Mixing New Talent With Core of Veterans; Ivy Inn Looking to Regain Winning Ways
Over the last decade, the Ivy Inn team has established itself as a consistent championship contender in the Princeton Recreation Department Men’s Summer Basketball League.
The squad, formerly known as George’s Roasters, won four of six league titles between 2005-2010.
But last summer, the proud unit fell on hard times, going 3-6 and getting eliminated in the first round of the playoffs.
Team manager and star forward Bobby Davison acknowledged that 2011 was a nightmare.
“Last year was an unbelievably disappointing year with Scott [Findlay] being hurt and Mark [Aziz] playing overseas,” said Davison, a former hoops standout for Princeton High and The College of New Jersey. “We were pretty much just playing six guys every game. It was tough.”
Coming into last Monday’s season opener against the Ballstars, Ivy Inn boasted plenty of manpower. In addition to Davison, Aziz and stalwarts Shahid Abdul-Karim, Kyle Burke and Buddy Thomas, the team added Davon Black, Tommy Soulias, A.J. Rubin and longtime Winberie’s star Chris Hatchell.
“We have got our nucleus; it is great having Mark back from Egypt and Scott is coaching,” said Davison, a former assistant coach for the PHS boys’ hoops team who is working as a patrol officer for the East Windsor Police.
“I think he is going to get the bug around week three; his knee is healthy. We picked up Davon; that is huge, I coached him a couple of years. I coached Tommy in AAU; he is from Spotswood. We picked up A.J. and a big pick-up was the addition of Hatchell. He wanted to play with another team. It is nice playing with him and not playing against him like I did for so many years.”
The team came together quickly in the game against Ballstars, jumping out to 34-5 halftime lead on the way to a 64-30 win.
“I think it adds a real nice dynamic with our wisdom of basketball and knowledge and their intensity and athleticism,” said Davison, reflecting on the teams blend of experience and young legs. “You know what, they are hungry; they want to prove something.”
In other action Monday, Winberie’s edged SMB 44-41 in overtime as Evan Johnson scored 18 points for the victors while the PA Blue Devils topped the Clinton Kings 52-29 behind 15 points from Kevin Janowski.
For Ivy Inn, stifling defense paved the way to its rout of new league entry Ballstars.
“We talked about it on our pregame; it was first things first, let’s take our time on offense but we have got to get stops on defense,” recalled Davison.
“I think that has been the key for so many years in this league, we have always been able to stop guys. So we talked about going man-to-man right from the gate and just stop them and when we get the ball, let’s be patient and run our offense through Mark. It is the first game and we have to get everyone acclimated with one another.”
Based on the opening night effort, it looks like Ivy Inn could be poised for another good run this summer.
“It was very good,” said Davison, reflecting on a night in which Ivy Inn was led by 16 points from Soulias with Aziz adding 12 and Hatchell chipping in nine.
“The first thing that has helped us for so many years is we are a really unselfish team. We try to add something to the puzzle every year. No matter who we add with these young guys, the older guys are going to welcome them with open arms and instill a little bit of their knowledge and put them right on the team.”