PU Men’s Hoops Squanders Lead in Loss to Hofstra But Kellman Shows Potential With Powerful Effort
KEY PERFORMER: Princeton University men’s basketball player Keeshawn Kellman, right, dribbles the ball last Monday against Hofstra. Senior forward Kellman scored a career-high 21 points on a losing cause as Princeton fell 83-77 to the Pride in its season opener. In upcoming action, the Tigers play at Navy on November 11 in the Veteran’s Classic, at Marist on November 19, and at Army on November 24. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Bill Alden
After being hampered by injury and playing in only eight games last winter for the Princeton University men’s basketball team, Keeshawn Kellman decided to remake his body and his game.
“I focused on a lot of conditioning,” said Kellman, a native of Allentown, Pa., who spent the spring and summer with his nose to the grindstone. “I was very overweight at the end of the season and that was one of the points of emphasis that I had. I thought that just doing that alone would help my overall game along with finishing around the basket. Also just my IQ with watching basketball, things like that.”
Last Monday, as Princeton hosted Hofstra in its season opener, the chiseled 6’9, 240-pound senior forward Kellman showed the fruits of that labor. He scored a career-high 21 points on 9-of-9 shooting with five rebounds and two blocked shots in 26 minutes of action.
Kellman’s heroics helped Princeton build a 76-71 lead with 2:43 left in regulation but the Tigers squandered that advantage, falling 83-77 to the Pride.
While the loss stung, Kellman was happy to finally return to the starting lineup for the Tigers.
“It felt good to be back out there,” said Kellman. “It was definitely something new. It is something I am going to have to adjust to and just push through any fatigue I feel.”
Kellman believes he can form a good one-two punch in the paint with classmate Tosan Evbuomwan, the Ivy League Player of the Year last winter.
“I love playing with Tosan, he is a really skilled player,” said Kellman. “He is very unselfish, he looks for other guys. He makes the game easier on all of us. The more we play with each other, the more chemistry we will build.”
Evboumwan, for his part, who scored a team-high 22 points against Hofstra with seven rebounds and three assists, enjoys having Kellman back on the floor for the Tigers.
“It is great, he has been great in practice,” said Evbuomwan. “He gets those easy baskets. He is very hard to stop him down there, we all know that. He is a great addition to our team this year.”
Evbuomwan acknowledged that the loss to Hofstra was hard to swallow.
“The last few minutes we have got to be better, I have to be better,” said Evbuomwan. “We were up, that is a game we should win. We had a shot to win. With me at the top of the list, we have to be better in the last three minutes.”
Princeton head coach Mitch Henderson realized that the Tigers were facing a tough opening night test.
“I said it before the game, I said it at halftime and I will say it again now, that would have been a great win,” said Henderson. “Hofstra is very good, they play really hard so congratulations to them.”
While Princeton looked very good in building its late lead, Henderson was frustrated by how the Tigers played down the stretch.
“It is 74-69, I cannot remember when we have lost that game since I have been here,” said Henderson. “We have been very good at closing games out. We had three turnovers at the end of the game. We found a way to put ourselves in a position to be in a big hole. We gave up 14 points in the last 2:54, that is bad. I thought that the key to the game was in the turnovers; it was really costly towards the end and in transition.”
There were positives despite the bad ending. “I really like our group, we did some really nice things that we can’t forget,” said Henderson. “We drew a lot of fouls, we got ourselves to the foul like we just couldn’t close.”
Henderson credited Kellman with doing a lot of good things.
“You got a glimpse of what we have seen for four years,” said Henderson. “He has worked so hard, he lost a lot of weight. I thought he was unbelievably good tonight. He effected the game on both ends of the floor. He was 9-for-9 from the field with five rebounds. I thought he was terrific.”
Freshman forward Caden Pierce made a superb debut, contributing seven points, 10 rebounds, and two assists.
“Caden was terrific, 10 rebounds for a freshman to play like that with no turnovers and seven points,” said Henderson. “They all seemed like they were big points in the game. He is so solid.”
Despite the disappointing outcome, Henderson believes that battling a solid team like Hofstra will ultimately pay dividends for his squad.
“This is a very good thing to happen to us, that is a good team,” said Henderson. “It would have been an incredible win, however it exposed things that we needed to learn and would not have learned unless we played in a big game environment.”
In upcoming action, Princeton will be heading into some tough environments as they will be playing at Navy on November 11 in the Veteran’s Classic, at Marist on November 19, and at Army on November 24.
“Those are three really tough games,” said Henderson. “They will really show what we are made of.”
Kellman, for his part, believes that the loss to Hofstra will inspire the Tigers to be more resilient.
“That is a game we should have won,” said Kellman. “I think all of us, me included, could have done things better on both ends. They went on a run at the end of the game; we needed to make sure they stop the bleeding and be tougher.”