Brendan Connolly believes that the Princeton University men’s basketball team gained a lot from its journey this past summer to Spain.
“I think we got to work out what you think of as early season mistakes,” said senior center Connolly, reflecting on the 10-day excursion which saw Princeton play four games against Spanish pro teams.
“Off the court, we loved it. We still talk about it. It furthered the relationship that was already there with the guys.”
Connolly and his teammates were looking for a productive jaunt last Saturday as they played at Buffalo in the season opener for both teams.
“It will be a good trip for us right off the bat,” said Connolly. “I am excited for the opportunity to test ourselves and show that we are going to work hard every night. That’s what it is going to be all about.”
The Tigers produced some good work as they edged Buffalo 57-53 with Connolly contributing eight points and two rebounds. Junior Will Barrett led the way for Princeton in the win with 20 points and nine rebounds while senior star Ian Hummer chipped in 12 points, seven assists, and six rebounds.
For the 6’11, 255-pound Connolly, the performance in the win last Saturday marked the latest step in his progression into a key player for the Tigers.
“I think obviously there were statistical improvements that you could see last year; I just think things were coming together,” said Connolly, who averaged 5.7 points and 3.6 rebounds a game last winter.
“I worked as hard as I needed to and it showed up at the end of the season and that is what you want. I wish it had showed up a bit earlier but I am glad it happened when it did and I am trying to continue with that.”
Connolly will also be looking to continue the partnership he has formed with classmate Mack Darrow as the two emerged as a potent 1-2 punch at center for Princeton.
“Because we bring such different things, I think it works pretty well; neither of us are jealous about playing time,” said Connolly.
“We get on the court when we do and we are happy with that. We know what we can bring to this game individually and we just try to work on that. I think that I can show up in certain defensive scenarios and there are certain defensive scenarios where Mack is just a better fit. It is the same thing with offense because he can stretch the floor so well.”
The team’s senior class, which includes Ian Hummer in addition to Connolly and Darrow, is looking to show the ropes to the younger players.
“We are trying to do the little things more because we have been around the block more than the other guys,” said Connolly.
“That is really where it comes in; not necessarily knowing that this is the last chance but knowing that we’ve seen more than other guys have seen and we can bring more to the table. We are definitely trying to bring them along and just show them what it takes to work hard and have success at this level.”
In Connolly’s view, Princeton could experience a lot of success this winter.
“We think we can do big things, I will leave it at that,” said Connolly of the Tigers, who finished third in the Ivy League last winter after winning the crown in the 2010-11 campaign.
“It is going to take a lot of things to come together. There is no sure thing ever in any season. We know what our goals are and what we want to get to.”