Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Home With The Hawks

Here's today's Princeton men's basketball trivia question from TigerBlog:

Name all of the players in Princeton men's basketball history to win both Ivy League Rookie of the Year and Player of the Year. TB will give you a few paragraphs.

On the women's side, it's been done twice, by Niveen Rasheed (a two-time unanimous Ivy League Player of the Year) and most recently by Bella Alarie, who went from Rookie of the Year as a freshman to Player of the Year as a sophomore, something that no other Princeton player has ever done and something that only seven Ivy League basketball players - all women - have managed to do.

TigerBlog interviewed Spencer Weisz at halftime of the men's basketball game against George Washington Saturday afternoon, and afterwards he mentioned to his broadcast partner Patrick McCarthy how Weisz had been the Ivy Player of the Year as a senior in 2017 after beginning his career with the Rookie of the Year award in 2014. Then he told Patrick he would research how many Princeton players have won both awards. 

And here's the complete list: Spencer Weisz.

For all of Princeton's great players, only Weisz has won both. And before you wonder why Bill Bradley wasn't the Ivy Rookie of the Year in 1963 and Player of the Year in 1963, 1964 and 1965, keep in mind that the awards didn't begin until the 1970s.

In fact, there was an Ivy League men's basketball Rookie of the Year first, beginning in 1971. The first winner, by the way, was Princeton's Brian Taylor.

The Player of the Year award didn't start until 1974-75, when Penn's Ron Haigler won. Princeton's first two winners were the next two years (Armond Hill and Frank Sowinski).

Princeton has had two players who won two Ivy Player of the Year awards, and neither was the Rookie. Those two were Craig Robinson, the 1982 and 1983 Player of the Year, and Kit Mueller, who won in 1990 and 1991.

The 1979-80 season, Robinson's freshman year, saw co-Rookies of the Year - Penn's Paul Little,w whom TB saw play a lot, and Yale's Steve Leondis, whom TB had not heard of but who remains the fifth all-time leading scorer in Bulldog history with 1,540 points (six fewer than Mueller scored in his Princeton career). Harvard's Ralph James, another player TB remembers well, was the Rookie of the Year when Kit was a freshman.

Anyway, the answer to the original trivia question was Spencer Weisz, who helped Princeton go 14-0 in the Ivy League and then win the first Ivy tournament his senior year, making the 2016-17 Tigers the first 16-0 team in league history. The tournament wasn't easy, especially the semifinal game against Penn on Penn's home court, where the Tigers didn't tie it until Myles Stephens had a put-back on an offensive rebound in the final seconds of regulation and didn't lead until overtime.

In talking to Weisz, it was clear how strong a sense of relief he still has with how close their dream season came to being derailed by the Quakers on that really cold March Saturday. And how he remembered every detail.

Weisz is now playing professionally in Israel, and it was also pretty interesting to listen as he talked about how he had to adjust to playing the more physical European professional game.

Princeton pulled away from George Washington to win that game 73-52. Up next is a game tonight against St. Joe's, who comes to Carril Court for the 7 pm tip-off with a record of 4-4.

Princeton and St. Joe's are separated by about 40 miles and both have great basketball histories. The meeting tonight will be only the 18th (including twice in the NCAA tournament in the 1960s) between the teams, which is surprising to TigerBlog.

The teams have met each of the last three years, with the Hawks' winning each. The game tonight will feature some great three-point shooters, with St. Joe's Charlie Brown and Jared Bynum and Princeton's Devin Cannady all at or better than 50 percent from distance this season - and that doesn't count the Hawks' Taylor Funk, who was 5 for 6 on threes against Princeton last season in Philadelphia.

Brown, by the way, is 6-7. Funk is 6-9.

The Tigers had their best outing of the year in the win over GWU Saturday, with Cannady, Myles Stephens, Richmond Aririguzoh and Jose Morales all in double figures (the latter two with a career-best 13 each).

Next up is St. John's, with that game in Madison Square Garden Sunday afternoon.

For tonight, though, it's a different Saint, the one with the Hawk who will never die. It should be a very entertaining game, even if it is only the 18th between two very natural rivals.

Tip-off at 7. See you there.

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