Featuring an Expanded Lineup of 9 Teams, Summer Men’s Hoops Set for Hot Competition
TRUE BLUE: Zahrion Blue pulls down a rebound in action last year for Loyaltees in the Princeton Recreation Department Summer Men’s Basketball League. Former Princeton High standout Blue helped Loyaltees win the 2018 league title and is back this year as the squad goes for a repeat. The 2019 season tips off with a tripleheader on June 17 at the Community Park courts. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Bill Alden
In early May, it looked like interest might be cooling as the Princeton Recreation Department Summer Men’s Basketball League headed into its 31st season.
After fielding seven teams last year, only five entries had committed to play this summer as league commissioner and the Rec Department’s Assistant Director of Recreation Evan Moorhead worked on organizing the 2019 campaign.
But in the last few weeks, four teams came into the fold, ensuring another summer of hot competition with the action slated to tip off with a triple-header on June 17 at the Community Park courts starting at 7:15 p.m.
“I feel like this is a little bit of a resurgence, if you had asked me two or three weeks ago I was nervous,” said Moorhead.
“This was all very late coming together. There was a time when I didn’t know if we were going to get to six teams. A lot of guys were on the fence and there were teams that hadn’t materialized yet.”
Enjoying a late surge to capture its first league title last summer, Loyaltees is one of the returning teams that will be taking the court, led by a league denizen, former Princeton High standout Davon Black.
“Loyaltees is definitely primed to defend its title,” said Moorhead. “It looks like they have got Davon back obviously along with Nick Davidson, Vince Anfield, and Terrance Bailey. Zahrion Blue is playing for them again. Davon said Jordan Glover is going to play with them this year, he has graduated from The College of New Jersey. They seem like they are totally loaded; Davon is already talking repeat.”
Last year’s runner-up, N.J. Spiritwear, will look to turn the tables on Loyaltees. “That was their first year last year and they had a nice run,” said Moorhead. “They had a couple of all league players with Troy Jones and Zavon Johnson.”
Two of the league’s stalwarts, the Majeski Foundation, comprised of current players on The College of New Jersey men’s squad, along with RRBB, which features several TCNJ alums figure to be formidable again based on their talent and time playing together over the years. Majeski is being led this year by high-scoring forward Randy Walko, who averaged 20.2 points a game for the Lions last winter while RRBB is headed by Kevin Johnson, a 2017 TCNJ alum.
Another returner, Apex Sport, could be a dark horse.“Chris Bellafatto has got a lot of his same guys back,” added Moorhead.
“He has Russ Thompson, Nick Santaluccia, Jeff Drezerwiecz, and Kenny Gan. I think they have pretty much the same roster and they are strong. When they have all of their guys, they are competitive.”
Phil Vigliano, who guided the Cure Insurance team last year, is back with a team renamed Sakana.
“Coach Phil has his team, he has a new sponsor,” said Moorhead. “Every year he promises me that he has going to have some ringers.”
A new entry, Olives, will be bringing a local flavor featuring a number of former PHS athletes.
“We are glad to have them in the league, there is always a place for Princeton High guys,” said Moorhead, noting that the squad was put together by former PHS baseball player Matt Lambert. “Hopefully they will bring some fans with them too.”
Two other newcomers, Hometown Moving & Storage Co., headed by Jon Bozzick and NRGY, led by John White, will add some mystery to the mix.
“There are a few unknowns, which is nice,” said Moorhead. “It is always good to have some wild cards. We had a couple of different groups of two or three guys who didn’t have enough for their own team and I helped bring them together for Hometown. Jon Bozzick stepped into a leadership role there. It is almost the free agent team in a sense. John White used to work here for the municipality as one of the electrical inspectors so he knew about our league and he always said he wanted to get his son in the league. I don’t know am lot about them; I think they are a lot of 20-something guys who all played high school ball.”
With the expanded lineup of teams featuring some old favorites and new faces, Moorhead is looking forward to another summer of action on the Community Park courts.
“I am excited, I think this is great for the league,” asserted Moorhead, joking that he is ready to start his third 15-year contract with the league.
“This time of the year, it is a little bit of a slow burn early on. It sneaks up on you and now we are starting in about 10 days. We are starting to hit social media, letting people know what is going on; people anticipate that right around when school ends, the league will be getting going.”