Wednesday, January 17, 2018

"My Favorite Was No. 2"

If you want to know one of the very best things about Princeton Athletics, TigerBlog has a story for you.

It starts with Dei Lynam, who first covered Princeton men's basketball as a reporter for what was then Comcast SportsNet in Philadelphia, back during its magical 1997-98 season. Comcast SportsNet, by the way, recently changed to NBC Sports Philadelphia.

From there, Dei covered a lot of Sixers games, as a sideline reporter and studio host, often with her father, a former coach of, among others, St. Joe's and the Sixers. She also did a lot of national sideline reporting on the NBA for TNT and others. 

Fast-forwarding nearly 20 years, Dei did the color commentary for the Princeton-Rider game on CSN. Now, having moved on from the network, she is doing a bunch of different things, including the color commentary for Princeton women's basketball on the Ivy League Network.

Dei does those games with Jon Mozes on play-by-play and Danielle McCartan as the sideline reporter. That's as good a team as you will find anywhere in women's college basketball, by the way.

Dei was at the doubleheader at the Palestra when Roger Gordon, Princeton Class of 1973, came over to say hello to TB. As Roger, one of the most loyal supporters of Princeton basketball that there has ever been, came by, TB assumed - correctly - that he and Dei would know about a thousand of the same people, especially through her dad.

Actually, it might have been more than 1,000.

Anyway, Roger had two extra tickets to the Princeton-Columbia women's game that was coming up the following weekend, and he gave them to TB to give away. Dei said that she had a friend whose daughter would love to come to the game, and so he gave them to her.

This past Friday, there was Dei, on the the ILN broadcast. And her friend and his daughter, Jewel, who looks to be about 10, who were in the stands watching.

After the game, Dei introduced them to TB, and they both couldn't say enough about how great the game had been, how much they'd enjoyed it. TB asked Jewel who her favorite player was, and she said quietly "my favorite was No. 2."

For Princeton's women's team, No. 2 is Carlie Littlefield. She's a freshman, and she's really, really easy to like.

TB walked over to where Littlefield was sitting with some of her friends and asked her if she'd come say hi to the girl. Of course she did, talking to her for a few minutes and posing with her for a picture.

The girl was overwhelmed. It wouldn't have been much different had she met LeBron James.

The point of the story is that the dynamic of the Princeton athletes as they interact with the kids who come to see them play is extraordinary. They are such great role models, and they are so giving of their time, regardless of the situation in the game that just ended.

TigerBlog has seen it so many times, across all sports here. The athletes love to meet with the kids. The kids beam as they do, just like Jewel did after meeting Carlie Littlefield.

As for the game that had just ended, it was all Princeton. The next night, Saturday, wasn't quite all Princeton, since Cornell's astonishing 8 for 9 shooting from the field made it a two-point game at the break, only to have Princeton come out in the second half with a 17-0 run.

Through three league games, all wins, Princeton's Ivy opponents are shooting 33.8 percent from the field, and that includes Cornell's 8 for 9 run. Take that away, and that number drops to 30.4 percent.

That is extraordinary.

Littlefield's impact on Princeton has been dramatic. She's like the basketball equivalent of one of those five-hour energy drinks, and her motor is contagious.

It helps that she's playing on a team with great balance and chemistry, as well as one with great upperclass leadership. And that Princeton enters pretty much every game with the best player - Bella Alarie, who won her second straight Ivy Player of the Week award, not to mention her third in four weeks.

Princeton got to the exam break at 13-3 overall, to go along with 3-0 in the league. Unlike the men, there is no Division III game out of the break, so the Tigers won't play again until they go to Yale and Brown Feb. 2 and 3.

They're back in Jadwin the next weekend, taking on Harvard and Dartmouth. They're worth seeing.

They're great athletes on the court and great people off it.

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