The deck has been reshuffled a bit as the Princeton Recreation Department Men’s Summer Basketball League tips off its 26th season this week.
“We definitely lost some of the old standbys in Dr. Palmer, PA Blue Devils, and Clear View,” said league commissioner and Rec Department Assistant Director Evan Moorhead.
“They couldn’t get enough players to commit. Some years we lose one or two teams but that is three pretty strong teams to lose.”
The league does boast the return of a pair of kings in defending champ Ivy Inn and Winberie’s, the 2012 titleists.
“Ivy Inn has the same group and I anticipate they will be in the mix for a championship,” said Moorhead.
“They have Bobby Davison, Mark Aziz, and Shahid Abdul-Karim. Shem Brittingham is back. They also have Lior Levy, Davon Holman, Kevin Tarca, and they have picked up Greg Ford. They should be a really strong team.”
Winberie’s has fortified itself for a title run. “Kurt Simmons has taken the reins from Mark Rosenthal; he knows the league and he knows the guys,” said Moorhead.
“They have picked up Jesse Krasna from the Blue Devils and Paul Johnson who played at Rider. They also got Terrance Bailey from Dr. Palmer. They have Chris Hatchell back along with Chris Edwards and Cliff Pollard. They may be the strongest challenger to dethrone the champions.”
Last summer’s wildcard, the entry comprised of current players from The College of New Jersey squad, which made it to the 2013 championship series, figures to again be a contender.
“The TCNJ team had a great run; it is not often that a team comes into the league and makes a championship run in its first year,” said Moorhead of the squad which is known as Tortuga’s Mexican Village this season after being sponsored by Sneakers Plus last summer.
“With Skye Ettin and Bobby Brackett, they will be tough. I think they have a lot of their guards coming back.”
There will be a strong Princeton High presence with the Princeton Youth Sports entry that contains current PHS players and the Northeast Realty squad, which includes a number of former Little Tiger standouts.
“PYS is back, they take their lumps but they are not in it for the wins and losses, they are looking to get the experience,” said Moorhead.
“Northeast is mostly PHS alums with guys like Ben Harrison, Ian Finnen, Fernando Silva, Davon Black, and Javon Pannell. They should be good and have a nice local following.”
The league’s new entries, which include Princeton Pi/Sketch Yogurt, Princeton Interventional Cardiology, King’s Pizzarama, and Belle Mead Physical Therapy, feature an intriguing mix of performers.
“The Princeton Pi/Sketch Yogurt team has some recognizable guys in graduating PHS players Cal O’Meara, Peter Mahotiere, Matt Donahue, and Paul Murray,” added Moorhead.
“They also have four Hightstown kids and some West Windsor and Ewing kids. They are going to be young but they should be an interesting team. Princeton Intervention has some guys from Raritan Valley Community College, I expect them to be competitive. King’s has Ryan Johnson, a Ewing kid, and Kenny Holzhammer, a former Princeton Day School player. Belle Meade is led by Matt Johnston, who is a Hillsborough guy. Most of the players are from that area.”
With the league opening action with a triple-header at the Community Park courts on June 11, starting at 7:15 p.m., the anticipation is building.
“We have been trying to generate some buzz on Twitter because the season sneaks up on a lot of people,” said Moorhead.
“I think when we get some more consistent warm weather, a bunch of days in the 80s, people will get in summer hoops mode.”
Moorhead is confident things will heat up at Community Park as the summer unfolds.
“The first 25 years of the league have been great, I am excited to see what the 26th year brings,” said Moorhead.
“There were years when we had NCAA certification and there were a lot of D-I players. There was more talent but I think the league should be as competitive as ever.”