January 31, 2018

With Multi-talented Aririguzoh Making Strides,Tiger Men’s Hoops Primed for Ivy Stretch Run

RICH EXPERIENCE: Princeton University men’s basketball player Richmond Aririguzoh grabs a rebound in recent action. Last Sunday, sophomore forward Aririguzoh tallied eight points and eight rebounds to help Princeton defeat Division III Rowan 86-60 in its first game after a 15-day hiatus for exams. The Tigers, now 10-8 overall, resume Ivy League play when they host Yale on February 2, Brown on February 3, and Penn on February 6. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

He is the guy from Trenton Catholic, but Richmond Aririguzoh brings a lot more than local flavor to the Princeton University men’s basketball team.

Born in Italy, Aririguzoh speaks four languages and is handling a pre-med class load.

On the court, the 6’9, 220-pound forward is emerging as a key contributor at center for the Tigers.

Last Sunday, Aririguzoh contributed eight points and eight rebounds as Princeton defeated Division III foe Rowan 86-60 in its first action after a 15-day hiatus for exams.

“It is good for us to just get back out there with the whistles; it is definitely different than in practice,” said Aririguzoh, who also had three assists and two blocked shots in the win.

“We had a good week but now we have got to test ourselves and see that we have to bring it every day. There were moments here where we didn’t bring it. Personally at times I wasn’t as sharp as I could have been. I tried to fix that in the second half and bring the intensity more.”

Aririguzoh acknowledged that navigating through exams requites a channeling of intensity.

“I have learned to differentiate between the classroom and the court,” said Aririguzoh.

“The coaches say where you are, be engaged. It can definitely get to you if you are not prepared. I am still working on that completely, giving my mind to the game while I am in the game and worrying about all of that other stuff when I am taking finals. But now we are definitely glad it is over and back to being in the gym.”

In reflecting on his game, Aririguzoh knows he still has plenty to work on. “My defense has been a steady climb from when I got here,” said Aririguzoh, who is averaging 2.6 points and 1.9 rebounds a game this season.

“I remember those first couple of months, I was kind of struggling but all the coaches encouraged me, the strength and conditioning coach helped me get more coordination. Being a physical presence, that is another work in progress. I have improved in rebounding a little bit and then just post work, it went from nonexistent to a little bit now.”

Going to college near home has been enjoyable for Aririguzoh. “It is definitely more fun than I thought it would be because you have all of the local support,” said Aririguzoh. “It is always fun playing for the town.”

Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson is supportive of Aririguzoh’s many pursuits.

“Rich does more with his time than just about any of the other guys,” said Henderson.

“He is a hard worker; he is a pre-med. He is challenged in so many different ways throughout the course of his day but he always works. He is local but he is from a lot of different places, we celebrate that too.”

In Henderson’s view, Aririguzoh’s hard work on the court is paying off.

“The difference I see from freshman year to sophomore is like a 40-year-old man compared to what he was last year,” said Henderson.

“He is learning to play, he just has to keep playing. I challenged him to get more rebounds. I said you have got to get eight and he got eight. I think he had one or two at halftime. He got a huge offensive rebound and a putback early in the second half. Now he just has to make his free throws.”

While the game against Rowan predictably turned into a rout, Princeton benefitted from getting back to work as it improved to 10-8.

“We needed to play, I didn’t think we were that sharp,” said Henderson.

“When I first got here, coach [Pete] Carril said always, always play the game. Last year, I didn’t and I thought we were a little rusty coming out. We may still be rusty but it is just getting used to the rhythms of officials being out there and putting the uniforms on. I got a little upset at the guys at halftime but mostly because I have high standards.”

Shaking off the rust was critical for the Tigers as they resume Ivy League action by hosting Yale on February 2 and Brown on February 3.

“It is a big weekend, we are home three in a row,” said Henderson, whose team also hosts Penn on February 6.

“It is a huge week, but it starts with Yale on Friday. Both teams present a lot of challenges. Brown is playing really well and so is Yale. We will be ready.”

In dealing with the challenges that he faces on a daily basis, Aririguzoh has been helped by his older bother, Franklin, a junior star for the Princeton men’s track team and his hoops teammates.

“I talked to him about being a student athlete, when I was worrying about all of that stuff coming in,” said Aririguzoh.

“He told me how he deals with it. It is not just my brother but all of my teammates. I feel my team is even more helpful with that because we are always together.”