Koncz ’08, men’s basketball prepare for Maui

No matter what the score, no matter how many shots he makes or misses, men’s basketball forward Kyle Koncz ’08 can count on seeing two supportive faces in the bleachers. His parents, Lennie and Linda, rarely miss a game, driving from Strongsville, Ohio, near Cleveland, to Princeton or wherever else the Tigers happen to be playing. This month, they plan to fly to Hawaii to watch their son at the EA Sports Maui Invitational. “They’re using it as their first vacation in like 15 years,” Koncz said. “It’ll be good for them.”

Koncz is hoping it will be a good trip for the Tigers as well. Princeton, under new head coach Sydney Johnson ’97, faces a challenging schedule in Maui that includes games against Duke Nov. 19 and either Arizona State or Illinois Nov. 20. Those matchups, and the memories of an 11–17 record last season, have motivated the Tigers in their preseason workouts. They open the 2007–08 campaign at home against Central Connecticut Nov. 11.

For Koncz, last season was particu-larly frustrating. In the first 12 games, he made 51.8 percent of his shots and led the team with 11 points per game. The Tigers were 8–4. But as the Ivy League season approached, Koncz noticed pain and swelling in his left foot. The injury, diagnosed first as a stress reaction and later as a stress fracture, forced him to wear a protective boot off the court and stop practicing between games — a significant setback for a 3-point specialist. He missed two games, and in the next 14 that he did play, his shooting percentage dropped to 32.9.

After nearly two months of rest and a full summer of training, Koncz is eager to put those late-season struggles behind him. Under Johnson, he said, the Tigers will increase the tempo on offense and maintain their defensive intensity. Three starters — Koncz, Marcus Schroeder ’10, and Lincoln Gunn ’10 — return, along with key reserves Noah Savage ’08, Zach Finley ’10, and Mike Strittmatter ’09.

“Even though the results weren’t good last year, we have some guys who played a lot of minutes,” Koncz said. “They know what Ivy League basketball is about — how competitive that 14-game schedule is and what every game means. A lot of guys are hungry to prove that what happened last year isn’t who we are.”