Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 26
 
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
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(Photo Courtesy of Princeton Recreation Department)

EARNING THEIR STRIPES: Members of the Tiger’s Tale team show off the plaques they received last Friday for making the Princeton Recreation Department Summer Men’s Basketball League Hall of Fame. Pictured, from left, are league official Evan Moorhead, Freddie Young, Blitz Wooten, Shawn Gillette, Chuck Brown, Darius Young, Erik Daniels, league commissioner Ben Stentz, and league official Danny Page. Pat Davis is kneeling in front.

Legendary for Its Winning Ways and Chemistry, Tiger’s Tale Enters Summer Hoops Hall of Fame

Bill Alden

In the 1988 Eddie Murphy film Coming to America, the My-T-Sharp barbershop is a hub for jokes, gossip, and good times.

When the Princeton Recreation Department Summer Men’s Basketball League started play a year later, Darius Young’s thoughts turned to the Murphy flick as he thought about a name for the team he was putting together.

“I was an Eddie Murphy fan,” recalled Young, a 1988 Princeton High School (PHS) alum who starred in basketball and football. “I must have been watching that movie one day and I was like that was going to be the name of our team.”

Young’s team, which included several PHS standouts, proved to be pretty sharp as it won the first two league titles under that name. Picking up Tiger’s Tale as a sponsor, the group won the next two championships to make it four straight.

The Tiger’s Tale entry went on to win back-to-back titles twice in the 1990s, ending up with eight of the first 11 league crowns.

In addition to Young, the core of the team included such standouts as Freddie Young, Dave Johnson, Brian Williams, Rob Bosley, John Thompson, Shawn Gillette, Charles Brown, Erik Daniels, Leon Newsome, Roland Alexander, Blitz Wooten, Mark Brown, Pat Davis, and Nerva Jean Louis.

In recognition of the team’s success and its impact on the growth of the league, it was inducted en masse as the second class of the summer circuit’s Hall of Fame.

Last Friday, several members of the team were on hand to accept their Hall of Fame plaques in the PHS gym as a planned ceremony at the Community Park courts was forced indoor due to the thunderstorms that pelted the area.

A second ceremony has been slated for July 24 between the league semifinal games.

As Young reflected on the Hall of Fame honor, he said that game nights in the 1990s resembled real-life My-T-Sharp bull sessions.

“We used to just sit right there in the park and hang out for hours after the games,’ said Young with a broad grin.

“We would just talk; it was sort of like the barbershop. We would talk about each other. We would talk about other teams. We would talk strategy. It was great.”

That special chemistry helped fuel the team’s competitive fire. “It was beautiful; it was like we were meant to be together,” added Young.

“As the competition grew, we grew. We had so much pride in our winning streak and our championship streaks that when the competition stepped up, we stepped up. We brought some guys in that completed things, sort of like Shaq [Shaquille O’Neal] going to Cleveland.”

The team’s success helped make the league more competitive as players headed to Princeton looking to knock off Tiger’s Tale.

“We had a couple of guys that were All-Mercer County and guys from Lawrence, Trenton, and South Brunswick had heard about us,” said Young.

“So they would come into the league to try and take the title. Every year there were different faces and better competition. It made it a lot of fun.”

Young, 38, who currently works as the Director of Performance Training at Princeton Day School, still has fun in the league, having rejoined George’s Roasters/Ivy Inn.

“I went away from George’s last year and I played with Freddie on Dr. Palmer,” said Young.

“It was the 20th year in the league and I wanted to get that family thing back together. But the camaraderie we had when it was My-T-Sharp and Tiger’s Tale, I don’t think I’ll ever get that again.

While that kind of chemistry can’t be rekindled, the bonds from those years live on.

“It brought everyone’s families together so now any of those guys can just walk into my house,” said Young, who lives near Community Park in his boyhood home.

“My family knows them. We became so close and we know each other so well just from those times.”

Times that have now been honored forever by the league with the induction of Young and his teammates into its Hall of Fame.

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