November 25, 2020

LENDING A HAND: Princeton University wrestler Lenny Merkin greets Sebby the Sloth, a mascot that he created, in the Utah Salt Flats. Bringing Sebby along for the ride, senior Merkin placed third at the U.S. Senior Nationals in the 67 kilogram (148-pounds) Greco-Roman competition in October. Earlier this month, he made the semifinals in the 67 kg Greco-Roman class at the UWW(United World Wrestling) U23 and Junior Nationals. (Photo provided by Lenny Merkin)

By Justin Feil

When Lenny Merkin headed to Coralville, Iowa, for the wrestling U.S. Senior Nationals last month, he took with him Sebby the Sloth, a mascot that the Princeton University senior created.

“It’s this stuffed animal I carry around to training and tournaments and it ended up taking off internationally,” said Merkin, who maintains Instagram and Twitter accounts for Sebby.

“It blew up and now it’s turning into a side project where I’m trying to use it to grow wrestling and spread the word. I’ve been able to lean on that since I do most of my travels solo. I’ve been able to have this stuffed animal to lean on if I don’t have anyone else.”

Merkin is the rare Princeton wrestler who favors the Greco-Roman style over the college format of folkstyle. In Greco-Roman, one can only do takedowns by attacking an opponent’s upper body with leg attacks being prohibited. In both folkstyle and freestyle, a wrestler can do takedowns by either shooting or throwing.

“Since I got into Princeton, I told the coaches that my goal is to be an asset to the team, but when I have the chance to compete in Greco-Roman, I want to do so and I want to be able to have an opportunity to have an Olympic team, something you can’t do with folkstyle unfortunately,” said Merkin, a native of Brooklyn, N.Y., who was a four-time New York prep states champion at Poly Prep. more

November 18, 2020

LOST WINTER: Princeton University men’s basketball player Richmond Aririguzoh goes up for a lay-up in a 2019 game against Penn before a throng at Jadwin Gym. There won’t be any crowds at Jadwin this season as the Ivy League Council of Presidents said last Thursday that they have canceled winter sports for league schools during the 2020-21 season. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Normally by mid-November, fans would have already been flocking to Jadwin Gym and Hobey Baker Rink to take in Princeton University basketball and hockey games.

As of last November 17th, there had been three hoops games played at Jadwin and five hockey games at Baker in the early stages of the 2019-20 campaign.

But these aren’t normal times, and last Thursday the Ivy League Council of Presidents canceled winter sports for league schools during the 2020-21 campaign, thereby leaving Jadwin and Baker empty this season along with Dillon Gym, DeNunzio Pool, the Stan Sieja Fencing Room, and the Jadwin Squash Courts, among other venues.

In addition, the presidents announced that the league will not conduct competition for fall sports during the upcoming spring semester. Lastly, competition for spring sports is postponed through at least the end of February 2021.

In reaching the decision, which was unanimous, the presidents said that “regrettably, the current trends regarding transmission of the COVID-19 virus and subsequent protocols that must be put in place are impeding our strong desire to return to intercollegiate athletics
competition in a safe manner.”

While Princeton University men’s basketball head coach Mitch Henderson was disappointed when he learned of the decision, it didn’t come as a surprise. more

November 11, 2020

EYEING THE OLYMPICS: Princeton University wrestling star Matt Kolodzik sizes up a Rutgers foe during a 2016 bout. Kolodzik, who completed his Princeton career this past winter by helping the Tigers win their first Ivy League title since 1986, was later named as a co-recipient, along with lacrosse superstar Michael Sowers, of the Roper Award, given to the top senior male athlete at the school. Kolodzik is turning his focus to making the U.S. team for the 2021 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. Last month, Kolodzik finished sixth in the 65-kilogram (143-pound) freestyle competition at the U.S. Senior Nationals in Iowa. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

As 2020 approached, Matt Kolodzik was focusing on making the U.S. wrestling squad for the Tokyo Summer Olympics.

The Princeton University star had deferred his senior season with the Tigers to train with the NJRTC, a shared Regional Training Center between Rutgers and Princeton wrestling with the end goal to produce Olympians.

But with Princeton 149-pounder Matt D’Angelo getting injured and winning an NCAA individual title as another path to the Olympic Trials, Kolodzik returned to the mat for the Tigers and helped the program make history.

After winning by a technical fall over Andrew Garr of Columbia in his 2020 debut on February 8, Kolodzik came back the next day to defeat Hunter Richard 4-2 as Princeton edged Cornell 19-13 to end a 32-match losing streak to the Big Red and clinch the program’s first Ivy League title since 1986.

“Being on the bench with the team, there is nothing like it,” said Kolodzik, reflecting on the triumph over Cornell. more

November 4, 2020

LIGHTNING STRIKE: Jeff Halpern holds the Stanley Cup after helping to coach the Tampa Bay Lightning to the title last month as the team topped the Dallas Stars in the finals. Former Princeton University men’s hockey star Halpern ’99 started coaching in the Tampa Bay organization after a 14-year playing career in the NHL. He was promoted to the Lightning as an assistant coach for the 2018-19 season. (Photo provided by Jeff Halpern)

By Bill Alden

During his career with the Princeton University men’s hockey team in the late 1990s, Jeff Halpern got to lift a championship trophy.

High-scoring forward Halpern ’99 helped Princeton win the ECAC Hockey Championship in 1998 as the Tigers posted a 5-4 win over Clarkson in double overtime in the final at Lake Placid, N.Y.

After concluding his Tiger career a year later, Halpern went on to enjoy a 14-year run in the NHL but never experienced a championship campaign.

Turning to coaching, Halpern joined the Tampa Bay organization and was promoted to the Lightning as an assistant coach for the 2018-19 season.

Last month, Halpern got to grasp the ultimate trophy in hockey, the Stanley Cup, after helping to guide Tampa Bay to the title as the Lightning defeated the Stars in the finals in six games in a series held in the NHL bubble in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

For Halpern, getting to experience that moment is something he will never forget.

“I had a chance to lift it up,” said Halpern. “I have told people you have watched a movie your whole life like The Godfather and, all of a sudden, you are in the movie with the actors and with the scenery. It is a very surreal feeling to think of yourself in that moment.”

Halpern’s time at Princeton was a key stop on his path to that Hollywood ending.

“The biggest thing is the friendships I made with teammates; we spent a lot of time at the rink at practice and games,” said Halpern, a 6’0, 200-pound native of Potomac, Md. who tallied 142 points on 60 goals and 82 assists in his Tiger career and is the fifth-leading scorer in program history.

“One of the biggest things for my development was that we graduated eight or nine seniors after my freshman year, so going into my sophomore year I had the chance to play in almost every situation and play a lot of minutes. That was a really good chance to not just play at a high level in college but to get a big role.” more

October 28, 2020

DREAM JOB: Blake Dietrick puts up a shot in a 2015 game during her senior season with the Princeton University women’s basketball team. Signing with the Atlanta Dream of the WNBA, point guard Dietrick emerged as a key reserve for the squad as it played in a pandemic-shortened 22-game season that was held in a bubble in Bradenton, Fla. She had career highs with 5.9 points per game and 3.4 assists per game. Showing her outside shooting prowess, Dietrick finished eighth in the league in three-point shooting at 44.8 percent from beyond the arc, setting a franchise record for three-point shooting percentage. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Justin Feil

Blake Dietrick has few chances to attend the Princeton University women’s basketball games.

The former Tiger point guard made one last year, and it may have launched a breakout year in the WNBA.

Dietrick flew to Boston on her break from Lointek Gernika Bizkaia in Spain and went directly to see Princeton play at Harvard. She texted Nicki Collen, the head coach of the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream, on the way to the game and when she arrived Collen was already there to scout Princeton senior Bella Alarie among others.

“It almost felt like a sign,” said Dietrick, a 2015 Princeton graduate who ended her Tiger career fourth in three-pointers made (210), fourth in three-point shooting percentage (.395), fourth in assists (346), and 12th in scoring (1,233 points).

“I sent that message and the next minute she’s there, and we’re talking and hanging out and catching up. She’s an incredible person as well. I wanted to hear about her family and her girls play lacrosse and about things that matter to me. It all really aligned perfectly.”

While Dietrick didn’t try to oversell herself, she did make it known that she wanted to return to Atlanta, where she played sparingly for Collen in 2018. When the WNBA had to adjust its plans for the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and Atlanta lost two of its guards Renee Montgomery and Tiffany Hayes, the Dream reached out to bring in Dietrick.

“Seattle did offer me a spot at training camp,” said Dietrick. “I turned it down because I didn’t think there was a place on their roster.”

Signing with Atlanta, the 5’10 Dietrick went on to enjoy her finest of four seasons in the WNBA. In their pandemic shortened 22-game season, she played more minutes than ever – triple her highest previous average, even started four games, and she finished eighth in the league in three-point shooting at 44.8 percent from beyond the arc, setting a franchise record for three-point shooting percentage. She had career highs with 5.9 points per game and 3.4 assists per game. Dietrick explained that the improvements came with the new chances. more

October 21, 2020

MISSING THE GAME: Princeton University football head coach Bob Surace shows his game face during the 2018 campaign. With the Ivy League having canceled the 2020 fall sports season due to COVID-19 concerns, Surace is dealing without having football for the first time in his memory. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Bob Surace struggled to keep his emotions in check this July as he spoke virtually to members of the Princeton University football program in the wake of the Ivy League announcing it was canceling the 2020 fall sports season due to COVID-19 concerns.

“When we found out that we weren’t playing, I got on a call with the parents, players, and coaches and I started breaking up, I was in tears,” said Princeton head coach Surace ’90, who is in his 11th season at the helm of the program.

“My dad was a coach. I haven’t had a fall without football since I can literally remember. I have been on a sideline with my dad. I have been a player. I have been a coach. You are talking almost 50 years.”

In dealing with the crazy year that is 2020, Surace has developed a daily routine to keep him on track.

“I try to keep a really strict schedule,” said Surace. “I think it takes time to figure that out but literally, starting in May or so, I got into that routine. We are only allowed eight hours in the office during the week but almost everything I am doing, I can do from home.” more

TOUGH TO BEAR: Ian Franzoni sprints upfield in 2019 action during his senior season with the Hun School football team. Star running back Franzoni rushed for 1,178 yards and 12 touchdowns and made 12 receptions for 322 yards and four touchdowns in his final campaign for the Raiders. He committed to attend Brown University and play for its football program. With COVID-19 concerns leading the Ivy League to cancel its fall sports schedule, Franzoni is waiting to make his debut for the Bears. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Under normal circumstances, Ian Franzoni would have been looking forward to enjoying a homecoming last Saturday as the Brown University football team had been slated to play at Princeton.

But with COVID-19 concerns leading the Ivy League to cancel its 2020 fall sports schedule, former Hun School star running back and Brown freshman football commit Franzoni never left home in Robbinsville.

While Franzoni may have to wait a while to play for Brown, deciding to attend the school and join its football program didn’t take long.

“The schools that I were big on were the service academies; I had cousins who played at Navy so I was big on them,” said Franzoni, noting that Brown freshmen are currently scheduled to arrive on campus in January. more

October 14, 2020

GOING PRO: Jose Morales goes in for a layup against Columbia on March 6 in his senior season for the Princeton University men’s basketball team. Point guard Morales, a former Hun School standout who scored 261 points in his career with Princeton, is heading to play in the Spanish pro league for Agrupacion Deportiva (AD) Cantbasket 04 in Santander, Cantabria. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Justin Feil

Jose Morales won’t be needing more leg room on his flight to Spain this month.

Few fellow passengers would guess that the 5’9, 170-pound Princeton University graduate is heading there to start his professional basketball career, but he is following his heart.

“That’s one thing I’ve wanted to do basically my whole life,” said Morales, a former Hun School standout who scored 261 points in his career with the Princeton men’s hoops program.

“You grow up and everybody has a dream, everybody has certain jobs they want. For me, it was always being a pro basketball player. So to finally be able to do that was super exciting.”

Last month, Morales signed a deal with Agrupacion Deportiva (AD) Cantbasket 04. The team plays out of Santander, Cantabria, in Spain. They play in the Liga Espanola de Baloncesto Aficionado (EBA), which is scheduled to begin in October and runs through May.  more

October 7, 2020

ON PACE: Eric Robinson, left, battles a foe in action for the Columbus Blue Jackets of the NHL. Former Princeton University men’s hockey star Robinson ’18 tallied seven goals and five assists on 50 regular season games and then added a goal in postseason play as the Blue Jackets topped the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 3-2 in a best-of-five Qualifying Round Series and then lost 4-1 to eventual Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning in an Eastern Conference First Round Series. (Photo provided courtesy of Columbus Blue Jackets)

By Justin Feil

Eric Robinson has gone back to training as he prepares for his third full season of NHL action.

The 2018 Princeton University graduate enters the next few months build-up to training camp with a bigger sense of confidence following an encouraging, albeit unusual, 2019-20 campaign.

“It’s so big in sports and hockey,” said Robinson. “You can feel and it and see it when you’re not confident and you’re playing tight and you’re thinking when you get the puck rather than just playing and reacting. It’s everything. Relaxing a bit and realizing I have a few games under my belt and I belong and can relax and just play. It’s huge for your game. That’s the biggest takeaway going into next year that I can be a little more relaxed and focus on just playing.”

Robinson signed a two-year deal in 2018 with the Columbus Blue Jackets at the close of his senior season with Princeton. He played a game in the 2017-18 season weeks after the end of his college career, then appeared in 13 games in 2018-19 before playing 50 games this season plus his first playoffs.

“It’s something you dream of – first to play in the NHL, and then growing up watching hockey and playing hockey, you know how intense the NHL playoffs are,” said Robinson, a 6’2, 201-pound native of Bellmawr, N.J.

“It was really cool to be a part of it. We wanted to go further and that’s the goal for the future and years to come, to go further and keep experiencing more. It’s a different intensity and every mistake can be costly and every play, you have to be dialed in at a different level.”

Robinson’s speed stands out when he plays, and the Blue Jackets see it as a valuable tool that will only get more dangerous as his shooting and puck-handling develop. He scored his first career playoff goal in the third period of Game 3 in a 3-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning in their Eastern Conference First Round Series. After winning their best-of-five Qualifying Round series over Toronto in five games, Columbus ended up falling 4-1 to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Lightning in the best-of-seven series, the team that they knocked out with a first-round upset a year ago. more

September 30, 2020

STRAIGHT ARROW: Tom Schreiber prepares to unload the ball in action for the Archers Lacrosse Club of the Premier Lacrosse League (PLL). Former Princeton University men’s lacrosse star midfielder Schreiber ’14 helped the Archers LC reach the semis of the PLL Championship series this summer. Tallying 16 points on 12 goals and four assists in the competition, Schreiber was named as Gait Brothers Award as the league’s top midfielder. He also contributes to the PLL off the field, working as an analyst for the league. (Photo provided courtesy of the PLL)

By Bill Alden

Tom Schreiber has made a big impact on and off the field in helping the fledgling Premier Lacrosse League (PLL) get off the ground.

As the PLL started in 2019 with 14-week tour-based schedule taking place in 12 major-market cities, former Princeton University star midfielder Schreiber ’14 started working as an analyst for the league, focusing on player relations. On the field, Schreiber sparked the offense for the Archers Lacrosse Club squad, tallying 39 points on 15 one-point goals, a pair of two-point goals, and 20 assists.

This summer, Schreiber and the PLL thrived through the COVID-19 pandemic as the league conducted its season in a bubble, holding in a PLL Championship Series in Herriman, Utah, from July 25-August 9.

“We were there for three weeks, which is a long time,” said Schreiber, a 5’11, 205-pound native of East Meadow, N.Y.

“On the back of a pandemic where you are really not socializing with anyone and for us, part of the pre-travel process for COVID was that you had to self-quarantine for 14 days. I know that everybody took that pretty seriously so we were just starving for some social interaction. It was actually fun.”

The Archers LC players had fun out in Utah, reconnecting with each other and welcoming some fresh faces to the squad. more

September 23, 2020

FAMILY BUSINESS: Jake Boone takes a big cut in a 2019 game during his sophomore season for the Princeton University baseball team. Foregoing his senior season for Princeton, star shortstop Boone recently signed a contract with the Washington Nationals to join the pro ranks. Over his Tiger career, Boone played in 72 games in two-plus seasons, hitting .250 with 71 hits, 31 runs, and 24 RBIs. Boone is adding the latest chapter to his family’s illustrious pro baseball history, whose line of Major League players includes his father (Bret), uncle (Aaron), grandfather (Bob), and great-grandfather (Ray). (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Justin Feil

Jake Boone had every intention of returning for his senior season with the Princeton University baseball team in 2020-21 before turning professional.

Instead, he accelerated the process to fulfilling his lifelong dream when he signed with the Washington Nationals in August.

“Obviously it’s something I’ve worked for my whole life,” said Boone, reflecting on joining the National League franchise.

“To have a club give me an opportunity like the Nationals, I couldn’t be more excited. I can’t wait to start working and start continuing toward my dream. This is just another step. I’m excited.”

Boone is continuing to take classes that began August 31. It’s looking unlikely that any minor league baseball will take place before next spring, and Boone is training for that chance and hoping to stay on academic track with Princeton’s virtual classes. Past Tiger players who left early would finish their degrees in two fall semesters after missing a spring semester.

“If it was in-person, that’s probably how I would have done it – fall semester, fall semester – that’s the typical route,” said Boone.  more

September 16, 2020

GRACE UNDER PRESSURE: Grace Barbara boots the ball upfield in a game last fall during her sophomore season for the Princeton University women’s soccer team. After assuming a reserve role in her first two years for the Tigers, former Princeton Day School standout Barbara was poised to battle for a starting spot this fall. But with the Ivy League canceling the 2020 fall season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Barbara is going to have wait a little longer for her shot to be a starter. (Photo provided courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

By Bill Alden

Grace Barbara is learning a lot about patience during her career with the Princeton University women’s soccer team.

After playing just about every minute during her three seasons for the Princeton Day School girls’ soccer team as a star goalie, Barbara played in just two games for a half each in her first college season in 2018 and then got into two contests last fall, playing a full game in one appearance and a half in the other.

With star goalie Natalie Grossi, the Ivy League career leader in shutouts, having graduated this past June, Barbara was poised to battle for the starting role as a junior.

But with the Ivy League canceling the 2020 fall season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Barbara is going to have wait a little longer for her shot to take charge in goal.

“Obviously I was very disappointed, but I completely understand that the University believes that is best and the Ivy League does as a collective group,” said Barbara, an ecology and evolutionary biology major who is hoping to go to medical school and took a class on pandemics this spring. more

September 9, 2020

ICE BREAKER: Sarah Filler controls the puck in a game this past winter during her sophomore season with the Princeton University women’s hockey team. Having accumulated 114 points on 44 goals and 70 assists in her first two seasons with the Princeton University women’s hockey team, star forward Fillier is more than halfway to breaking the Princeton career assists (122) and points (218) records held by Katherine J. Issel ’95. This summer, Fillier was named to train with Team Canada through its National Women’s Development Camp, which is being held virtually. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

Sarah Fillier just turned 20 this past June, but she is already on track to achieving a pair of ambitious goals in her ice hockey career.

Having accumulated 114 points on 44 goals and 70 assists in her first two seasons with the Princeton University women’s hockey team, star forward Fillier is more than halfway to breaking the Princeton career assists (122) and points (218) records held by Katherine J. Issel ’95.

“I always plan to have a better season that the last one,” said the 5’4 Fillier, a native of Georgetown, Ontario who tallied 22 goals and 35 assists in each of her campaigns with the Tigers.

“I think the type of player that I am, you take points into that consideration and with that in mind, it would be great to be able to break records and set records.”

While Fillier didn’t increase her point total in her second season, she felt was a better player with a year of college experience under her belt.

“As a sophomore, I definitely had more confidence in the league for sure,” said Fillier, whose honors this winter included making American Hockey Coaches Association (AHCA) second-team All-America, first-team All-ECAC Hockey, first-team All-Ivy League and second-team All-USCHO.

“I had been playing with Maggie [Connors] and Carly [Bullock] for a year and knowing how to handle school.” more

September 2, 2020

PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT: Maggie Connors fires the puck up the ice this past winter during her sophomore season for the Princeton University women’s hockey team. Star forward Connors tallied 22 goals and 25 assists in 2019-20 to help Princeton go 26-6-1 and win the program’s first-ever ECAC Hockey title. This summer, Connors is training with Team Canada through its National Women’s Development Camp, which is being held virtually throughout the summer. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Maggie Connors will never forget the final game of her sophomore season for the Princeton University women’s hockey team.

Star forward Connors contributed an assist as Princeton rallied from a 2-0 deficit to stun top-ranked Cornell 3-2 in overtime on March 8, earning the program’s first-ever ECAC Hockey title in the process.

“That game was probably my favorite game that I have played for Princeton so far,” said Connors, a 5’6 native of St. John’s, Newfoundland, and Labrador in Canada.

“It was incredible, I look back and we just fed off the energy in that building. We were so focused and so competitive. We were working so hard and we just had so much fun at the same time because we had never been there. There were no strings attached because we hadn’t even been to the ECAC final before. We had literally nothing to lose, it was definitely a thriller of a game.” more

August 26, 2020

PREMIER ATTRACTION: Ryan Ambler looks for an opening in action for the Archers of the Premier Lacrosse League (PLL). Former Princeton University men’s lax standout Ambler ’16 starred for the Archers as they advanced to the semifinals of the recently held PLL Championship Series. Midfielder Ambler ended up with nine points on four goals and five assists in the PLL competition. (Photo provided courtesy of PLL)

By Justin Feil

Ryan Ambler aims to make the most of his chances.

The 2016 Princeton University graduate had not made a shot as the Archers LC went into overtime against the Chrome LC in their Premier Lacrosse League (PLL) Championship Series group game July 30.

“I was in somewhat of a shooting slump,” said Ambler, a 6’2, 190-pound native of Abington, Pa., who tallied 168 points in his Princeton career on 76 goals and 92 assists.

“The ball just wouldn’t go in. It was our third game. That night I’d hit the pipe, I’d hit the goalie three or four times. In my head, I was hoping just one of these falls. You kind of get in that rhythm where you wonder, when is this ball going to drop? It all happened so quickly. I have to give credit to guys like Tom Schreiber, another Princeton guy, and Grant Ament. They’re fantastic passers.” more

August 19, 2020

EXECUTIVE DECISION: Craig Robinson speaking at the “Thrive: Empowering and Celebrating Princeton’s Black Alumni” conference last fall on campus. Robinson, a former Princeton men’s hoops standout, college coach, and NBA executive, was recently named as the executive director of the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC). (Photo by Denise J. Applewhite, provided courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

By Justin Feil

Having seen many sides of basketball over the last 40 years, Craig Robinson is getting a new view of the game as he was named the executive director of the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) last month.

Robinson was a two-time Ivy League Player of the Year for the Princeton University men’s hoops program in the early ’80s, an assistant college hoops coach at Northwestern from 2000-2006, and a head coach at Brown and Oregon State from 2006-14. Since leaving coaching, he has been a college basketball analyst for ESPN, a front office executive with the Milwaukee Bucks and then the New York Knicks, as well as general manager of the Knick’s G League Westchester Knicks.

“It’s really the first time I’ve been able to bring all of my experiences to bear on one particular job,” said Robinson, 58, who worked as a bond trader, investment banker, and executive in the corporate world after graduating from Princeton before making the move into college coaching. more

August 12, 2020

SEEING RED: Doug Davis shouts out instructions in a 2019 game during his tenure as the head coach of the Princeton Day School boys’ basketball team. Davis, a former Princeton University men’s hoops star who guided PDS to its first state Prep B title this past winter, is heading down Route 206 to take the helm of the Lawrenceville School boys’ hoops program. He will be succeeding longtime Big Red coach Ron Kane. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Doug Davis knows something about winning titles.

During his career with The Hun School boys’ basketball program, sharpshooting guard Davis helped the Raiders win state Prep A and Mid-Atlantic Prep League championships in 2007.

Going across town to Princeton for college, Davis started from day one with the Tigers and provided one of the greatest highlights in program history, draining a buzzer-beater to beat Harvard an Ivy League championship playoff game in 2011 during his junior season.

Getting into coaching, Davis started at the Berkshire School (Mass.) and then returned to the area to take the helm of the Princeton Day School boys’ basketball program in 2018 and guided the Panthers to the state Prep B title this past winter.

Now, Davis is bringing his championship touch down Route 206 as he recently became the new head coach of the Lawrenceville School boys’ hoops program, succeeding longtime coach Ron Kane.

“I want to be at the top of this league again, that is definitely going to require some buy-in from the players but it is definitely doable with all of the resources that Lawrenceville has,” said Davis, reflecting on his vision for the program that posted a 6-19 record in the 2019-20 campaign.

“It is an amazing place to be. I truly believe that if we set our goals and sights on winning again, we can do it.” more

August 5, 2020

RED ALERT: James Proctor fires a pitch during his career with the Princeton University baseball team. Shortly after graduating from Princeton in June, Proctor signed a free agent deal with the Cincinnati Reds. Over his Tiger career, Proctor posted a 2-16 record in 28 starts with 133 strikeouts in 137 2/3 innings and a 5.88 ERA. (Photo by Beverly Schaefer, provided courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

By Justin Feil

Jim Proctor made his major league debut with the Detroit Tigers just over 60 years ago after being named the South Atlantic League’s most outstanding pitcher in 1959.

James Proctor always dreamed of the chance to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps. The 2020 Princeton University graduate took a big step toward that goal when he signed a free agent deal with the Cincinnati Reds on June 15.

“I was really excited about that,” said Proctor, a 6’5, 215-pound native of St. Louis, Mo.

“I went over to his house after it happened and celebrated and talked. We talk about baseball all the time. He’s definitely my biggest inspiration to keep playing. That was something really cool to follow in his footsteps moving forward.”

Proctor’s grandfather played professionally for nine years mostly in the minor leagues and Negro League. Proctor knew at a young age of his grandfather’s success and wanted to mirror it.

“It was cool,” said Proctor. “It was something that initially piqued my interest in baseball. I just had to continue because I wanted to. I’ve always carried it with me knowing I can lean on him any time for advice with anything. It’s a different game now but there’s still a lot of things that translate into today’s game. To always having him to talk to about baseball because he went through the same things at a higher level than me — where I want to get to — just having someone in the family who’s been at the top level has been great.” more

July 29, 2020

STILL CHASING HIS DREAM: Donn Cabral clears a hurdle in a steeplechase race during a 2016 meet. Former Princeton University men’s track star Cabral ’12, who competed for the U.S. in the men’s 3,000-meter steeplechase in both the 2012 and 2016 Summer Games, was planning to go after a third trip to the Olympics before the U.S. Olympic Track Trials and 2020 Tokyo Games were postponed to 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Cabral placed eighth in each of his two previous Olympic appearances and is planning to continue training over the next year for one last shot at the Games. (Photo Courtesy of USA Track)

By Justin Feil

Donn Cabral returned to Princeton University in late May and ran on the weekend that would have featured Reunion festivities.

The three-time NCAA All-American in steeplechase and two-time cross country All-America during his Princeton men’s track career might normally have been preparing for a shot at making his third United States Olympic team, but on this occasion it was just a chance to reconnect with former Tiger men’s cross country co-captain Brian Leung.

“I’m still very much plugged in with the people that I knew,” said Cabral, the American collegiate record holder in the men’s 3,000-meter steeplechase (8:19.14).

“The most important thing for me is the inspiration I get from other friends from college who are doing really cool things and following what they love and putting their heart and soul into it and even just being willing and able to talk and open up and discuss our goals and shortcomings and our steps to improve through them. Princeton is still very much a part of my life. I was looking forward to getting to go to Reunions this year.”

Cabral has done some really cool things himself since graduating in 2012 and hopes to add one more big achievement before he retires from running professionally. more

July 22, 2020

FINAL SWING: Maya Walton displays her driving form during her career for the Princeton University women’s golf team. While Walton didn’t get to complete her senior season this spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she graduated as one of the most decorated players in program history. She was Ivy League Player of the Year in 2018 and a three-time All-Ivy performer. Walton helped Princeton to Ivy League titles in her first two seasons and became the third Tiger player to earn an individual bid to the NCAA Women’s Golf Championships, tying for fifth at the Athens Regional in 2017 to advance to the national competition. (Photo by Beverly Schaefer, provided courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

By Bill Alden

Maya Walton was planning to peak when it mattered most in her senior season for the Princeton University women’s golf team.

In the 2019 fall season, Walton tied for second in the William and Mary Invitational and tied for fifth in the Princeton Invitational.

“I didn’t quite play exactly how I wanted,” said Walton, who hails from Austin, Texas.

“It was always trusting the process and trusting practice that eventually by the time Ivies came back around, my game would where I needed it to be.”

As she looked forward to the spring season and competing in the Ivy League Championships, Walton spent the winter honing her game, technically and mentally.

“It was more about consistency for me,” said Walton, who helped Princeton win the Ivy tournament in both 2017 and 2018.

“I did a lot of short game practice. I practiced what I could and then a lot of it was just mental game management and really trying to practice what I could indoors for the spring season. It is always kind of hard coming out of an offseason where you are a feel-based player but you live in New Jersey so you don’t really get to be outside.” more

July 15, 2020

SPRING IN HIS STEP: Princeton University football player Collin Eaddy scores a touchdown in a game last fall. Rising senior running back Eaddy will hope to be back in action this spring after the Ivy League decided that there will be no games this fall. The league added that there will be no competition until January 1 at the earliest and that the winter and spring sports calendars will be decided at a later date with the possibility that fall sports could take place in the spring. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

When the Ivy League canceled its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments on March 10 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it drew some fire for the decision.

Many thought the league had jumped the gun and some of the players slated to play in the tourney signed a petition imploring Ivy administrators to change their mind and reinstate the event.

But it turned out that the Ivies were ahead of the curve as the sports world screeched to a halt across the globe days later.

Last Wednesday, the league made another controversial decision, becoming the first Division I conference to cancel all sports competition this fall.

Once again the Ivies appear to be a trendsetter as the Patriot League followed suit on Monday and canceled all fall competition while the Big 10 and Pacific 12 have limited all games this fall to conference contests only.

In announcing their position, the Ivy presidents made it clear that reaching such a conclusion was painful.

“These decisions are extremely difficult, particularly when they impact meaningful student-athlete experiences that so many value and cherish,” said the presidents, noting that fall training will be allowed for student athletes on campus with no games before January 1 at the earliest and that the winter and spring sports calendars will be decided at a later date with the possibility that fall sports could take place in the spring.

“With the information available to us today regarding the continued spread of the virus, we simply do not believe we can create and maintain an environment for intercollegiate athletic competition that meets our requirements for safety and acceptable levels of risk, consistent with the policies that each of our schools is adopting as part of its reopening plans this fall.” more

July 8, 2020

SAY HEY: Megan Donahey slaps the ball during her career with the Princeton University softball team. Star outfielder Donahey hit .346 this spring in a senior season abbreviated due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Donahey ended up with a career batting average of .362, third-best in program history. (Photo by Michael Sudhalter, provided courtesy of Princeton’s Office of Athletic Communications)

By Bill Alden

Having proven to be a model of consistency during her first three seasons for the Princeton University softball team, Megan Donahey was primed to take things to a higher level this spring in her senior campaign.

“Everyone was super optimistic about this year,” said Donahey, who batted .377 as a freshman, .328 as a sophomore, and .385 as a junior.

“We were coming off a tough season, we had lots of injuries late in the season but we were really confident in this squad. The six freshman were just so awesome and we had a really, really good team culture this year.”

With Donahey hitting .346 in the first eight games of the 2020 campaign as Princeton got off to a 4-4 start, that optimism seemed justified.

“For the eight games that we played, they went super well,” said the 5’4 Donahey, a native of Phoenix, Ariz.

“Typically we peak later in the season. We actually did really well in the pre-Ivy season. There wasn’t just one way that we won the games. Sometimes the pitchers would pitch super well and then other times the offense would have an explosion and do really well and we would win the game that way. It just seemed like all facets of the game were working at different times to make us do really well.”

But as Princeton was getting ready for its annual Florida trip in mid-March, the season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving Donahey and her fellow seniors ruing what might have been. more

July 1, 2020

RETURN FLIGHT: Joe Scott makes a point to a player during the 2006-07 season in his last campaign as the head coach of the Princeton University men’s basketball team. Scott, a 1987 Princeton alum and former star guard for the Tigers, went on to serve as the head coach at the University of Denver from 2007-16 and then had stints as assistant coach at Holy Cross (2016-18) and the University of Georgia (2018-20), was recently named as the head coach of the Air Force men’s hoops program. It marks his second stint with the Falcons as he coached the Air Force from 2000-04. (Photo by NJ SportAction)

By Justin Feil

Making a return flight, Joe Scott is preparing for his second stint as the Air Force Academy men’s basketball head coach.

It is the Princeton University alum’s first head coaching job since 2016, not that he had ever left the game.

“The main thing how I went through it is I’m a coach,” said Scott, 54, who worked as an assistant coach at Holy Cross (2016-18) and at the University of Georgia (2018-20) during that period.

“I’ve always been a coach and I approached it that way. I kept coaching. I felt that continuing to coach and being around 18-22-year-olds and helping them improve and helping them grow, that was the way to become a head coach again. I’m fortunate. What I’m really glad about is I did it that way. People take time off, but I’m glad I did it that way. I was at two different places, and the last four years I’m going to really use in my time here at Air Force. I learned so much in the last four years.”

Scott has been a head coach for 16 of his 29 years in coaching. The 1987 Princeton graduate played for Pete Carril and then headed to Notre Dame Law School and practiced law for a New Jersey firm, Ribis, Graham, & Carter. Scott found his way back to the basketball court, starting out as an assistant at Monmouth before joining the staff of the legendary Carril and then serving as an assistant to Bill Carmody when Carril retired. In taking the Air Force post, Scott joins other Princeton alumni Chris Mooney (Richmond), Mike Brennan (American), and Mitch Henderson (Princeton) as Division I head coaches. Scott also added former Tigers player and coach Sydney Johnson to his Air Force staff. more

June 24, 2020

HELD BACK: The Princeton University football team gets ready to take the field last September for its season opener against Butler. The Tigers won that game 49-7 and went on to go 8-2 overall and 5-2 Ivy League. In March, the Tigers started spring practice looking to build momentum going into the 2020 campaign. But as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ivy spring season was canceled and Princeton spent the last few months of school working virtually. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

For the Princeton University football team, its annual spring practices help build the foundation for the upcoming season.

The 12 sessions spread over a month give returning players a chance to step up and show their development, allow coaches a chance to tinker with schemes and lineups, and help the squad collectively develop chemistry.

But as Princeton got ready to hit the field for its first spring session in early March, head coach Bob Surace was keeping track of COVID-19 and preparing to deal with a new reality.

“I just wanted to make sure that we had a plan in case we need to go to virtual school and they shut us down,” said Surace who guided Princeton to an overall record of 8-2 (5-2 Ivy League) in 2019.

“I had some ideas and we met as a staff and the other coaches came up with some other ideas on how to work through the next few months until June.”

With the students sent home for virtual learning and all spring sports activities getting canceled, Surace and his coaches had to modify their approach.

“I told them this was a time for empathetic leadership, the players are going to have a shock to the system,” said Surace. more

June 17, 2020

BELIEVELAND: Kevin Davidson talks to a coach on the sideline last year last fall during his senior season for the Princeton University football team. Getting his chance to start last fall after three years as a reserve, Davidson emerged as a star, completing 209-of-313 passes for 2,569 yards and 20 touchdowns to help Princeton go 8-2 overall and 5-2 Ivy League. In April, he signed a free agent contract with the Cleveland Browns of the NFL and is currently preparing for training camp as he looks to make the team. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Kevin Davidson always believed that he was headed for the NFL even though many scoffed at that ambition during his first three years with the Princeton University football program.

Through his junior campaign at Princeton, Davidson, a 6’4, 225-pound quarterback from Danville, Calif., had made one start and had a grand total of 61 passing attempts in 19 appearances and didn’t seem to be on track to the pros.

“I got laughed at a lot on campus, both by my friends and other people, they are like you are crazy, who do you think you are, some backup that is going to go to the NFL,” said Davidson.

“I have been working for this my whole life and I know where I am at. I might not have gotten the opportunities at Princeton that I thought at first but I never lost belief and my vision for myself. It has been a thing for me ever since high school freshman year.”

Playing behind Chad Kanoff and John Lovett, who both ended up on NFL practice squads after their Tiger careers, Davidson got his opportunity to start last fall and made the most of it, completing 209-of-313 passes for 2,569 yards and 20 touchdowns to help Princeton go 8-2 overall and 5-2 Ivy League. more