January 10, 2024

PDS Boys’ Hoops Going Through Growing Pains As Talented Young Squad Gains Valuable Experience

AIR JORDAN: Princeton Day School boys’ basketball player Jordan Owens flies to the hoop in a game earlier this season. Last Friday, sophomore guard Owens scored 16 points to help PDS edge Hamilton West 39-36. The Panthers, who improved to 3-5 with the victory, host Steinert on January 12 before playing at Princeton High on January 16. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

Starting 2024 with a bang, the Princeton Day School boys’ basketball team pulled out a 50-46 win at Notre Dame High in overtime on January 2.

“It was a great win for our program, playing against a really good team that has a great tradition,” said PDS head coach Eugene Burroughs. “I was excited for our kids to go in there and battle and compete and really just find a way to win.”

A day later, the Panthers battled hard against the Solebury School (Pa.), trailing 31-22 at halftime before fading in the second half on the way to a  69-41 setback.

“Our guys are playing a lot of minutes — it was going to be a challenging game, which we knew,” said Burroughs. “We did some good things in the first half and then we just kind of gave into it a little bit after that. The press got us. We have been pressed before and we have done some good things against the press.”

With a roster that includes four freshmen and four sophomores, Burroughs knows that his young squad will experience some growing pains this winter.

“We go in there at Notre Dame in a really tight environment to play against a really good team, and you see glimpses and it is, ‘Oh wow, this team is good,’” said Burroughs. “Then today you see the other side of it. As a coach you understand that is part of the process. You can’t get too high, you can’t get too low. This year is going to be fun, just to come and see the growth.”

The Panthers have been getting very good play from sophomore guard Jordan Owens.

“Jordan has been playing really well, he is finding his stride offensively,” said Burroughs of Owens, who scored 16 points to help PDS edge Hamilton West 39-36 last Friday and improve to 3-5. “He is making more plays this year than he did last year because the ball is in his hands more, which is great for his growth and development. He is learning how to navigate and get his teammates involved and still trying to find ways to score. He is handling pressure more now than he did last year, it is a big jump.”

Junior Adam Stewart has made the jump this winter. “Adam has been playing hard for us, he is competing and we need that from him,” said Burroughs. “He has been rebounding the ball tremendously. I love that he is doing that and our team needs that. He has been the catalyst on that end for us to try to get boards. He is athletic enough, he is strong enough. For him offensively, I think it is about being more consistent. He has had some good games offensively and some tough games. I think that just comes, he is still growing in those areas.”

Burroughs is happy with the growth he is seeing from his two freshman starters, Gary Jennings and Julian Davis.

“Gary is doing some good things, every day is a learning experience for him,” said Burroughs. “I try to give him messages to help him grow basketball-wise. I try not to overload him but also hold him accountable. He is trying to find his way offensively. He has the ability to put up a jumper and make some threes and he can get by you. Now it is learning when to go, how to go and when not to go too far. Davis is still figuring it out. He is a talented kid. He can handle, he can shoot, he is quick, and he is athletic. I think now he is just trying to navigate it and he will. I think he will turn the corner. They are going to get better, they are going to work at it. They are great kids.”

In the loss to the Solebury School, sophomore Daniel Rozenblat was a bright spot as he scored a career-high 14 points.

“He hit a couple of shots today; he has improved, he was on JV last year,” said Burroughs. “I give him credit, he worked this summer. He changed his jump shot. You see it in the shots he shot today. Every game he is hitting one or two threes. He has made some great strides in his ability to shoot the basketball. We need a kid that can shoot the ball and spread the floor a little bit.”

Going forward, Burroughs is looking for more good work from his young squad on a daily basis.

“It is trying to be consistent and trying to find small wins; I think that is where we are at in our program right now,” said Burroughs, whose team hosts Steinert on January 12 before playing at Princeton High on January 16. “I don’t think we are ready to win 20 games. The win over Notre Dame is a good sign. Each day we have to go in and get a little bit better. If we can get better and get a little more consistent, then we are going to get closer to the next phase.”