Working Overtime to Develop his Offensive Skills, Stephens Hits 1,000-Point Mark for PU Men’s Hoops
GRAND ACHIEVEMENT: Princeton University men’s basketball player Myles Stephens goes up for a shot against a DeSales University defender last Friday night in Princeton’s season opener. Senior star Stephens scored 21 points, including the 1,000th point of his career, to help the Tigers to an 85-51 victory. In upcoming action, Princeton plays at Lehigh on November 16. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Bill Alden
Myles Stephens was basically a defensive specialist in his freshmen campaign for the Princeton University men’s basketball team in 2015-16.
Coming off the bench that winter, Stephens, a Lawrenceville native who starred for the Pennington School, averaged 5.4 points a game.
At the point, it didn’t appear that Stephens was a likely candidate to land in the program’s pantheon of 1,000-point scorers.
“Coming in freshman year, I played about 10 minutes a game,” said Stephens. “You wouldn’t think that would happen.”
But putting in extra work to hone his offensive game, Stephens developed into a dangerous scorer for the Tigers, averaging 12.5 points a game as a sophomore and 15.3 points last winter.
Last Friday against visiting DeSales University in the season opener, Stephens hit the 1,000-point milestone, draining a three-pointer with 7:08 remaining in the second half as the Tigers rolled to an 85-51 win over the Bulldogs before 1,523 at Jadwin Gym.
Knowing that he came into the evening needing 21 points to reach 1,000, Stephens had the milestone on his on his mind.
“As I became a junior and a senior, it got closer and it became a thing,” said Stephens, a 6’5, 210-pound guard who is the 35th member of the program’s 1,000-point club. “Devin [Cannady] got his and he was kind of chirping me up all week about it, so I was thinking about it.”
After being subbed out of the game midway through the second half as the Tigers pulled away from the Bulldogs, it looked like history may have to wait.
“I was at 15 points and then he [coach Mitch Henderson] asked me if I wanted to go back in and I said yeah, let me go, I will give you two minutes,” recalled Stephens. “They were looking for me a lot; it was worth it to get it.”
In reflecting on the achievement, Stephens spread the credit around. “It is definitely special four years; it is a long journey,” said Stephens. “I have got to give thanks to my teammates, coach, friends, and family who came out to see me play. It is putting in work for four years; it is finally paying off.”
Stephens’ local ties made the moment even more special for him.
“I have got a lot of friends and family here for that reason,” said Stephens. “It is a nice little milestone to check off your list before you a leave a place like this.”
Princeton’s nice start on Friday was heartening to Stephens since the team was shorthanded without the services of senior star Cannady and highly touted freshman guard Jaelin Llewellyn, who were both sidelined due to leg injuries.
“We started two freshmen and a sophomore tonight and Devin is not out there,” said Stephens. “It is showing those guys the way and how hard it is to win defensively and offensively.”
Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson lauded Stephens for his skill and character.
“He made his 1000th point on a three; I don’t know how many he had his freshman year,” said Henderson. “Everything we have asked him to do, he has done it. He is the lone minutes returner the last couple of weeks since Devin has been out. He has been asked to do so many things in terms of leadership and with everything he has been ‘yes, I will do that.’ I can’t say enough about him.”
Henderson was happy to see the Tigers get it done on opening night as the program showed off a renovated Jadwin with a new four-sided video board hanging over the court and a revamped seating configuration.
“It was good to put the uniform on, the improvements in Jadwin made a really big impact, a lot of work went into this,” said Henderson, crediting athletic director Mollie Marcoux Samaan and her staff with doing yeoman’s work to get the gym ready. “To be able to get a win and get Myles his 1,000th point and got our season started off in the right way, We really needed this.”
The squad’s freshmen got off to a good start as newcomer Drew Friberg scored 13 points with classmates Ethan Wright contributed nine points and seven rebounds and Max Johns chipped in five points and four rebounds.
“Drew made his first college 3-pointer and I think he may have made his second shot so that is important,” said Henderson.
“We are asking Ethan to do things he wasn’t brought here to do, which is carry the team, get us started, and get the offense going.”
In Henderson’s view, the Tigers can build on their positive start as the play at Lehigh on November 16.
“It is the referees, the fans, putting on the uniforms; you don’t get anything like it unless you play an exhibition game,” said Henderson.
“Then you watch it and you get an opportunity to put it to bed and move on. It is the ritual of it, that is as important as anything else.”
Stephens, for his part, is ready to move on to the matchup with the Mountain Hawks.
“The big thing is that it is out of the way; I got the 1,000 and now we are looking forward to Lehigh,” said Stephens. “We were eager to get going. It is nice to have a win under our belt going into this Lehigh game.”