Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 30
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
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(Photo provided courtesy of Princeton Recreation Department)

SERVICE ORIENTED: Ben Stentz, center, along with Evan Moorhead, right, and Danny Page enjoy the moment after Stentz was presented with the Princeton Recreation Department Summer Men’s Basketball League’s Ron Washington Award for Service. Stentz, a former Princeton High basketball star and Rec Department program supervisor, has been the commissioner of the summer men’s hoops league since the mid-1990s.

After Handing Out Summer Hoops Awards, Stentz On Receiving End for Service Honor

Bill Alden

Ben Stentz is used to giving out awards in his role as the commissioner of the Princeton Recreation Department Summer Men’s Basketball League.

Last Friday, Stentz was at it again as he introduced this year’s class of the league’s Hall of Fame between playoff semifinal games at the Community Park courts.

After making his remarks lauding Hall of fame inductees Tiger’s Tale and longtime Princeton Packet sports editor Bob Nuse, Stentz headed back to the scorer’s table to get things ready for the second semifinal game of the evening and assistant commissioner Evan Moorhead took the mike.

As Stentz got the score sheets together for the game between George’s Roasters and Ribs/Ivy Inn and Hilton Realty, he was in the rare position of being on the receiving end as Moorhead announced that the commissioner was receiving the league’s Ron Washington Award for Service.

For Stentz, being the honoree rather than the presenter gave him a bit of a jolt. “They got me, I was surprised,” said Stentz with a laugh. “I thought they might give it to me when I was 60 or something.”

It was something special for Stentz to receive the honor from his colleague and good friend Moorhead.

“The thing that means the most is that it came through Evan,” said Stentz. “I admire and appreciate what he does in the community for the kids’ league, the Dillon League, the men’s league, and his church.”

Stentz has done a lot for the men’s league since taking the helm in the mid- 1990s. The increase in the quality of the league under Stentz’s stewardship has helped make it a fixture on the local summer hoops scene.

When Stentz became commissioner, he didn’t see it as a long-term role.

“I didn’t think I would be doing this job for this long a time,” said Stentz, who went on to start working full-time for the Rec Department in 2000 where he is a program supervisor.

“When Doug Snyder decided to leave, he and Cheryl Perez asked me to take over. I had a sense of responsibility because Doug had started it for guys like me; players at the high school looking for competition in the summer. I started with the Rec Department in the winter of 2000 so that made it easy but being out here three nights a week isn’t part of my job description. I could hire someone else to do it. It’s one of those things; Evan and I like being out here.”

Stentz’s deep ties to the community have helped the league remain a must for Princeton players.

“We have been able to grow the league but maintain the local flavor,” asserted Stentz. “We have a good core of Princetonians playing in the league on teams like George’s, Hilton, and Dr. Palmer’s.”

One of Stentz’s lasting contributions to local hoops lore is coining the phrase “you gotta finish in this league,” which he will proclaim from the scorer’s table when a player misses a lay-up.

The catch phrase graces a popular league T-shirt which can be seen all over town.

“I will be driving in town and see a 60-year-old woman with a ‘you gotta finish’ t-shirt and then see a six-year-old kid wearing one and I don’t know either of them,” said Stentz.

People like that as well as longtime league stalwarts beamed Friday night when Stentz accepted the Washington award.

“It was great that guys from George’s and Tiger’s Tale (on hand to be inducted in the Hall of Fame) were down there that night,” said Stentz. “They are my people, this is where I feel I belong.”

And it is fitting that Stentz was on the receiving end of an honor, considering all he has done for those people.

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