Scoonie Penn had an impressive career at both Ohio State and Boston College (which he transferred out of following his sophomore season when BC coach Jim OBrien left the team for Ohio State), including being voted the 1998-1999 Big 10 player of the year, as well as Big East freshman of the year, First Team All-Big East in each of his first two seasons in college, and First Team All-Big 10 in his final two seasons at Ohio State. He didnt gather much interest from the NBA after finishing his collegiate journey, though--not enough to get a contract at least, despite being selected with the 57th pick by the Atlanta Hawks in the 2000 draft.
After playing in Italy, Serbia & Montenegro and Greece, Penn really blossomed this season in his 2nd stint at Cibona Zagreb. He was especially impressive in the Euroleague Top 16, when he nearly single-handedly led Cibona- the team with the lowest budget in this stage - to the quarterfinal round. He led the competition at this stage with 22.6 points per contest, while adding 3.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 2.0 steals. He finished the Euroleague season averaging 17.0 points, 2.8 assists, 2.7 rebounds and 2.2 steals per night.
Scoonie improved considerably throughout his European career to the point that he is now considered one of the top point guards in Europe and gathers much interest from top-notch Euroleague teams. His agent Marc Cornstein told us that Penn will be leaving at least a million dollars (net) on the table in Europe if he is to pursue his NBA dream
Penn is a high-octane player who does everything at full speed and always leaves everything out on the court. He is built like a tank, being very muscular and strong, especially in his lower body. He is a quick player on both ends of the floor, showing an extremely explosive first step and good lateral quickness.
Scoonie is a dangerous threat on the offensive end, as he is very complete in this part of the game. He can slash to the basket at any level as he possesses the necessary physical gifts to go along with excellent ball-handling skills. Despite being undersized, he doesnt face too many problems finishing at the rim due to his impressive vertical leap, even being capable of throwing down some highly impressive dunks during the season.
Penn also brings some serious leadership skills to the floor, and is a real floor general even if he often looks to score more than set teammates up. Penn has good range on his shot, and can make in a variety of ways. He is good pulling up from the dribble from 18 feet, but where he excels is knocking down jumpers on the fly in transition.
Penn is a tenacious on-ball defender thanks to his agility and strength, and is a very hard player to beat off the dribble due to his lateral quickness. Scoonie also reads the passing lines exceptionally well and shows great reflexes, which resulted in him being among the league leaders in steals all season long.
Size alone has been whats kept him outside of the NBA for all these years. Scoonie is just around 5-10 and his wingspan doesnt really make it up for it either.
Penn is a volume shooter, known to sometimes jack up long-range shots early in the shot-clock without a reason. James is also very streaky with his long range shooting, having some great streaks, but also some poor ones, finishing the season shooting 31% from downtown.
He is generally more of a scoring guard than a playmaker. While he definitely has very solid court vision, Scoonie looks for his shot a little more then you would like from your point guard.
Why sign him?
Two weeks ago the Croatian media reported that Penn is close to an agreement with the Milwaukee Bucks. The Recent trade involving TJ Ford makes this rumor even more reasonable. Milwaukees interest in Penn should be well established, as he just finished participating in their free agent mini-camp in late June, and is best friends with their star shooting guard Michael Redd from their days together at Ohio State. Milwaukees scouts obviously attended some Cibona games this year, since they acquired the rights to Penns former teammate Damir Markota through the draft. It seems like he caught their attention.
Recent reports indicate that Penn turned down 700,000 dollars per year (net) from Russias Unics Kazan. Its quite obvious that he feels he has strong chance to end up on an NBA teams roster next year, fulfilling his dream of finally playing in the League. Its difficult for us to assess whether Penn would be willing to settle for the league minimum to accomplish that; all his agent Marc Cornstein was willing to say in that regard (besides confirming the interest from more than one NBA team) is that Scoonie very much wants to play in the NBA.
At 29, Penn is in the prime of his career, and should be able to be a dependable backup at the NBA level. His size would be an issue, but he brings enough to the table to crack into a teams rotation. He isnt exactly prototype of playmaker, but really, who is these days? Penn can defend, make his way to the basket and will get red-hot from perimeter here and there. Considering how much it might cost them and the extremely sparse NBA point guard free agent class, he is as good a candidate as any.
The Bucks a made similar move last summer when they signed Charlie Bell for a guaranteed two year contract for the minimum. It ended up looking like a brilliant decision considering how little he cost them and how much he ended up contributing, particularly towards the end of the season. Dont be surprised if they take that same route again and bring in an experienced point guard at an equally cheap price. As discussed in the introduction of this article, this is a trend that we are seeing more and more of recently.