Wednesday, March 13, 2019

No I In Team

As they say, "there's no 'I' in 'team,' " which is an admirable sentiment.

The implication, of course, is that in sports, no one individual (I) matters more than the group itself (Team). There's a lot to be said for that, by the way.

Winning teams need winning cultures, and those aren't always easy to build on a team of "me-first" players. You've heard of the term "25 players, 25 cabs," which TigerBlog believes originated with the Boston Red Sox in the 1940s but generally refers to teams that have a bunch of players who don't, well, play well together.

It's really, really hard to win that way.

At Princeton the subject of culture comes up a lot in meetings with coaches, and even in individual conversations with coaches. There are teams that never, for whatever reason, achieve the right culture, and it's hard for talent alone to overcome that.

TigerBlog wrote yesterday about the 2000-01 Princeton men's basketball team, the one that John Thompson III took to the Ivy League championship and NCAA tournament in his first year as a head coach. That team is the perfect example of what the right chemistry can do for you.

There have been plenty of others here too. Teams with the right culture are teams where everyone has a role and everyone realizes that his or her role is integral to the team success. And not everyone's role is to score the most points.

When you get that kind of buy-in, you really have something. Even when it's a team of individual events, like swimming or track, you still need the right team culture.

And now, after having said all of that, TigerBlog will spend the rest of the day talking about individual honors.

The All-Ivy League teams were announced yesterday in wrestling and men's basketball, with women's basketball to come today.

In wrestling, Princeton has more NCAA qualifiers (six) than it has first-team All-Ivy selections (two), and neither of Princeton's two EIWA individual champions were first-team All-Ivy picks. That says a lot about how good Ivy League wrestling is.

Princeton's two first-team picks were Matthew Kolodzik, a junior who was first-team for the third time, and freshman Quincy Monday, both of whom are NCAA bound. EIWA champions and NCAA qualifiers Patrick Brucki, a sophomore, and freshman Patrick Glory, were named second-team All-Ivy, as were freshmen Travis Stefanik and Marshall Keller. Kevin Parker, a junior, was honorable mention.

Stefanik and Parker also got another big prize yesterday when they were named as at-large selections to the NCAA championships next weekend in Pittsburgh, bringing to six the number of Tigers who will be there.

Also, Chris Ayres was named the Ivy League Coach of the Year for the third time in four years. That's a lot of respect from his fellow Ivy coaches, who know full well what kind of job he's done building a national power - the Tigers finished the regular season ranked 19th in the country.

As for men's basketball, Princeton had two selections.

Richmond Aririguzoh is a second-team All-Ivy pick. Given where he was his first two seasons, his jump has been extraordinary. TigerBlog has said this all year.

Aririguzoh's 2018-19 numbers:
11.6 points per game
6.3 rebounds per game
.691 shooting percentage
.761 free throw percentage
25.5 minutes per game

And his numbers his first two years combined:
2.3 points per game
1.5 rebounds per game
.551 shooting percentage
.447 free throw percentage
7.9 minutes per game

As TB said earlier this year, he's never seen a player improve as much from his first two years to his junior year the way Aririguzoh has. He looked like a different person, one who added serious muscle to his 6-9 body, and his hard work on his game showed up everywhere, in his low-post game, his dribbling, his passing, his foul shooting.

As for Stephens, he was named first-team All-Ivy League for the second time in his career and All-Ivy for the third time, after being a second-team pick a year ago and first-team in 2017. Stephens is the 23rd player in program history to be a two-time first-team All-Ivy selection.

Stephens' Princeton resume also includes being the 2017 Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year, but he became way more than just a defensive stopper in his career.

In fact, Stephens currently sits in 10th place all-time in scoring at Princeton with 1,332 points, many of which came on either tough drives to the hoop or turnaround floaters in the lane. Just as TB hasn't seen anyone improve like Aririguzoh, he also hasn't seen too many Princeton men's basketball players who have ever played as hard as Stephens has, night after night, for his whole career.

Whether it's going after loose balls, rebounding, defending or anything else, Stephens has given maximum effort at all times. It's made him a crowd favorite in Jadwin, and it's also elevate him into elite status in the program's history.

Up next for Princeton basketball, by the way, is the Ivy League tournament, Saturday and Sunday in New Haven. You can see the Princeton men and women in back-to-back games, with the men against Yale at 3 and the women against Cornell following that.

All-Ivy women's basketball comes out today.

TigerBlog likes Bella Alarie's chances in that one.

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