While Princeton High boys’ basketball coach Mark Shelley emphasizes sharing the ball, he acknowledged that his squad could have used a go-to scoring threat this winter.
In posting a final record 6-15 this season, PHS dropped several nailbiters where it didn’t generate the offensive firepower to get over the hump.
“I think we had some very solid role players but we didn’t have one guy who could just score one-on-one by himself,” said Shelley.
“Last year in big wins we would have three guys around 15 points, this year we only had two and that hurt us in those six or seven close losses.”
The Little Tigers ended the season with a tough loss as it fell 58-50 to crosstown rival Princeton Day School in a Mercer County Tournament consolation game.
In the wake of the defeat, Shelley wanted his players to focus on what they could learn from the frustrating campaign rather than what went wrong against PDS.
“I think my experience has been when the season is over is that you don’t dwell on the Xs and Os; we didn’t make enough shots or play well enough to win,” said Shelley.
“I think about the bigger message and the bigger picture. Some of the most defining moments of life start when we have disappointments.”
Shelley was disappointed to see his group of seniors move on. “It was special for me, when I took over the JV program they were my core players so I have been coaching them for three years,” said Shelley of the team’s Class of 2014 which included Matt Vasseur, Paul Murray, Andrew Braverman, Louis Capon, Callahan O’Meara, Matt Donahue, Robbie Von Der Schmidt, and Peter Mahotiere.
“They are hard-working kids. When I talk to other coaches they say we have so many interchangeable kids who play hard.”
O’Meara and Mahotiere stepped into leading roles in their final campaign, scoring 143 points and 218 points, respectively, this winter. “Cal and Peter were at the core of the team,” asserted Shelley.
“Peter made himself into a very good player, he was relentless in the weight room and he worked hard on his shot. Cal’s attitude has improved. He’s become a good leader in a positive way. It is great to see kids develop like that.”
Shelley is depending on junior Kevin Kane and sophomore Matt Hart to take leading roles next winter. Kane averaged 9.7 points a game this winter while Hart led the Little Tigers with 11.9 per game.
“Kevin and Matt are guys that have to score a good bit,” said Shelley. “Matt Hart will go a long way. His points per game was better in the second half of the season than it was in the first half. Going forward, he is going to be a tough player for us. He has a good outside shot and he is coachable. He is going to do stuff with us over the summer and he is also going to do stuff with some elite camps.”
PHS also has some young talent making its way through the ranks. “We have some JV players who can step in and fill in down low and help us with rebounding,” said Shelley.
“We have a strong freshman group, they went 15-2. They don’t have a superstar but they have five, six, or seven players who play so well together. We want to keep that chemistry.”
In order for PHS to play better next winter, Shelley is looking for his players to keep their noses to the grindstone over the offseason.
“We talk about the importance of weightlifting; Peter has volunteered to help us with that,” said Shelley.
“We have three different things planned. We are going to do the Princeton University team camp, that is good because you get a lot of games in that weekend and then we’ll play in the Princeton summer men’s hoops league and a JV league in Hillsborough where you play people you don’t see all the time like Piscataway, Hillsborough, Montgomery. We will have three open gyms a week, sometimes that involves scrimmages, other times we work on drills and run plays.”