After Senior Season for PU Men’s Hoops Canceled, Desrosiers Heading to Hawaii to Play as Grad Student
ALOHA HAWAII: Jerome Desrosiers dribbles upcourt during his career with the Princeton University men’s basketball team. Senior forward Desrosiers is heading west to finish his college hoops career, having committed to play in the 2021-22 season as a grad student for the University of Hawaii. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Justin Feil
Jerome Desrosiers was struck by Eran Ganot’s goal to see his men’s basketball players happy at the University of Hawaii.
“That’s kind of how I lead my life,” said Desrosiers, a senior forward for the Princeton University men’s hoops squad, referring to the Hawaii head coach’s approach. “It related to me that way.”
When Desrosiers entered the transfer portal last semester, it was with an idea of finding a school where he could be happy playing one final season of college basketball after the Ivy League did not allow competition in his final year at Princeton. Desrosiers has finalized his commitment to Hawaii, where he will study either finance or marketing in his graduate season.
“The obvious reason is, it’s Hawaii,” said Desrosiers. “It’s not a bad place to go for an extra year.”
It’s more than the climate and scenery as Desrosiers believes he can help Hawaii, who ended the 2020-21 season with an 11-10 record (9-9 Big West). Desrosiers has been watching some of their games as he prepares to join the new team next winter. He’s also excited about how he can fit in their style.
“That’s one of the reasons why I decided to go there,” said Desrosiers, a 6’7, 230-pound native of Saint-Hyacinthe, Quebec.
“Their four man (power forward) touches the ball a lot. He makes a lot of decisions. The ball moves a lot, just like the offense at Princeton. They’re not afraid to shoot it. They’re aggressive on defense and offense. I consider myself versatile with my position. I play the four or five (center), sometimes the three (small forward) rarely. Their four man is someone that can do a lot of things. I feel the same way about my game. They felt the same way. That’s how I’m going to fit in the offense and defense. It was perfect really.”
Desrosiers began looking at his options when the Ivy League announced it would not play this season, and the NCAA granted players an extra season of eligibility.
Feeling that he still had some basketball left in him, Desrosiers wanted to take advantage of the additional opportunity.
“When the news came out, I talked to my parents, I talked to the coaches, I talked to everyone about it,” said Desrosiers. “To me, it was the best thing to do — take an extra year and get a grad degree somewhere else and play some more basketball. It was the best option personally.”
He put his name in the NCAA transfer portal that all college coaches can
access. He heard from about 10 schools, but when Hawaii showed interest, he quickly narrowed his focus to the Big West school as he prepared to build on his Princeton career.
“It was a really fun process,” said Desrosiers. “The first time you go through recruiting, you’re 16-17, kind of young. Now we have to do the same thing and we’re five or six years older. It’s interesting. You’re mature. You know what you want. You know how it is. It’s pretty straightforward honestly. It’s a fun process and I’m glad it worked out.”
Over his Tiger career, Desrosiers played in 82 games with 29 starts, averaging 5.4 points a game and ending up with a total of 445. He shot 37 percent from 3-point range (89-of-238) and averaged 3.5 rebounds per game. He posted a career-high 16 points against Cornell in what would turn out to be his final game for the Tigers on March 7, 2020.
“I’m really thankful for Princeton, everything that they’ve done, everything that happened,” said Desrosiers.
“I’m really grateful and thankful that I made that decision to come here four years ago. We’ve been doing the basketball and academics for four years, so I figured let’s keep playing basketball and take advantage of that. That was maybe before Christmas that I went into the transfer portal. Some teams started hitting me up and one of my coaches said Hawaii was interested so we started the conversation with them. I talked to my family and talked to the coaches about what the team was like. I really like the way that they play. Their offense is awesome. They shoot a lot of threes, they move fast, they play fast. I like that.”
Desrosiers tried not to let the sudden end of last season due to the COVID-19 pandemic or this year’s subsequently canceled season dampen his spirits. The Ivy League did not allow competition for athletics in the fall and the winter, and the spring season is on hiatus as Ivy schools shut down conference competition but left open the possibility for non-conference play.
“Honestly, to not be disappointed, I kind of expected the worst to happen,” said Desrosiers. “I figured it was better to think everything was going to be canceled. When it was official, it still sucked. It hit me, but I was kind of expecting it so it was the best way to go about it.”
That positive approach has helped Desrosiers through his final year at Princeton — the first semester virtually off campus and now the spring semester on campus. As a resident of Canada, Desrosiers was unclear about the logistics of returning to Princeton after students were sent home in March, 2020, and he spent time in Charlotte, N.C., with his girlfriend before working out a plan to live with friends and study remotely in the fall.
“The first semester, we went down to Athens, Ga., with a couple of my friends and some people on the track team here at Princeton,” said Desrosiers.
“We found two houses next to each other. It was really close to the University of Georgia’s campus. We did virtual school and kind of recreated our own orange bubble in Georgia. It was great weather and affordable too. It was a lot of fun.”
Desrosiers was even happier when students were invited back to campus for the spring semester. He is finishing his anthropology degree, working out in preparation to return to play next year, and spending a few more months in Princeton.
“I guess I didn’t realize how much I missed it until I came back,” said Desrosiers. “It’s so fun to be here, even though there are some limitations here with what we can do because of COVID. It’s been great. To see my friends and coaches, I had to be on campus. I missed it a lot.”
He also has missed basketball a lot. When away from campus, it wasn’t nearly the same as there was a lack of opportunity.
“There wasn’t much happening,” said Desrosiers. “I’d shoot on a rim outside in a driveway. I could do some ball-handling too. I took advantage of outdoor time. I couldn’t really find any places to play, against anyone too. That was hard. It was the same thing in Georgia. It was a lot of
lifting and running and ball-handling in the backyard, but there wasn’t really any playing against anyone. It was about staying in shape and get as ready as you can whenever we came back on campus and quarantined to get right back into it.”
The return to campus has re-energized Desrosiers. He has the chance to work out under the supervision of coaches and to see teammates working hard as well. The players lift three times per week and work out each day individually while they’re in Princeton’s first phase. It is returning slowly to a normal looking spring.
“I think the hardest part for me was, especially in the first semester, was just to stay in shape and work out the way we would here, especially by yourself,” said Desrosiers.
“When you play a team sport and then you’re left alone to do it, it can be challenging. That was probably the hardest part for me. That’s why I was so excited to get back on campus and do it all with the guys, get in the weight room and on court.”
Desrosiers and Ryan Schwieger are the lone seniors enrolled this year. Schweiger will finish his playing career at Loyola Chicago. They aren’t doing some of the Princeton team functions, instead focusing on improving for next season individually.
“The team does kind of their own thing,” said Desrosiers. “Ryan and I, we don’t really need to do the team stuff as much — the offense and defense — so we haven’t been doing that. We work on our personal skills, shooting and dribbling and finishing around the rim. That’s more what it’s been like for us — for the seniors.”
While it has been difficult for Ivy players to watch the majority of the college athletics world continue playing through the pandemic, Desrosiers has tried to focus ahead on the future and his next chance to compete.
“When everyone else started playing, it does feel weird,” said Desrosiers. “It sucks. But life goes on. That’s how I’ve been looking at it. Maybe it’s a positive outlook, but life goes on and it’s an opportunity to move on with it. I got an extra year out of it for next year, so that’s going to be fun. It is weird, but it’s out of our control. That’s what my team and teammates have been saying. We have to focus on what we can control. That’s just what happens. It is a weird situation. We’ve moved on.”
Desrosiers won’t forget his first school. Princeton has been a vital part of his development over the last four years and he will be keeping tabs on the team from afar next year at Hawaii.
“I’ve kind of felt it from our alums when I was playing,” said Desrosiers.
“We got a lot of support. My goal is to do the same thing with the guys in the future. Next year, I’m going to support them as much as the alums before me did it. It’ll be weird to see Princeton play, but not be there. I think they’re going to be great. I think they’ll have a great team. I’m kind of excited to watch them play honestly.”
This spring, Desrosiers will continue to work out with Princeton through the end of the semester as he prepares for a new system and new challenge next year. He will begin to switch gears this summer to his new team, but foremost on his list of things to do is to visit home in Canada after graduating from Princeton.
“I haven’t been home in a year and three months,” said Desrosiers.
“The last time I went home was Christmas in 2019, so I’ll go see my family. If I go to Hawaii, they’re going to have to come see me. I don’t know if I’ll come back during the year.”