While the Princeton Day School boys’ basketball team was disappointed when it fell to Rutgers Prep in the state Prep B title game this past February, that defeat could be a blessing in disguise as the squad heads into this winter.
“The Prep B is wide open and we are better from having been to the final last year,” said PDS co-head coach Paris McLean, who is in his sixth year guiding the program. “We learned a lot from that.”
As PDS started its season with a game at Germantown Academy (Pa.) on December 4 before playing at Pennington on December 11, the postseason is not on the team’s radar.
“I think it is going to be business as usual,” said McLean, who coached the Panthers to a 16-11 record in 2011-12.
“We are going to focus on one practice at a time and one game at a time. We can’t be looking at the big picture. If we do the right things and take it step by step, we could make it back to the Prep B title game.”
Senior guard Davon Reed has been doing the right things over his four-year career, gaining national attention on the way to committing to the University of Miami men’s hoops program.
“Every year has been a breakout year for him; he has improved from year to year and I expect no different this year,” said McLean of Reed, who averaged 24.3 points a game last year as he passed the 1,000-point mark in his career.
“He has some milestones on the horizon but he is still the same team player. He is much heavier, he is 6’6, 205. His defense is absolutely fantastic now, he has become a lock-down defender. He will be required to play in the post some of the time and he is finishing closer to the basket.”
Reed’s increased inside presence exemplifies the metamorphosis of his game.
“You have seen him go from skinny slasher as a freshman to shooter to scorer and now he is the complete package,” said McLean.
“He can play all five positions. He is a guard. The way basketball is now so up and down, you can have 6’10 guys on the wing.”
The Panthers feature two other top guards in juniors Deante Cole and Langston Glaude.
“Deante and Langston complement each other; they are familiar with each other and they are older, more seasoned players now,” said McLean, noting that 6’5 junior newcomer Chris Okorodudu should add perimeter scoring and that Tom Martino, Dan Jugo, Zack Banks and Josiah Meekins will provide further backcourt depth. “They were young pups before. They are taking leadership roles on the court and with the program.”
PDS will be depending on seniors B.J. Dudeck and Tavante Brittingham to take a lead role in the post.
“I am leaning on B.J. and Tavante to hold down the fort inside, they are both selfless players which is great,” said McLean, who should also get some good work in the paint from junior transfer Dan Lee.
McLean is not hesitating to lean on his coaching staff which includes longtime assistant and former Princeton High standout Darius Young and PDS Director of Athletics Tim Williams, who has taken on a role as the co-head coach.
“Darius did a fantastic job working with the boys on their conditioning in the summer and the fall, physically this team looks different,” said McLean.
“We look the part and we play the part. Coach Williams knows the game and it is good to have another coach on the bench to bounce things off. We run a similar offense and have similar defensive principles. We have wedded ideas, we get along well, and the kids see that.”
PDS will need to execute those principles and ideas as it faces a gauntlet this winter with games against such formidable foes as Hun, Life Center, Robert Faux (Pa.), and Rutgers Prep, in addition to competing in the Hill School Tournament and the Big Apple Classic.
“I think this team can be as good as it wants to be,” maintained McLean. “If they are willing to put in the time and effort and focus on detail, the sky is the limit. We play 26 games. It is a challenging schedule but the boys are up for it.”
In McLean’s view, his boys possess a special chemistry that will help them deal with the challenges ahead.
“The kids really enjoy being with each other,” added McLean. “It is a nice culture. We like to say that PDS basketball is a lifestyle. It is about being good people on and off the court and having some fun. If some wins come along the way, that is great.”