March 11, 2020

Aririguzoh Leaving Special Legacy for PU Men’s Hoops But Won’t Get Shot at NCAAs as Ivy Tourney Canceled

RICH LEGACY: Princeton University men’s basketball player Richmond Aririguzoh takes the ball to the hoops last Friday against Columbia. Senior star Aririguzoh had 10 points, five rebounds, and four assists as Princeton defeated Lions 81-58. A night later, Aririguzoh had six points and 10 rebounds in a losing cause as Princeton fell 85-82 to Cornell. The Tigers who moved to 14-13 overall and 9-5 Ivy League with the loss won’t get the chance to play for a shot at the NCAA tournament as the Ivy postseason tourney at Harvard was canceled on Tuesday in light of the coronavirus (COVID-19) situation and regular season champion Yale will get the league’s automatic bid to March Madness. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Richmond Aririguzoh came a long way in making the journey to his Senior Night last Saturday for the Princeton University men’s basketball team.

Born in Italy, Aririguzoh moved to the U.S. at age 12. When he started his basketball career at Trenton Catholic Academy, he would get winded going up and down the court.

Coming across the county to join the Princeton University mens basketball team, Aririguzoh was a little-used reserve in his first two seasons with the Tigers.

Experiencing a breakthrough season as a junior last winter, forward Aririguzoh emerged as an All-Ivy League performer, averaging 12.1 points and 6.4 rebounds a game.

This season, the muscular 6’9, 230-pound Aririguzoh has built on that progress, contributing 12.0 points and 7.4 rebounds per contest.

Getting honored with his two classmates, former Hun School standout Jose Morales and Will Gladson, in a pregame ceremony before Princeton hosted Cornell, Aririguzoh was moved by the scene.

“It was definitely emotional to see that it was my last game in Jadwin, and having people from home come with my family and friends here to witness this moment,”said Aririguzoh.

Aririguzoh and his teammates experienced some tough moments during the game as a late rally fell short and Cornell prevailed 85-82.

“Obviously, I am a little disappointed by the loss,” said Aririguzoh, who contributed six points and 10 rebounds in the loss. “It was a good chance for me to look back at my career here and then, after tomorrow and Monday comes, all I am worried about is those next two games up in Cambridge.”

Unfortunately, Aririguzoh won’t get the chance to extend his career in the NCAA tournament, as the Ivy postseason tourney at Harvard was canceled on Tuesday in light of the coronavirus (COVID-19) situation and regular season champion Yale will get the league’s automatic bid to March Madness.

With Princeton having experienced a bumpy ride this winter in going 14-13 overall and 9-5 Ivy League, co-captain Aririguzoh has relished getting the chance to set the tone for this year’s group.

“You can say that my biggest jump was from my sophomore to junior year, but I think my biggest jump mentally came from junior year to this year; having to lead a team and become way more vocal than I ever thought I would be and just challenging myself to be a bastion and an example for my teammates,” said Aririguzoh. “I can never thank this program enough and coach for that chance.”

Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson knew his squad was facing a challenge in his matchup with Cornell, having lost 73-62 to the Big Red  on February 8.

“It was a difficult loss, Cornell played great both times that we played them,” said Henderson.

“We really don’t match up very well with them and that is because of who and how they play. Brian [former Princeton star and assistant coach Brian Earl] has done such a terrific job. I thought they were just great; they made shots, big shots left and right whenever we were trying to get a stop.”

Trailing Cornell 75-61 with 6:45 remaining in the second half, Princeton made a big rally, going on an 18-3 run to take a 79-78 lead before the Big Red responded with a 7-3 run to earn the victory.

“We have come back in some games, there is no quit in this team,” said Henderson.

“We were gone and then Jaelin [Llewellyn] just made great big plays and got it to one and then an and-one for them. That proved to be the deciding basket I thought.”

Sophomore guard Llewellyn had a great night, ending up with a career-high 30 points.

“He was great. We wouldn’t be talking about a comeback if it weren’t for him,” said Henderson of Llewellyn, who has raised his scoring average to 15.3 points a game, the best on the Tigers.

“I thought he was just terrific.
I am challenging him to take us and keep going. I thought his play the last month has been fantastic.”

Llewellyn, for his part, attributed his strong play down the stretch to a greater pregame focus.

“I think a lot of that had to do with preparation and preparing for games the right way and getting mentally locked in,” said Llewellyn.

“I have been talking with my dad a lot about it, just preparing to do the things I know I am going to do in the games beforehand so it feels natural and comfortable when it comes to game time.”

The team’s seniors have helped Llewellyn feel more comfortable in exuding leadership on the court.

“They have shown us the way the whole year vocally and by example,” said Llewellyn.

“It has been a really great help to me because I also have to learn to develop leadership skills. Following in the path of all of the seniors has been unreal.”

In reflecting on the influence of Aririguzoh, Henderson credits him with having set a great example for both his teammates and coaches.

“In my opinion, no one in the history of our program has gotten better more than Richmond,” said Henderson.

“It starts with him. it has always been him. We have a terrific group but no one has ever put more into a program for us than him. I also think about Richmond being happy a lot. He is just a first class human being and he makes me want to be a better person and coach. We are really lucky here and fortunate to get to know him.”

Although Aririguzoh won’t get a shot at the NCAA tournament, he has left a legacy that will live on past this season.

“It is wonderful to see that I have been able to leave a mark and that it goes beyond basketball,” said Aririguzoh.

“I can’t put it in too many words to describe it but it is definitely a great feeling knowing that the people around you generally respect you and admire you personally.”