March 20, 2024

With Young Players Gaining Valuable Experience, PDS Boys’ Hoops Has Solid Foundation in Place

JORDAN RULES: Princeton Day School boys’ basketball player Jordan Owens heads to the rim in a game this winter. Sophomore guard Owens scored 212 points this season to help the Panthers go 7-16. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

It turned out to be a season of growth for the Princeton Day School boys’ basketball team as its lineup featured young players in key roles.

In reflecting on the campaign which saw three freshmen, a sophomore, and two juniors see the bulk of playing time, PDS head coach Eugene Burroughs liked the way youth was served this winter.
“I think my kids did a great job of progressing throughout the year,” said Burroughs, whose team posted a 7-16 record and made the Prep B state semis. “When you look at our scores and watch how we played earlier in the year, it was more focused on playing hard and competing. Then we shifted into the next phase, defending and rebounding at a good level. We improved in that area and then we shifted to focusing on offense.

The kids did a great job locking into those areas. I was proud of our team to see the development and the growth for the younger guys.”

The squad’s three key freshmen, Gary Jennings, Julian Davis, and Onyx Oschwald, showed plenty of development.

“When you come from eighth grade basketball and you are playing varsity basketball, they had to just grow and adapt because the game is a little bit faster, way more physical and way more demanding,” said Burroughs. “For me as a coach, it is trying to get them to do things consistently and develop those habits that it takes to be successful.”

Jennings proved to be a consistent threat as a point guard, leading the Panthers with 213 points.

“Gary found a way to put the ball in the basket, he has a knack of finding ways to score,” said Burroughs. “He was a guy that was thrown into that point guard role. He had some good games and some bad games, which was expected. Offensively he did some great things. For him, it is just growing and developing the other aspects of the game, making plays for his teammates, handling pressure — the things that come with being a primary ball handler at the high school level.”

Emerging as a versatile performer, Davis scored 134 points and grabbed 103 rebounds.

“Julian evolved as the year went on, I think he was really coming into his own,” said Burroughs. “When we hit the midway mark of the season, you could see his scoring pick up. He became more consistent. As the year went on, he got more comfortable which is important. I think the kid has a great ceiling. He hasn’t even scratched the surface of what he could become as a basketball player.”

Oschwald gave PDS an inside presence with his gritty play. “Onyx was just solid, he is learning his way on the court and what he is going to do well,” said Burroughs of Oschwald, who scored 51 points with 75 rebounds and 24 assists. “He had some great games where he rebounded the ball well. He played well defensively. As he progresses, the offensive side of the game is going to come for him. He is going to make more plays. I love the fact that he is an unselfish player, he loves to pass the ball.”

After emerging as a sharpshooter from the perimeter last winter, sophomore guard Jordan Owens diversified his game this season.

“Jordan had a really good year, his role changed,” said Burroughs of Owens, who scored 212 points despite missing several games due to injury. “Last year he was a kid we saw spot up and shoot threes. The Jadens (senior stars Jaden Hall and Jaden Dublin) would find him for kick-out threes. This year, he had to create offense a little more off the dribble and fit in the pass. He got to the rim a lot more this year than he did previously which was good to see; that is the next phase of his game. You know he can shoot the ball but now you have to be worried about him attacking and getting into the paint.”

Displaying an attacking mentality, junior guard Adam Stewart picked up his offense, scoring 187 points and getting 110 rebounds.

“Adam had a good year too, defensively we know he is always going to compete and play hard,” said Burroughs.

“He had some great offensive games this year. He had some good games, just being scrappy, driving the ball to the rim, and making plays. He really had a solid year for us, hopefully he builds on that next year.”

After being sidelined for the first month of the season, junior Abdoulaye Seydi returned to provide PDS with some scrappy play.

“His impact for us was definitely in the defensive end of the floor,” said Burroughs of Seydi who totaled 91 points and 56 rebounds this season. “His energy, his ability to block shots, defend, and get some rebounds was something that we needed to help us hit another stride. In the middle part of the year, I think a game or two where he had 14 points. His defense was something that really stood out for this team.”

Seniors Sebastian Rzeczycki, Thomas Poljevka, and Matt Whittaker along with sophomores Aiden Luciano, Danny Rozenblat and freshman Matthew Silverman gave the Panthers some good work off the bench.

“Seb, Thomas, and Matt were just great in their roles,” said Burroughs. “Aiden had some early minutes. Danny had a really good year for a kid that practiced with varsity last year but was a JV player. He had a great summer. For him to come in and give some minutes and hit 11 threes, that was tremendous. He was probably the most improved player in our program. Matthew had some really good games for us. For a kid that didn’t think he would be on varsity to make the varsity and also earn playing time was great to see. I am curious and excited to see his growth over the next year and how he improves.”

Burroughs is excited to see what his squad can do collectively next winter.

“It is all about the growth piece for those guys to get better and improve,” said Burroughs. “I think this group will be able to start a little faster because this past year our freshmen were learning from scratch. Next season, they should be a little more in sync with what we do and how we play. Hopefully things slow down a little bit for them. I think we did some great things. It was a year of growth and to see where we are at and where we need to get to.”

After taking some lumps as they grew, the Panthers should benefit from that experience.

“Other teams, attrition-wise, will lose guys, we are bringing guys back,” said Burroughs. “That is something that will hopefully help us. As teams lose their older guys, we are bringing our younger guys back. We are really heavy on the other end. For those schools, those other freshmen and sophomores were playing JV.”