Utilizing a blend of talent and big-game savvy, University Radiology broke through last year to win the title of the Princeton Recreation Department Men’s Summer Basketball League.
The core of the team consisted of Skye Ettin, Brian Dunlap, A.J. Dowers, and DeQuan Holman, former Princeton High hoops standouts who reached the Central Jersey Group 3 sectional finals during their high school careers.
On paper, this group looks like it could become a dominant force in the league, following in the footsteps of such legendary dynasties as Tiger’s Tale, Ivy Inn, and George’s Roasters.
But with the 2012 summer men’s hoops season tipping off on June 11 at 7:15 p.m. with a tripleheader at the Community Park courts, the jury is out on University Radiology’s staying power as it looks to defend the title it earned by beating Winberie’s/Miller Lite 2-1 in a hotly-contested best-of-three championship series.
“I think they are pretty much intact,” said Evan Moorhead, league commissioner and longtime observer of the summer hoops battles.
“There has been talk of a dynasty; we have had a lot of flashes in the pan. Over the first 23 seasons, we have had a lot of teams that thought they were the new Tiger’s Tale or Ivy Inn. They have all the pieces but it remains to be seen.”
Last year’s runner-up, Winberie’s, may not have all of its pieces in place as it looks to mount another championship chase.
“Al Gerido is not playing for them and Chris Hatchell had knee problems at the end of the season,” said Moorhead.
“Mark Rosenthal [team manager] plays it close to the vest. They had a great regular season last year. Hatchell was the regular season MVP and they went undefeated. They will have another strong team if they have some of the same players. I think Evan Johnson, their big guy, is back.”
Another big question coming into the summer is whether Ivy Inn (formerly known as George’s Roasters/Ivy Inn) can get back the mojo that helped the club win four of the last six titles coming into the 2011 campaign.
“Last year was rough for them,” said Moorhead, noting that the club went 3-6 in regular season play and was knocked out in the quarterfinals of the playoffs last summer.
“We will see if they can come back strong. Brian Halligan moved out of state and they will miss his steady play at point guard. Scott Findlay was coming back from a knee injury last summer and may not be playing for them. I think Mark Aziz is back from playing in Egypt and Bobby Davison is there.”
Two other league denizens, Dr. Palmer and SMB, could emerge as dark horses.
“Dr. Palmer hasn’t had a deep run in a while,” added Moorhead. “They always have talent; they always have size. They could be right there in the mix. Greg Ford will be back; he was one of the top scorers in the league last year. SMB finished up in the middle of the pack in the regular season but made it to semis and took Winberie’s into OT.”
The PA Blue Devils are back after making a semifinal run of their won last summer.
“They were strong last year; they made the semis and they were only a basket away from the finals,” said Moorhead.
“They have the same core guys. The guys play in Division III and community college; they keep active and have young legs.”
Another team with youth on its side is Team TB which features several recent PHS grads.
“Team TB has picked up Davon Holliday Black,” said Moorhead of the former Little Tiger star who had played for Princeton Youth Sports, the PHS boys’ hoops entry in the summer league. “There is a lot of talk that they could make a run.”
The league boasts two newcomers in the Ballstars and the Clinton Kings. “The Ballstars are mainly PHS guys like Aaron Thomas, Marcus Budline, Matt Hoffman, Ben Harrison, and a PDS guy Robby Smukler,” said Moorhead.
“The Clinton Kings are similar to PA Blue Devils; They have some college D-3 players; they will be coming down from the Clinton area.”
In Moorhead’s view, the fans coming down to Community Park this summer will be treated to plenty of heated contests.
“This is the first time we have had 10 teams since 2006; it looked like there were only going to be eight teams and then two teams came out of nowhere right before the deadline,” said Moorhead.
“I think it is going to be very competitive. There are not a lot of easy outs on paper; there is a lot of parity.”