November 17, 2021

Wright Helps PU Men’s Hoops Get Off to Good Start, Starring as Tigers Go 2-1, Make Asheville Title Game

WRIGHT DIRECTION: Princeton University men’s basketball player Ethan Wright dribbles up court last week in Princeton’s season opener against visiting Rutgers-Camden. Senior guard and co-captain Wright scored seven points as the Tigers prevailed 94-28 over the Division III Scarlet Raptors. Over the weekend, Wright starred as Princeton advanced to the final of the inaugural Asheville Championship, topping South Carolina 66-62 in the semis and then falling 87-80 in double overtime to Minnesota in the championship game. In the loss to Minnesota on Sunday, Wright recorded a double-double with 14 points and a career-high 18 rebounds. Princeton hosts Marist on November 17 before playing at Oregon State on November 21. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Ethan Wright didn’t waste any time getting back into the flow for the Princeton University men’s basketball team as it hosted Rutgers-Camden to open its season.

As Princeton hit the court on November 9 for the first time since March 2020 after that season was halted due to the pandemic and the 2020-21 campaign was canceled due to ongoing COVID-19 concerns, senior guard and tri-captain Wright scored the first seven points of the contest.

“We have been waiting a long time to be back,” said Wright.

“It felt great to be back with the guys and playing against somebody else in uniform with fans. I haven’t done that in over 600 days. Last time I did that, I was a sophomore. A lot has changed since then. It was incredible to be back in Jadwin.”

Wright’s early outburst set the tone as Princeton went on to rout the Division III Scarlet Raptors 94-28.

“Coach (Mitch Henderson) was emphasizing getting off to a hot start so we could play a bunch of guys,” said Wright.

“I thought we executed really well early on and got some quick baskets. We like to run a lot so that was a quick start for us.”

Princeton executed well despite the long hiatus from game action.

“We are young, we have guys who haven’t played in a college game,” said Wright.

“We get along really well off the court and that helps us a lot on the court. We have been able to mesh together with a lot of upperclassmen and working guys in. Tonight, whoever was playing, we were playing together and we were playing good offense.”

Not being able to play last year helped mature Wright and his fellow seniors.

“It was definitely difficult, watching every other team last year and not being able to play,” said Wright, a 6’4, 190-pound native of Newton Centre, Mass.

“We had to do a lot of growing up. It is a strong senior class and I think we have become a lot better at leading. Because we have had great leaders in the past, we understand what we need to do now. I think we are ready to make the jump to being senior captains and leaders.”

It was tough to grow as a player at times over the last year with COVID-19 restrictions.

“I played as much as I could, we got to practice last spring together which was awesome,” said Wright.

“Last fall, it was hard to find gyms for a long time. We were just running outside. Our strength coach had a lot of stuff for us to do conditioning-wise. We played pickup but it was difficult. We did as much as we could with the resources that we had.”

Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson enjoyed seeing his players take the court at Jadwin.

“It was so nice, we talked about the appreciation and the recalibration after being off for so long,” said Henderson.

“We needed to play somebody different, thanks to Rutgers-Camden. We needed to play with everybody here watching us, evaluating us and feeling that. That was crucial for us.”

It was also crucial for some of the squad’s younger players to finally play in a college game.

“We had three guys who we think are going to play a lot for us that have never played in this gym and some of them are sophomores,” said Henderson, referring to freshman Mason Hooks and sophomores Matt
Allocco and Zach Martini.

“Now they need to hear from their friends that you guys win by a lot. We got judged, people got to see us. That is a big takeaway and we can grow from there.”

The Tigers showed growth last weekend at the inaugural Asheville Championship, topping South Carolina 66-62 in the semis on Friday and then falling 87-80 in double overtime to Minnesota in the championship game on Sunday.

Henderson sensed that the trip to North Carolina would be a good experience for his squad.

“I am really excited, traveling together on the road,” said Henderson.

“We haven’t been able to do that together. We are getting on a plane. There are a lot of firsts. We are going to a neutral site, playing against a huge, physical team. These are my favorite things. We have had a lot of success the last few years against high major opponents.”

As Princeton hosts Marist on November 17 and then plays at Oregon State on November 21, Henderson will look for his team to show more good things.

“The schedule is hard, we are going to get hit and they need to just keep going,” said Henderson.

“It is ‘we are OK, let’s keep doing this and getting better at what we are.’ I am confident of that.”

Henderson is confident that Wright will keep getting better and better.

“He has been a primary defender for us; he is a
captain so it is don’t stop growing and leading this year,” said Henderson of Wright, who recorded a double-double with 14 points and a career-high 18 rebounds in the loss to Minnesota.

“We have everything you need to be very good but in order for us to be great we have to be brazen so he can be brazen for us. Tonight he had a lot of steals, he gets his hands on a lot of passes. We measure little things that are basically effort and he leads us in those categories and I want him to continue to do that. I want him to look people in the eye and say, ‘why aren’t you doing that?’ It’s not that I don’t care if he makes shots, he is going to. When you are brazen and you play that way, it tends to raise the level.”

Wright, for his part, is determined to speak up and be more of a vocal leader for the Tigers.

“Going back to my first two years, I had a great upperclassmen ahead of me so I could talk less and kind of do my thing,” said Wright.

“I was looking to them for what I was supposed to be doing and now there are a lot of guys who don’t know what they are doing all of the time and they are looking to guys like me, Jaelin [Llewellyn], Drew [Friberg], Max [Johns], and Charlie [Bagin]. It has been a lot harder for me to be more vocal, it is something I am constantly working on. I think I am getting better at it. It has really been a shift, being a senior and having people look up to you and looking for answers from you.”