When he started playing basketball for his middle school team in the small town of Pontelongo, Italy, Richmond Aririguzoh ’20 would avoid the action when the ball came his way. It took time for him to feel confident on the court. This season, the 6-foot-9-inch junior is Princeton’s starting center.
For Aririguzoh, born in Italy to Nigerian parents, basketball has been just one part of a remarkable journey. His family came to the United States when he was 12, settling in Trenton, N.J. Aririguzoh adapted quickly, he said — his English was pretty good after a year or two, save for a few words that clung onto his accent. By the time he reached high school, he was a standout student — and a college prospect on the basketball court.
“He’s a star of a human being, and I think that reflects on the court in everything he does,” said head coach Mitch Henderson ’98. “Every day I walk into that gym, he’s a light bulb, and he makes everyone better. And I’m at the front of that list.”
At Princeton, Richmond rejoined his older brother, Franklin ’19, a Woodrow Wilson School major and member of the track and field team, after the two had attended different high schools in the Trenton area.
Aririguzoh said his parents and siblings support his endeavors as a student-athlete and aspiring doctor — and allow him to stay focused. “It’s easy in the first two years to be blindsided by some of these classes and question ‘Is this really for me?’” he said.
When he’s not balancing evolutionary biology, physics, biochemistry, and Italian classes or putting in time on the basketball court, Aririguzoh enjoys listening to hip-hop and writing poetry — “sparingly,” he said.
During his freshman year, as the Tigers went undefeated in the Ivy League, Aririguzoh spent most of his time on the bench — “learning, observing, growing,” he said. The Princeton offense calls on centers to be multidimensional players, and Aririguzoh had been a more conventional, under-the-basket center in high school.
As a sophomore, he played in 27 of Princeton’s 29 games, averaging just over nine minutes per game, and emerged as one of the team’s leaders in offensive rebounds and field-goal percentage. This year, Aririguzoh hopes to become an even more complete player for the Tigers, who ranked fourth in the Ivy League preseason media poll. He scored 10 points, grabbed six rebounds, made two steals, and blocked one shot in Princeton’s opening win over Division-III DeSales Nov. 9. Through the first five games, he’s averaged 7.4 points per game, making 66.7 percent of his shots from the field.
“When he’s his best,” Henderson said, “it’s hard for the rest of us not to perform our best.”
This is an expanded version of a story in the Dec. 5, 2018, issue.