How well do you know the Princeton basketball players who have been shaking up this year’s March Madness? As these Tigers prep in Louisville, Kentucky, to play Creighton in the NCAA Sweet 16 on Friday (9 p.m. ET on TBS), get to know them better with these fast facts.
A Sense of Where He Is
Count Bill Bradley ’65 among the admirers of Princeton’s star forward Tosan Evbuomwan ’23. “He’s always in the right place,” Bradley told Jerry Carino of the Asbury Park Press. “He boxes out, passes, and goes to the basket well.” It’s high praise from an All-American, Olympian, and Hall of Famer whose Princeton years were documented in the John McPhee ’53 classic A Sense of Where You Are — a book that head coach Mitch Henderson ’98 said he received from his high school coach when he was admitted to Princeton.
In a program that has always valued passing, Henderson said Evbuomwan has set a new standard. “Tosan’s passing, you won’t see that again at Princeton for 50 years,” he said after Princeton’s win over Missouri. “I mean, he’s really a very unique passer. When he came to us, it was like first week of practice … it was like a brilliant, blinding light from heaven. I was like, ‘This is going to be a lot of fun, he’s going to be a joy to coach.’ His humility is extraordinary.”
A Four-Class Act
Of the nine Tigers who have averaged at least 13 minutes per game-played this year, three are seniors, two are juniors, one is a sophomore, and three are freshmen. Nationally, college basketball has been reshaped by the transfer portal, but Princeton remains “very much about the four-year experience,” athletically and academically, Henderson said.
One freshman has made a particularly impressive impact: Caden Pierce ’26, a 6-foot-6-inch forward with a knack for tracking down rebounds. He’s grabbed 10 or more boards in four of the last five games, including 16 in Princeton’s second-round win over Missouri. Since the start of the Ivy League season, he’s averaged 9.7 points per game and was named the Ivy Rookie of the Year.
“We think he’s awesome,” Henderson said. “I think he’s one of the best freshmen in the country. But he benefits from the tutelage and the support of the seniors because they’re right there for [the freshmen], all the time at practice.”
Blake Peters, Future Diplomat?
After Blake Peters ’25 played the game of his life against Missouri, sinking five 3-pointers in a seven-minute span in the second half, Henderson told the assembled media that Peters speaks fluent Chinese and wants to be secretary of state one day. Peters quickly corrected his coach — “not fluent, but close” — and he hasn’t shied away from his ambitious career goal.
“I’ve just always dreamed about serving our country in that capacity,” said Peters, who has visited China twice and traveled to Thailand, Greece, and France. “I’ve been blessed to travel the world and really experience different cultures, and I’ve just had that kind of urge to serve.”
As for speaking Mandarin, Peters started young, after his father began studying the language for his work as a consultant. He said he dropped his lessons for six or seven years, resumed his studies in high school, and has continued at Princeton.
The Road to the South Regional
Geographically speaking, Matt Allocco ’24 is the closest Princeton comes to having a hometown connection with the South Regional site in Louisville, Kentucky. Allocco is from Hilliard, Ohio, in the Columbus suburbs, about three hours northeast of Louisville. As a senior at Hilliard Bradley High School, he was named first-team all-state.
Allocco is expecting to have a strong contingent of family and friends driving in for Friday night’s game. “I’m hoping, at least,” Allocco said Monday. “I don’t know, I’m hearing the tickets are selling fast, so I’m hoping they can get in.”
Seniors’ Transfer Potential
When the Ivy League cancelled its 2020-21 season, Princeton’s seniors (then sophomores) lost a year of basketball — but retained a year of eligibility in the eyes of the NCAA. Ivy rules do not allow graduate students to play varsity sports (though a one-year exception was made for the Class of 2021), so if they hope to continue playing, they’ll have to do it elsewhere.
Tosan Evbuomwan ’23, Keeshawn Kellman ’23, and Ryan Langborg ’23 look like particularly promising graduate transfer candidates, and other Tigers have succeeded in their post-graduation stints (Jaelin Llewellyn ’22 at Michigan, Ryan Schwieger ’21 at Loyola Chicago, Ethan Wright ’22 at Colorado, Drew Friberg ’22 at Belmont, and Jerome Derosiers ’21 at Hawaii). But this year’s seniors seem to be keeping that conversation on hold as they prepare for the Sweet 16. “I will come to a decision after the season,” Kellman told PAW on Monday. “Right now I’m just focused on March Madness.”