Princeton Star Savage Fills Local Hero Role; Earns Playoff MVP as George's Takes Title
By Bill Alden
Over the previous three summers, George's Roasters and Ribs established itself as a formidable force in the Recreation Department summer men's basketball league.
Featuring a stable of outside shooters, George's piled up plenty of wins in regular season play. But come playoff time, George's misfired, failing to make it to the league's championship series.
One of George's stalwarts, Noah Savage, though, had a feeling things would be different this summer.
"Last year there were a lot of people who wanted to shoot," said Savage, who is heading into his sophomore season with the Princeton University men's basketball team after starring for the Hun School.
"I think we were a little bit more cohesive this year. In the past we had too much firepower and not enough of the ball going around."
Benefitting from that unselfish approach, Savage and his teammates broke through this summer and made it to the league's championship series against two-time defending champion, The Café/Change Clothes.
George's emphasis on teamwork proved to be a formula for a title as it knocked off The Café last week in a hard-fought three-game series.
Taking advantage of the team's ball movement, Savage scored 19 points last Friday in the third and final game as George's edged The Café 59-55 to win the title.
Savage, who had poured in 23 points last Wednesday as George's staved off elimination by posting a 66-54 win to even the series at 1-1, received the Foreal Wooten Award as the playoff MVP.
For Savage, advancing to the championship series was special. "It means a lot," said Savage, who averaged 13.7 points a game this summer in regular season play. "We have kind of been like the Miami Dolphins; we'd start out real strong and then we would fade away."
In helping George's to the title, Savage focused on diversifying his game. "I'm working on handling the ball more," explained Savage. "I'm trying to work on one-on-one moves in the post and pull-up jumpers. Anything but standing-still three-pointers."
As Savage prepares for his second season with Princeton, he is looking to be stronger over the long haul.
"I'm lifting three times a week," said the 6'5 Savage, who averaged 6.4 points per game his freshman season and started all 28 games the Tigers played. "I've gained a little weight. I was 215 now I'm 225. I learned last year how long the season is and how you have to take care of your body. Hopefully this year, I will be in better shape the whole season."
Savage is hoping the Tigers will be in better shape collectively as they look to rebound from last year's disappointing campaign that saw Princeton post its first-ever losing season in Ivy League play as it went 6-8 in league action and 15-13 overall.
"How many times can you hear the question what happened," said Savage in reflecting on the season which was head coach Joe's Scott's first at the helm. "That's a complicated question. You want to answer it by playing better this season."
In Savage's view, the Princeton players and coaching staff are on the same page. "Let's do it his way, there is no other way," added Savage. "Last year, it was like everybody was a freshman. The returning players know what needs to be done. Everybody is policing themselves. We'll be more on top of guys, rather than the coaches."
Building on the aggressiveness he showed this summer for George's, Savage is determined to be a more well-rounded player this winter.
"I need to see the floor better," said Savage. "I need to be better at picking my spots when to drive."
If Savage can emulate the drive he displayed in leading George's to the title, he should be a key performer for Princeton in a lot of big spots this winter.