Last year was a good year — but not a great one — for the Princeton men’s basketball team, according to head coach Sydney Johnson ’97.
“We were pleased with the forward progress that we made, but we want to keep things in perspective,” Johnson said. “To truly be considered great here on the basketball floor — I think that comes with a championship.”
Expectations are raised for the Tigers, who return their top nine scorers from a team that went 8–6 in the Ivy League and finished tied for second behind Cornell.
Unseating the two-time defending champion Big Red will be a challenge, according to Johnson. “[Cornell] has talented players who have played several years, and then they have transfers that have been exposed to a bigger-game environment and can add a year or two of experience,” he said.
The Tigers hope to compete with an experienced lineup of their own, including dynamic sophomore guard Douglas Davis, who led Princeton in scoring last year (12.3 points per game) — the first freshman in the program’s history to do so.
Center Pawel Buczak ’10, the only player to start all 27 games for the Tigers in 2008–09, has improved exponentially each season, and his development is a key to the team’s success. “We expect Pawel to be one of the focal points of our offense and give us stability on defense as well,” Johnson said.
“With [Pawel] shooting well it opens up a lot of things — it opens up a lot of back-doors in the offense,” added point guard Marcus Schroeder ’10, who led Princeton in assists last year. Schroeder and Nick Lake ’10 will be Princeton’s captains this year.
A more challenging nonconference schedule will take the Tigers west Nov. 29 to face California — ranked No. 8 in the nation by Blue Ribbon College Yearbook. Princeton also visits a pair of Atlantic-10 foes, George Washington and St. Joseph’s.
“We spent [last] November and December trying to figure out what type of team we were last year,” Johnson said, recalling his team’s struggles to win close contests. “We have a core group of returnees, [and] we certainly have some freshmen who can get in the mix. I would hope that relative to last year, we are a bit more sure of who we are.”
The Tigers have added a six-member freshman class, headlined by a pair of forwards — Ian Hummer, son of former Princeton great Ed Hummer ’67, and Will Barrett, from nearby Bucks County, Pa.
With this mix of tested seniors and talented newcomers, team members hope they can improve on last year, according to Buczak. “Now we have to work hard enough to realize the potential we have,” he said, “and hopefully do something special.”Princeton opens its season on the road at Central Michigan Nov. 14 and hosts Manhattan in its home opener Nov. 18.