Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXII, No. 24
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
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POWER GRANT: Former TCNJ star and current Harlem Globetrotter, Derick Grant, heads to the hoop in action last summer as he led Koehler and Company to the title in the Princeton Recreation Department Summer Men’s Basketball League. Grant will be back this summer as his team, now sponsored by Northwestern Financial, will look to defend its crown. The league tips off its 20th season on June 16 with a quadruple-header at the Community Park courts.

Men’s Summer Hoops Hitting Milestone as 20th Season to Tip Off Next Monday

Bill Alden

According to local legend, it all started from an offhand conversation in 1988.

A former Princeton High football player named Mike Riddick mentioned to the PHS basketball head coach Doug Snyder that it would be a good idea to start a basketball league for the college kids back in town for the summer.

Snyder liked the idea and went to the Princeton Recreation Department to see if it would be interested in supporting such a venture. The Rec Department gave its backing and the league tipped off in the summer of 1989.

Featuring rough-and-tumble competition and a fan-friendly atmosphere around the Community Park basketball courts, the league quickly established a foothold in the Princeton summer sports scene.

Next Monday, the league marks a special milestone as it starts its 20th season of play with an opening night quadruple-header starting at 6:15 p.m. at the Community Park basketball courts.

With 12 teams geared up to go for a shot at the league title, longtime league commissioner Ben Stentz said the league is as strong as ever as it heads into its 20th campaign.

“I think that is the highest number of teams we’ve ever had,” said Stentz, a former Princeton High basketball player who has been heading the league since the mid-1990s.

“I think it says we are still healthy; last year we had nine teams and there were years in the 90’s where we had six teams. We have a reputation as a well-run and competitive league not just in town but around the county.”

Stentz believes the competition will be hot as defending league champion Koehler, now sponsored by Northwestern Financial, looks to go for an encore performance.

The league lineup includes PrimeTime Camps (formerly Mercedes), Cool Runnings, George’s Roasters and Ribs/Ivy Inn, Princeton Youth Sports, Dr. Palmer/Sportsmedicine,, Coldwell Banker, Windstreet Energy, BlackRock, and In the Grind.

“I have always said it is hard to do it two years in a row,” noted Stentz.

“George’s is usually strong and I hear they pulled in a couple of guys from other teams. Ryan Stein’s team, Prime Time, should be strong, they are savvy. The new teams could be very good or not amount to much, it’s hard to tell. I think things are really wide open.”

While Northwestern faces a battle in repeating, it does have a major advantage with the return of former TCNJ star and current Harlem Globetrotter, Derick Grant.

“I know that Northwestern has the best player in Derick,” maintained Stentz, noting that Grant fired in a league-record 54 points in Game 2 of last year’s championship series and averaged 36.7 points a contest in the three games.

“I’m not ready to say he is the best player we’ve had but I have as much respect for his game as any player we’ve had out there. I’ve never seen anybody get better year to year and that goes back to his junior year at Montgomery High and through his career at TCNJ. He is humble but he has a killer instinct; he’s not going to talk much but he wants to score 40 on you.”

The best players in league history will be honored on July 19 when the league holds a special 20th anniversary celebration bash at the Community Park courts.

“We will have three league games that day and PHS (the Princeton Youth Sports team) is going to play Doug Snyder’s Allentown High (Pa.) team,” said Stentz.

“Doug was part of the beginning of the league. Jason Carter (the current PHS head coach) played for him and then coached against him last season. We will have free food and music. We will name our first Hall of Fame class and honor those guys with plaques. We are also going to honor other people who helped get it started like Snyder, Sheryl Perez, and Ted Forst.”

As Stentz reflects on the league’s 20-year run, he believes its success has to do with a lot more than just good basketball.

“I really think that it doesn’t get the credit it deserves in the community,” asserted Stentz.

“It brings a lot of people out, it’s one of those things that evolved that brought so many elements of the community together even though that wasn’t the goal. It’s a really good rec program that’s clicked on all cylinders. Basketball is a strong part of it but the community part is just as strong. You see people you don’t see much in the winter, people come out to have a good time.”

Stentz, for his part, is certainly looking forward to having a good time this summer at the Community Park courts.

“I love going down there and seeing the people out,” said Stentz. “It’s really a home run to see the teams playing each other with the kids playing on the court behind them and the big crowd watching. With all the stuff that is going on around here and in the world, it’s great to see that on three nights a week for six or seven weeks in the summer, there are no issues. The people feel this is where they are supposed to be.”

And the Princeton community is lucky to have a 20th summer to come out and see the summer hoops league.

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