, Penn’s #4, and one of Penn men’s basketball’s three captains, stands at 6’1". Although I’m not much shorter than him, he seemed to pick up immediately that I know jack shit about basketball. I guess I didn’t do a convincing job of proving that I knew what a point guard was.
If you want to read a report of Darnell’s stats, please don’t ask me. But, Penn 10 isn’t about stats. It’s about the person behind them: not just what they’re great at, but who they are, and how that makes them great.
The first time he played basketball, Darnell was five years old. He recounts that he “actually cried the first day.” Like most kids his age, he just wanted to play video games or run around the neighborhood with his friends. But despite the rough start, he’s made quite a name for himself, drawn to leadership positions from point guard to quarterback to captain.
When Darnell came into Penn as a recruit, he saw March Madness as a “longshot.” But he harbored the hope that he’d get to the tournament “where dreams are made,” and this March, that dream came true.
He’s the youngest of three siblings, and he lights up when he tells me that his mother, brother, and some cousins came out to Wichita for the big game against Kansas this March. When talking about the tournament, he acknowledges that many college basketball players build up March Madness in their heads, but that, when it comes to fully appreciating the tournament, “you don’t really realize it unless you’re actually in it.”
When I ask him if his life has changed at all after Penn’s standout season, he laughs.
“I don’t know if my life has changed ...” He pauses for a bit and leans back in the just–slightly–too–small chair, his expression so pensive that I expect him to say something poetic. But he just laughs. “You definitely get into more parties.”
But the biggest change in Darnell’s life recently is the fact that he’s done with the team. He’s not practicing anymore, and though he works out “one or two hours a day, sometimes three,” he’s unsure what to do with his newfound free time. “It’s weird,” he says, to take a nap and wake up when it’s still light outside.
But he’s still trying to “salvage [his] senior year” and make up for lost time. He’s used to going to class until 3:00 p.m. and heading straight over to the gym until 7:00 p.m., and that’s just on the days with practice—traveling for games is another story.
But it’s weird to step away from the team that’s been his life since before he even set foot on campus, a team for which he sees his captain’s role as much more off–the–court than on. He looks like a proud big brother when I ask him what his role as captain looks like and he tells me that it’s mostly to “make sure the team is going in the right direction.”
Darnell recalls his choice to come to Penn; he says he was looking at “other Ivies, some smaller schools,” and that, even though he grew up in Camden, just across the river, it wasn’t until mid–April of his senior year that he even applied to Penn or thought about coming. “They had to re–open the Common App portal so I could submit my application,” he quips.
Although the season is over, he’s still working out and thinking about hiring an agent. Even as his senior year dies down, he’s going through the elite athlete’s equivalent of OCR: trying to get picked up by a professional team. If Darnell could play anywhere, he thinks he’d choose Australia, even though he waxes poetic about Latvia and how they treat their players “like stars.”
But he doesn’t think he’s going to be playing forever. This political science major tells me he’s “going to be a CEO someday.”
Curious to know what he might pursue after playing pro, I ask if he’s into politics, given his major. He laughs wryly and responds, “Don’t we all have to be now?” But he’d never pursue it as a career. In politics, Darnell tells me, “there’s never a right answer.”
“Is there a right answer when it comes to basketball?”
He smiles, and I can’t quite tell if he’s grinning to himself or to me. “Winning.”
Read about the rest of the students profiled for 34th Street Magazine's Penn 10 project here.