Local Standouts Scott, Ettin Enjoyed the Journey As PU Men’s Hoops Made Trip to NCAA Sweet 16
AMAZING JOURNEY: Princeton University men’s basketball player Jack Scott, left, a Hun School alum, and Tiger assistant coach Skye Ettin, a former Princeton High and The College of New Jersey standout, show their joy after upset victories in the opening rounds of the NCAA tournament. Last week, the pair were in Louisville, Ky., as the Tigers played in the Sweet 16. While the 15th-seeded Tigers fell 86-75 to sixth-seeded Creighton last Friday night at the South Regional, they will have special memories of the historic 2022-23 campaign. (Photos provided courtesy of Princeton Athletics)
By Bill Alden
Jack Scott and Skye Ettin honed their basketball skills by toiling in gyms all over New Jersey.
Scott played three years for the Hun School boys’ basketball team from 2019-22 while Ettin starred at Princeton High before going to The College of New Jersey where he served as a team captain for three seasons, culminating with the 2014-15 campaign.
Last week, the pair was 700 miles and worlds away from their Garden State roots as they arrived in Louisville, Ky., for the NCAA Sweet 16 as members of the 15th-seeded Princeton University men’s hoops squad that had captivated the nation with stunning upsets of second-seeded Arizona and seventh-seeded Missouri in the first weekend of March Madness on the way to the South Regional.
For Tiger freshman guard Scott, the highlight of the run, which saw Princeton advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time since the tournament was expanded to 64 teams in 1985, has been the bonds developed with his teammates.
“It has been an unbelievable experience — just being a part of this team for me is really the biggest part,” said Scott last Thursday afternoon, sitting in the team’s locker room after practice at the KFC Yum! Center as the Tigers prepared to face sixth-seeded Creighton. “It is the closest group of guys that I have ever been around, so to be able to go to an event like this and be a part of this tournament with that group of guys is what has been really special.”
Scott’s father, Joe Scott, a former Princeton standout who was an assistant coach for the Tigers when they posted wins in the 1996 and 1998 NCAA tourneys, has urged him to savor the journey.
“He has been just saying enjoy it,” said Scott, whose mother Leah was a star point guard at Princeton. “This experience is once in a lifetime, being able to play in the Sweet 16 and what we have been able to do. It has been incredible; he just said stay in the moment with everything you do.”
Ettin, an assistant coach for the Tigers who joined the program’s staff in 2015-16, has enjoyed working with Scott and his teammates.
“It has been so special because this group is so deserving to be in this moment,” said Ettin, standing in the hallway just off the floor after the Thursday workout. “It is a really tight group, it is awesome. They went through so much in terms of COVID with most of these guys missing a year, and then you have heartbreak last year (losing 66-64 to Yale in the final of the Ivy League postseason tournament). I think everything built up to being on this stage.”
Being on that national stage has meant grueling hours for Ettin and the rest of the Tiger coaching staff.
“After beating Yale (74-65 in this year’s Ivy final), you enjoy the moment and then all of a sudden Arizona flashes on the screen,” said Ettin. “We were back at it that night, going to 2, 3 in the morning. On Monday, you start to put the game plan together, you need every moment. It hasn’t been much sleep but it has all been worth it. Whether it is in the office or outside the office, the work day never really stops. I come in 8, 9 in the morning, usually to work out the guys on the floor. We will meet as a staff and then we will have practice and so on. It is going past midnight most days.”
Serving as an assistant coach for the U.S. men’s open team that won a gold medal at the Maccabiah Games in Israel last summer has helped Ettin deal with that process.
“You have some teams you really didn’t know much about so there is the preparation part of it,” said Ettin. “You don’t have all of the tools over there that we have here. It was really a good holistic experience for my growth, and I think that has carried over to this year.”
As a back-up, Scott has been soaking in lessons from the team’s veterans as they spearheaded Princeton’s tournament success.
“I think just being able to watch our upperclassmen — the way they compete, their toughness, their ability to lock in and to do all of the little things that make you win are the things I have really started to pick up on,” said the 6’6 Scott, who has made 18 appearances this winter for Princeton, scoring 48 points with 24 rebounds.
“As my career progresses, so many of things that they have shown me how to do, I am just going to take and incorporate into my game which will be make me such a better player.”
Seeing his classmates — Caden Pierce, a starting forward, and Xaivian Lee, a key backcourt reserve — make important contributions in the postseason has been special.
“Those guys are my best friends so it is unbelievable to see them do their thing,” said Scott. “There is so much you can take from Xaivian and Cade. It has been incredible to see those guys have a huge impact on the success of the team.”
With Princeton having gone 10-4 in Ivy League play this winter, it has been a bumpy ride at times for the Tigers on their way to postseason success.
“The thing I love the most about this team is the belief we have in each other,” said Scott. “When there has been highs and lows throughout the season, we never lost focus. So going into that Yale game, we knew we were meant to be there. When we were sitting down Selection Sunday and saw Arizona, a two seed, another team might say, ‘oh my god we are playing the second seed.’ It was, ‘all right, we are going to Sacramento to win.’ That was the coolest part. It was a 2-15, nobody thinks we are going to win but we knew all along that we were meant to be there and we were going to have some success.”
That success has resulted in the Tiger players becoming the toast of the town.
“Everywhere you go, there are people that run into you, people I have never seen before or my teammates have never seen before and they come up to you and say you guys keep it going and they give you a fist bump,” said Scott. “They say that was awesome, or like I saw you on TV. The way the community has come together through our success has been awesome. When we got on the bus to leave Princeton yesterday, the sendoff we had and the amount of people there and the support meant a lot. I think that transfers over to the game.”
With the proximity of Hun to the Princeton campus, Scott has been getting plenty of support from the Raider community as well.
“My high school coach (Jon Stone) was at the sendoff yesterday,” said Scott. “He stays in touch, he texts me after every game. I am still close with a couple of my high school teammates. We still talk. It is cool to see that those guys can come to my games and I can talk to them and stay close.”
Ettin, a Princeton native, has relished the excitement around town.
“It has been awesome, it has been amazing,” said Ettin. “We had hundreds of people sending us off to the Sweet 16. The joy around Princeton has been immense and is special to see.”
It has been a joy for Ettin to share the experience with his PHS and TCNJ friends.
“I am still really close with a lot of my high school friends and they have supported me all year, I am really thankful for that,” said Ettin. “I have nine of my college friends that I played with at TCNJ who are coming to the game. They have been really supportive. It is a good group of guys, I am excited to see them.”
While Princeton went on to fall to Creighton 86-75 last Friday in the Sweet 16 game to end the season at 23-9, Ettin knew that he would never forget the excitement of this March.
“I don’t know if it has sunk in to be honest with you; I don’t think I have had a chance to really grasp this moment,” said Ettin. “You are just in it; it is next game, next opponent, how do you continue to have success. I know when the season is over, I will have a chance to reflect on it and it is going to be really special.”