January 26, 2022

Applying Lessons Learned from Older Brother, Nweke Thriving Off the Bench for PU Women’s Hoops

ON THE BALL: Princeton University women’s basketball player Chet Nweke (No. 25) battles for the ball in a game earlier this season. Last Saturday, sophomore forward Nweke scored six points in 16 minutes off the bench as Princeton rolled to a 78-35 win over visiting Dartmouth. The Tigers, now 13-4 overall and 5-0 Ivy League, play at Yale on January 29. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

In developing into a college basketball player, Chet Nweke honed her skills through competing with her older brother Ike.

“We have fights when we play one-on-one, he definitely impacted my basketball career a lot,” said Princeton University women’s basketball sophomore forward Nweke, whose brother Ike is a senior star forward on Columbia.

“He would always push me to get into the gym. Working out with him has just made me tougher as a basketball player. I would go to his AAU practices, playing with boys was a nice thing to do to get stronger and more confident.”

Last Saturday, Nweke displayed her toughness, contributing six points, one rebound, and one assist in 16 minutes off the bench as Princeton rolled to a 78-35 win over visiting Dartmouth, improving to 13-4 overall and 5-0 Ivy League.

“Coming into this game, I wanted to feel like I was a big part of this team,” said Nweke, a 6’0 native of Woodbine, Md., who is averaging 2.4 points and 1.5 rebounds in 17 appearances off the bench.

“I always feel part of the team but I wanted to make an impact when I got into the game. I am averaging 10-15 minutes so I just want to make the most out of whatever time I get off the bench. That was my focus going into today.”

After not getting to play as a freshman when the Ivy League canceled winter competition due to COVID-19 concerns, Nweke is thrilled to be seeing game action.

“It is so exciting after being here in the spring,” said Nweke.

“We would practice every day without playing a game. Now it is so exciting being out here with all of my amazing teammates.”

Nweke acknowledges that the defensive intensity of college hoops has been an eye-opener.

“When we were learning the principles in the beginning of the season, I was like whoa, I never did that in high school,” said Nweke.

“They don’t focus on help defense, they don’t focus on not helping off the strong side in high school, it is really just one on one. It was quite the adjustment in the beginning of the season. Every day I am getting better at knowing my role and just playing as hard as I can. Coach [Carla] Berube is an amazing coach and I think that has really helped me facilitate it and what difference I can make on the team.”

Princeton head coach Berube believes Nweke is making a difference in her reserve role.

“Chet is making an impact every day in practice and it is really translating in games as well,” said Berube.

“We moved her more into a post position. She had been playing a guard early in the season. It just seems like it fits better with her game, her arsenal. She is taking on the post inside, she is a strong driver. She is making some really good decisions with the basketball.”

The Tigers played some really good defense against the Big Green, making 21 steals, one short of a program single-game record, and forcing 31 turnovers.

“We just really got after it for 40 minutes so I am happy with that effort in that end,” said Berube.

“It led to some easy scoring opportunities on the break. We were finding each other really well and hit some big threes. Sometimes it feels like there is a lid on the hoop, it was open today.”

Senior guard Abby Meyers was hitting from the perimeter, scoring a game-high 23 points, hitting 9-of-15 shots, including 5-of-9 from three-point range.

“Abby was just in a good rhythm today on both ends of the floor,” said Berube.

“She had some big steals and great assists so everything was working well for her.”

With Princeton having won its five Ivy contests by an average of 27.6 points, Berube likes the way her squad is progressing.

“I feel that we are taking steps forward, I think we are getting better and better,” asserted Berube, whose team plays at Yale (12-6 overall, 5-1 Ivy) on January 29.

“People are stepping up and contributing like they can. I like where we are at. We have a big one coming up next Saturday in New Haven. Yale has been pretty strong all season so we expect it to be a big challenge up there. We are looking forward to the next game.”

Nweke concurs, believing that the team’s focus on defense is yielding benefits.

“I think we are in a really good place too, it all stems from the way the coaches instill how important defense is,” said Nweke.

“Everything coach Berube says is that defense fuels offense. I knew coming in that defense was a big part of offense but I never knew the impact it could make. Just watching the starters play too, it just fires me up on the bench. They are all on the same page, they all have each other’s backs. When I get in the game, I have to be the exact same way.”