June 14, 2017

Featuring a Youth Movement in Full Swing, Men’s Summer Hoops Tipping Off 29th Season

DRIVING FORCE: Eric Murdock, Jr., right, drives past a foe in action last year in the Princeton Recreation Department Men’s Summer Basketball League. Star guard Murdock helped Majeski Foundation win the 2016 league title. Murdock and the Majeski squad, which is comprised of current members of The College of New Jersey men’s hoops team, will start their title defense when the league tips off its 29th season on June 19 with a triple-header at the Community Park courts starting at 7:15 p.m. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

For the Princeton Recreation Department Men’s Summer Basketball League, the 2016 season represented a changing of the guard.

With league stalwarts and perennial title contenders, Ivy Inn and Dr. Palmer, getting eliminated early in the playoffs, the Majeski Foundation, a squad comprised of current members of The College of New Jersey men’s hoops team, rolled to the title.

As the league tips off its 29th season on the evening of June 19 with a triple-header at the Community Park courts starting at 7:15 p.m., the youth movement appears to have taken hold.

Majeski is returning with its stable of TCNJ players to defend its title, while neither Ivy Inn or Dr. Palmer will be fielding a team in the league this summer.

With June bringing warmer weather, players and fans are getting pumped in anticipation of the opening tip-off.

“We are starting to generate a little excitement on social media,” said Evan Moorhead, the league’s commissioner and the Rec Department’s assistant director of recreation.

“The weather is starting to heat up so people are starting to think about summer hoops. A week or two ago, it was 55 or 60 and and no one was thinking about being outside and playing hoops. Now it is 92 degrees.”

As for Majeski, star guard Eric Murdock, Jr., will be leading the way for the TCNJ entry, which swept King’s Pizzarama 2-0 in the best-of-three championship series last summer to cap a 12-1 campaign.

“They will be back with whoever hasn’t graduated from the TCNJ team,” said Moorhead. “They lost quite a bit to graduation.”

A new entry, the Packer Hall All Stars, will have a TCNJ flavor as it will be headed by former Lion standout Nick Brackett, with recent alum Jayson Johnson slated to pace the backcourt.

Three other newcomers, LoyalTees, the Princeton Special Sports, and NJAC, boast Princeton High ties. LoyalTees, which is a T-shirt business run by former PHS player Rich Wilson, is being led by Little Tiger standout Davon Black. Joining Black will be high school teammates DeQuan Holman, Devon Holman, and Javon Pannell. Another PHS alum, Kyle Froehlich, is the manager of the Princeton Special Sports. The NJAC (New Jersey Athletic Club) team is being fronted by Phil Vigliano, who has worked with the PHS boys’ hoops program, and boasts Matt Hart, a 1,000-point scorer for the Little Tigers.

The PA Blue Devils squad is returning, having established itself as a league stalwart with its core of college players from the Upper Makefield, Pa. area.

“That is the Jesse Krasna crew,” said Moorhead of the former Pennsbury High (Pa.) and Ursinus College standout.

“I think he has ceded management of that to Zach Sibel. I am hoping that that will be similar. They are always very competitive, they are college guys. They made a run to the semis last year and they very easily could have made it to the finals but they were missing a couple of guys for their semi.

Another title contender in recent years, King’s Pizzarama, is back with a twist.

“One of the interesting story lines there is that they had a split off,” said Moorhead, noting that the PEAC Performance entry includes some former King’s players.

“Ethan Stewart formerly played on King’s and he took a couple of these guys with him to PEAC. I don’t know what to expect from King’s Pizza in that regard.”

Moorhead, for his part, is expecting another exciting summer on the Community Park courts.

“We are excited, it is season 29; we would have never imagined this when we kicked off back in 1989, but we are staring down the barrel of 30 seasons and another major milestone for us,” said Moorhead.

“Other leagues come and go but we are still here. It is part of the fabric of the community; having this program running on summer nights down at the park is important for a lot of people and is entertainment for a lot of people.”