The Tigers’ star was promoted from the G League

Tosan Evbuomwan ’23 dribbling with his right hand
Tosan Evbuomwan ’23 dribbles against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden Feb. 4.
Eric Canha, USA TODAY Sports

Tosan Evbuomwan ’23, who led Princeton men’s basketball on its unforgettable run to the Sweet 16 in 2023, broke into the NBA last week, signing a 10-day contract with the Memphis Grizzlies on Jan. 30. In his debut against the Golden State Warriors, Evbuomwan drilled a three-pointer from the right corner to beat the halftime buzzer for his first NBA points.

Two nights later, he contributed a game-high 12 rebounds against the Boston Celtics to go with three points and three assists in 29 minutes of action.

“There’s excitement, and definitely relief a little bit,” Evbuomwan told PAW after his first game. “I wanted to make it happen this year.”

Evbuomwan was not selected in the 2023 NBA Draft but signed a free agent contract with the Detroit Pistons and excelled for the team’s G League affiliate, the Motor City Cruise, averaging 15.1 points to go with 8.6 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game. The Grizzlies signing Evbuomwan made his NBA dream a reality.

The 6-foot-7 forward from Newcastle, England, said his goals remain unchanged: “Keep progressing and hopefully stick [with the Grizzlies] for the rest of the season. I look forward to the rest of my time here and being a good teammate.”

To Princeton coach Mitch Henderson ’98, being a good teammate is the crux of who Evbuomwan is. “His joy in seeing others do well is what stands out,” he said, noting that passing is Evbuomwan’s strongest skill. “His fingerprints are still there on this year’s team.” (The Tigers, now 16-3, rank among the NCAA leaders in assist/turnover ratio.)

Last spring, Evbuomwan earned Ivy League Tournament Most Outstanding Player honors and was named to the NCAA South Region All-Tournament Team. That came on the heels of a 2021-22 junior season in which he won the Ivy League Player of the Year award and helped spark Princeton to a regular season conference championship.

Evbuomwan is currently the lone Ivy League player in the NBA, but he hopes more will follow. “Xaivian [Lee ’26] has a really good shot,” he said, unsolicited. “I talk to him and keep close tabs on the team.”

Evbuomwan added that he is always looking to give back and help younger players, noting that Devin Cannady ’20 (who has played parts of two seasons with the Orlando Magic) and former Yale player Miye Oni (a member of the Utah Jazz for three years) gave him advice throughout his transition to pro basketball.

While Evbuomwan showed flashes of promise in his freshman year, his 3.9 scoring average did not suggest the NBA was a likely postgraduate option. But even then, teammates were taking notice. “I remember Ryan Schweiger [’21] pulled me aside one day early in the season and said Tosan will be the best one out of all of us,” said Henderson.

“The way he could see a move before it happened that would then develop was beautiful to watch,” Henderson added. “He had a right-to-left crossover move his first game at the Palestra where I said ‘wow.’ I’m not surprised this moment has arrived.”