By BRIAN CUNNIFF
One of South Jersey’s most talented high school basketball players has made her college choice.
Marianna Papazoglou, who finished a terrific junior season at Wildwood Catholic in March, has verbally committed to play Division I college basketball in the Ivy League at the University of Pennsylvania.
Papazoglou announced her decision on social media Sunday evening.
“First, I would like to thank God for blessing me with the opportunity to play the game that I love,” Papazoglou wrote. “I would like to thank every single person who has been a part of my journey so far. … I would not be here today if it wasn’t for my wonderful coaches and teammates. … I could not ask for a better support system throughout my process. With this being said, I am beyond blessed to continue both my academic and basketball career at The University of Pennsylvania.”
A 5-10 forward with guard skills, Papazoglou has proven to be one of the most versatile high school players in the region. She averaged 17.5 points, 8.6 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 3.0 steals for the Crusaders, who finished 22-5, won a share of the Cape-Atlantic United Conference title and advanced to the CAL playoff tournament semifinal round in 2019-20.
Papazoglou has an excellent chance to become a rare 2,000-point scorer. She currently has 1,512 points. Papazoglou became the first basketball player in Wildwood Catholic history – male or female – to surpass 1,000 career points during her sophomore season.
Papazoglou had received scholarship offers from Manhattan and Monmouth and was also courted by Columbia, another Ivy League school, among others, before choosing Penn.
Ivy League schools do not offer athletic scholarship money but Papazoglou is expected to receive a rather strong financial package through academic scholarships and grants. Penn’s tuition, including fees, housing and meals, is nearly $80,000 per year.
Where Papazoglou plays her senior high school season has yet to be determined. The Diocese of Camden recently announced that Wildwood Catholic, along with four other Catholic schools in the diocese, including St. Joseph High School in Hammonton, will close its doors for good in June, due to increasing debt and declining enrollment. There is a strong effort locally, however, to raise funds necessary to keep the school open. A final decision on the school’s fate is expected to be made in the coming weeks.
Penn has been one of the top teams in the Ivy League for the past decade. The Quakers have won at least 20 games in seven consecutive seasons, including a 20-7 regular-season mark in 2019-20 before the postseason was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Penn is coached by Mike McLaughlin, a four-time Big 5 Coach of the Year during his 11 seasons as head coach. McLaughlin has a total career record of 606-184 over 25 total seasons. He posted a record of 407-61 in 14 seasons as head coach at Division II Holy Family prior to moving to Penn.
Penn plays its home games at the Palestra, one of college basketball’s most iconic venues.