Growing up in soccer country, Tosan Evbuomwan ’23 found his talent on the court

This is a photo of Tosan Evbuomwan ’23 playing against Marist in November. He's holding the ball to his left and looking right while another player tries to block him.
Tosan Evbuomwan ’23 plays against Marist in November.
Beverly Schaefer

Tosan Evbuomwan ’23 has been on a steady climb since taking up organized basketball late, at the age of 14. 

He grew up more fixated athletically on traditional English pursuits, like soccer, in Newcastle, a few hours north of London. But he did have a basketball hoop at home. His father, Isaac, had played in Nigeria.

“It didn’t get much use when I was younger … but it was always there,” said Evbuomwan, (pronounced Eh-WHOA-Ma). “When I started to pick it up, I was in the back garden using it all the time, rather than the soccer goal.”

He gravitated to the Newcastle Eagles, the top club team in the area, but Evbuomwan and a friend had to push for their high school to start a basketball team. Though still learning, he made Great Britain’s under-18 national team for the 2018 and 2019 European Championships. As he began to entertain playing professionally, he emailed Princeton’s basketball program, which had never seen him play in person, for the chance to compete collegiately overseas.

“It’s an unusual recruiting situation,” said Princeton coach Mitch Henderson ’98. “We got really lucky.”

Evbuomwan came to Princeton unsure of how much he would contribute. “Especially when you’re from the U.K., you tend to think everyone in America is so much better,” he said. But the 6-foot-8 forward brought uncommon attributes. He retained the skills that enabled him to play point guard in a pinch for his club team the year before.

In a freshman year in which he made 19 starts, Evbuomwan averaged 3.9 points, 1.8 rebounds, and 0.9 assists per game, though his production tailed off in the final weeks. This year, he posted averages of 15.4 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 4.9 assists through the first 26 games. Henderson says that in his coaching tenure only T.J. Bray ’14 was more efficient offensively.

“Tosan has a very unique disposition,” said Henderson. “He’s very calm. The guys call him Slow-Mo. … He just sees things happening in slow motion. His vision is just incredible, as is his feel for the game.”

Every aspect of Evbuomwan’s game has grown since the COVID-19 pandemic ended the 2020 season. Gym access in Newcastle was difficult when the pandemic began, but Evbuomwan took advantage of every opportunity before returning to Princeton for the in-person spring 2021 semester, in which the team worked out together. He continued to develop last summer while playing for Great Britain’s under-23 3x3 team in the Nations League Europe-America Conference. 

Evbuomwan’s dramatic growth and elevated stats have led Princeton into contention for the league’s NCAA Tournament bid and put him in the conversation for Ivy League Player of the Year. At Harvard Feb. 27, he drove for a layup with less than five seconds remaining to clinch the win and earn Princeton at least a share of the Ivy League championship. The Tigers had a 21-5 overall record heading into the final week of the regular season.