In maneuvering to the basket, Jaelin Llewellyn ’22 varies between shifty and explosive. While capable of making acrobatic layups, he’s just as willing to deliver a slick assist (or sweep in for a soaring rebound). In his second season on the men’s basketball team, Llewellyn has been supplying a bit of everything for the Tigers, adding more with each passing week.
“He keeps responding to the things we ask him to do,” said head coach Mitch Henderson ’98 after his team’s 6–8 start. “We’re putting a lot on him.”
Much was expected of the point guard from Mississauga, Ontario, from the moment he committed to the Tigers. Llewellyn was the most highly regarded recruit in Henderson’s tenure, earning four-star ratings from 247Sports, ESPN, and Rivals. He passed on offers from major-conference schools such as Florida, Wake Forest, and Virginia for Princeton.
Princeton was “the first school to really build a relationship with me the year prior to when I really started getting recruited,” Llewellyn said. “The combination of basketball and academics is hard to pass up.”
Llewellyn first explored Princeton when he came to the team’s summer camp before his sophomore year in high school. He would go on to play a year at Canadian scholastic power Orangeville Prep before finishing at Virginia Episcopal School.
“The thing that stood out most to me was [Llewellyn’s] defense and his ability to take care of the ball in high school, which is very unusual,” Henderson said. “You’d have AAU games where the ball’s getting thrown all over the place, and he didn’t throw the ball away. There are a lot of different kinds of good players, and that’s a sign of a really good player — on top of everything else he could do.”
Llewellyn came out of high school better developed than many because of the tutelage of his father, Cordell “Bobby” Llewellyn, who played at Wake Forest and Rhode Island before a career-ending injury derailed his NBA dreams.
“He really helped,” said Llewellyn. “He’s been through everything that I wanted to do as a young kid. He started training me since I was like 5. He taught me everything he knew and then gave me space to be able to grow by myself.”
Llewellyn continues to grow at Princeton. He guided the Tigers to five wins in their last six games heading into the exam break — including a regular-season sweep of Penn to open Ivy League play — and has increased his per-game contributions in nearly every category compared to last season, including minutes played (35.7), points (15.6), and rebounds (4.3).
As Llewellyn’s statistics have improved, so has his confidence. He’s become the engine of the young team that surrounds Princeton’s only senior starter, center Richmond Aririguzoh ’20. “Richmond leads us,” Henderson said, “but Jaelin makes us go.”
Henderson said Llewellyn has been making better decisions and bigger plays in his first full season (he missed the first seven games of his freshman year with an injury). Coaches asked him to rebound more, and he responded with 14 rebounds to go with 18 points in a 78–64 win at Penn on Jan. 4, earning Ivy League Player of the Week. They asked him to play better defense, and he helped hold Penn in check in a 63–58 win Jan. 10. Now, Henderson wants him to be a more vocal leader and show more of his personality.
“It’s never too much,” Llewellyn said. “Anything I can do to help us win, I’m ready to do.”
A version of this story appears in the Feb. 12, 2020, issue.