Summer Men’s Hoops Returning for 32nd Season, Rebounding After Losing 2020 Campaign to COVID
RETURN ENGAGEMENT: Davon Black drives past a foe in 2019 action for the LoyalTees team in the Princeton Recreation Department Men’s Summer Basketball League. Former Princeton High boys’ hoops standout Black helped LoyalTees win the league title in both 2018 and 2019. After taking a hiatus last summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the league returns to action next week for its 32nd season and LoyalTees will be back on court seeking a three-peat. The 2021 campaign tips off with a doubleheader at the Community Park courts on June 21.
By Bill Alden
When the Princeton Recreation Department had to cancel its Men’s Summer Basketball League last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Evan Moorhead vowed that it would return in 2021 and be “stronger than ever.”
True to his word, Moorhead, the assistant director of recreation and league commissioner, has the hoops circuit up and running for its 32nd season, featuring a lineup of eight teams with the action tipping off on the evening of June 21 with a doubleheader at the Community Park basketball courts.
“I wanted to be held accountable so here we are,” said Moorhead.
“I am very excited. If we had this conversation a week ago, I think we would have been at six teams but there were two teams who came together late. We would have run the league with six teams but eight is a good number.”
The process of getting the league back on court was arduous as Moorhead followed guidelines, consulting with the Princeton Health Department to get the necessary approvals as youth and high sports opened up before reaching out to gauge interest for the summer league.
“It has been a difficult year for everybody,” said Moorhead. “Once we got that OK is when I started to reach out to teams from the last few years and to see who was interested. That was really going to drive things. From there, if we had no interest we wouldn’t be having this conversation but there was enough interest there with some of the returning teams. As usually happens, I got some inquiries from some new teams that we were able to add.”
One of those returning teams is LoyalTees, the two-time defending champions of the league, having won the titles in 2018 and 2019, led by former Princeton High standout Davon Black.
“They have got their eyes set on a three-peat,” said Moorhead. “In my mind, until somebody proves differently, they are the favorites. They have Davon, Zahrion Blue, Terrance Bailey, Nick Davidson, Vince Anfield, Lior Levy, and Freddy Young Jr.”
Another league favorite, the Majeski Foundation, which is comprised of players from The College of New Jersey men’s hoops team, is also back.
“David Rodriguez is the captain, he will be leading the team,” said Moorhead of the rising TCNJ senior center.
“They have been one of the anchors for us the last few years. Every year, they are a competitive team. They play together in the winter so they have a strong chemistry and young legs. I anticipate that they are going to have another good season. The thing that has been great too is that after some of those guys graduate, they have peeled off into some of these other teams. It has really been beneficial for the league.”
A group of Princeton High graduates is entering a squad, the Basketball Team, featuring some recent Tiger standouts.
“I am happy to see those guys in,” said Moorhead of the team which is managed by Jack Suozzi and includes Ethan Guy, Gefen Bar-Cohen, Riley McMahon, Ben Moyer, Tim Evidente, and Matt Rinaldi.
“There have been some years where we haven’t had a real strong PHS flavor with a team of guys or even dispersed among the league among the other teams. I am happy that those guys want to play. The foundation of what this league was built on was the high school grads.”
A league stalwart, Phil Vigiliano, will be leading Caesar’s Bagels & Deli.
“Phil is great, he is another guy who says whatever you need for the league whatever I can do to help, let me know,” said Moorehead.
“He is a guy over time who has become a fixture as well. Phil has his tentacles out there with the hoops world, he has access to some high caliber players.”
A highly-skilled TCNJ alum, Kevin Johnson, has put tougher a squad, Speed Pro.
“Kevin is a good player and a good guy,” said Moorhead. “His roster has Nick Alaimo who is a TCNJ grad and couple of other names that I recognize who have played in our league before. They always have a competitive team.”
The league lineup will also include NJ PAC, managed by TJ Malave, Planet Fitness, led by Juwan Harrison and including former WW/P-South star Bryan Rivers, and Princeton Supply, which is led by Craig Wrenn and features Khalid Lewis and Tyler Jones.
In assessing the slate of squads, Moorhead foresees plenty of heated action at Community Park.
“It is a good mix, every team on paper seems very competitive,” asserted Moorhead.
“The regular season works out well, we are going to do a seven-game round robin. Everybody plays each other once and then we have the playoffs. I am ready to get back into it.”
While Moorhead is excited to see the return of competition, he is also looking forward to the revival of the convivial atmosphere around the park as old friends and foes catch up with each other and share hoops banter.
“The entertainment value for the community of this actively being available for people to come out and see is important,” said Moorhead.
“There is the excitement of the game but there is also this social piece to the league. That is a big part of it. These are folks I don’t see outside of a couple of months when we are playing basketball. It has been two years now.”