|Princeton's Ian Hummer is preseason Ivy Player of the Year/ AP Photo|
By NICK PERUFFO
PRINCETON — Princeton coach Mitch Henderson is thinking big this year.
Big as in size.
This year’s Tigers squad has plenty of depth
along the front line, with last year’s rotating center duo of Brendan
Connolly and Mack Darrow returning. They’ll be joined by 6-foot-10
junior Will Barrett — who missed most of last season with a foot injury —
Denton Koon, a talented sophomore, and freshman Hans Brase, who has
already earned rave reviews.
“We’re more like the teams in the early 2000s with (6-foot-8) Mason
Rocca and (6-foot-10) Chris Young,” Henderson said Wednesday at the
team’s media day. “We can have big guys on the floor at the same time.
We hope to compete with the Big East teams we play on the boards.”
Of all the Princeton bigs, however, the biggest reason the Tigers
were voted number one in the Ivy League’s preseason media poll is
6-foot-7 senior forward Ian Hummer.
“We do have depth up front, but we only have one guy who has
experience playing more than 30 minutes a game: Ian Hummer,” Henderson
said. “He’s going to play a lot.”
Hummer, an explosive athlete, is generally acknowledged as the best
player in the Ivy League on both the offensive and defensive end of the
court. With Harvard weakened by an academic-cheating scandal, the door
seems wide open for the Tigers to win their 27th Ivy crown.
“We’re in a position to win a lot of games,” Henderson said. “In the
league, I think we match up well with everybody. What we’ve worked
really hard at is balance. We’re not just four guys surrounding Hummer.
We have different weapons.”
Of the team’s perimeter players, the most dangerous is junior guard
T.J. Bray, who was the third leading scorer last season after Hummer and
the graduated Doug Davis. Bray didn’t play during the team’s offseason
trip to Spain due to a knee injury, but is expected to be 100 percent
this Saturday for the opener at Buffalo.
“We’re a completely different team when he’s on the floor,” Henderson
said of Bray. “He does everything for us. He’s not a real nifty passer,
but he’s got a way of making everybody else better. He’s not very fast,
so he’s just now getting back to 100 percent healthy.”
The Tigers had also been expecting guard Jimmy Sherburne to be a
major contributor, but unfortunately, he will miss the season with a
shoulder issue. Because Bray didn’t play in Spain, however, it gave
Henderson time to experiment with different backcourt combinations, with
Clay Wilson, Chris Clement and even the versatile Koon seeing minutes
“It gave me more time to think about the way we need to be playing with those guys,” he said.
Much like last season, the Tigers have scheduled an extremely tough
slate of non-conference games to prepare for Ivy play. They’ll host both
Rutgers and Drexel and travel to take on Syracuse, the ninth-ranked
team in the country.
“It’s challenging, but that’s what we wanted,” Henderson said.
The Ivy schedule won’t be easy either. Harvard, Penn, Columbia and
Cornell are all dangerous, and the Tigers preseason ranking means
they’ll get everyone’s best shot.
Henderson, however, is taking the expectations in stride.
“Like I always said, we’re doing something wrong here if those aren’t
the expectations,” he said. “That’s just the way it’s been. I like
practicing when there is an expectation. We don’t talk about it, and
there is probably more of a target, but everyday it’s the same around
here. It’s just work.”
— For coverage of Princeton basketball this season follow Nick Peruffo on twitter @nickperuffo