March 22, 2023

Employing a Gritty Style with a Superb Backcourt, PDS Boys’ Hoops Advanced the Program Forward

TAKING HIS SHOT: Princeton Day School boys’ basketball player Jaden Dublin puts up a shot in a game this winter. Senior guard Dublin proved to be a catalyst for PDS as it went 8-16 and advanced to the Prep B state semis. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

The mantra that Eugene Burroughs repeated throughout this winter to his Princeton Day School boys’ basketball team was “advance the program forward.”

Employing a gritty style and featuring a trio of superb senior guards in Jaden Dublin, Jaden Hall, and Mason McQueen, PDS did just that.

“We won three more games than last year which is a testament to this group and how they meshed together,” said Panther head coach Burroughs, whose team posted an 8-16 record. “We were probably one shot away from moving on in that state tournament and we played well enough to win.”

PDS played hard as they competed in Prep B state tournament, the Mercer County Tournament, and the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) South Jersey Non-Public B tourney.

In the Prep B state semis, PDS battled Doane Academy hard before falling 71-60.

“We had a bunch of guys in double figures, it was a great environment,” said Burroughs, who got 17 points from Jaden Hall in the February 10 game with Jaden Dublin scoring 15 and McQueen chipping in 13. “Our kids played well — we just couldn’t get over the hump. Jaden [Dublin] had an unbelievable game considering that he had been out for a week with an injury. We didn’t know if he was going to be able to play. He decided to give it a go and that is a testament to him, wanting to help his teammates win.”

A day later, eighth-seeded PDS fell 59-27 to top-seeded and eventual champion Trenton High in the MCT quarterfinals.

“We were only down 23-14 at the half, our kids really competed in a tough environment against a really athletic team,” said Burroughs, whose team trailed 8-7 at the end of the first quarter. “Against a team like that, sometimes that game is over in the first quarter. I think we gave them a first half scare. I am really proud of our team. Last year, I think we were probably the 14th seed. To make it into the top eight was a great accomplishment for our team. It was one of our goals for the year to get into the top eight and we did it.”

In the Non-Public tourney, 11th-seeded PDS came agonizingly close to toppling sixth-seeded Gloucester Catholic, falling 47-45 on a buzzer-beater.

“It was a great environment, we played well enough to win,” said Burroughs. “Our kids played hard. We were right there, we tied it up in the last minute. We were playing great defense.”

Reflecting on the season, Burroughs credited the two Jadens with providing the team with a great 1-2 one-two punch as Dublin tallied 273 points while Hall scored a team-high 346.

“Jaden Dublin really made an impact over his two years, he was crucial for our program to stay solid,” said Burroughs of Dublin, who transferred to PDS as junior. “He is a good player, he has a great attitude. Every day, he would come to play. He was great in practice. His athleticism and his ability to get downhill and make plays is really what this team needed. Jaden Hall was there all four years. He really just worked at his game and got better. Offensively I felt he was our go-to guy. He made some great plays and great shots for us. He is committed to Kings College in Pennsylvania.”

The squad’s other seniors — McQueen (203 points), Bram Silva (87 points), Nico Cucchi (19 points), and Rafael Moore (27 points) — made some key contributions over the winter.

“Mason had a really good year, he piggybacked off of last year where he was a defensive guy for us and brought great energy,” said Burroughs. “This year, he had had an offensive element to his game. Bram had a really good year — defensively and offensively. He was helping us navigate our offense. Nico played some really good minutes for us this year. He came into the game and rebounded for us, blocked out, and did all of the little things. Rafael had some games where he made some shots for us. I was really proud of that senior group — they worked hard to improve and get better.”

Freshman guard Jordan Owens (179 points) along with sophomores Abdoulaye Seydi (22 points) and Adam Stewart (85 points) give the Panthers a good core group of returners.

“Jordan had a really good year for a freshman, he was a great complement to the seniors,” said Burroughs. “His ability to shoot the basketball was something this group really needed to help spread the floor a little bit because teams played us with zones this year. Adam had some really good defensive games, defending and playing hard. He had a couple of really good offensive games where he scored the ball a little bit. Abdoulaye played a lot this year, he started some games. He did a great job defensively, that was his strength.”

Looking ahead, Burroughs believes the program can keep advancing forward.

“The kids that we have are going to be part of the growth of this next group,” said Burroughs. “We still need to implement some more kids in the basketball program, we need some height. I am looking forward to this group of kids that played minutes for us to see whether they make a jump again next year as basketball players. It is going to be exciting to see.”