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Welcome back to the Trentonian's Full-Court Press blog. Yes, we're still alive, and with the 2015-16 season rapidly approaching, it's time to fire up the old blog for another season. Check back here throughout the year for updates on all things Rider and Princeton, including coverage of both the MAAC and Ivy League. Feel free to drop me a line on twitter @kj_franko ( or email

Friday, November 8, 2013

Princeton motivated by last season's collapse

Photo by Gregg Slaboda/ T.J. Bray said Princeton is motivated by the way last season ended.


PRINCETON — By any and all measure, the end of last season was an abject disaster for the Princeton Tigers.

Up by a crucial game over Harvard in the Ivy League standings, Princeton had just three games left on its schedule: road contests against Yale, Brown and Penn. If the Tigers won all three, they’d be Ivy champions. If they lost one, they’d at least settle for a one-game playoff with Harvard.

Instead, they suffered through a disastrous New England road trip, falling to both the Bulldogs and Bears. Having missed their shot at the NCAA tournament, the Tigers had to sit at home and watch Harvard knock off No. 3 seed New Mexico.

“This past summer, the way the season ended, it motivated me every single day,” senior forward Will Barrett said at last week’s media day. “I thought about it every single night before I went to bed, and when I woke up I still had that feeling in my stomach where it just didn’t feel right.”

Guard T.J. Bray — who is still recovering from a wrist injury suffered in practice — echoed the sentiment, and as a senior and captain you could tell Bray can feel the clock ticking on his own basketball mortality.

“That’s not necessarily the legacy I want to leave here, so luckily I’ve got one more year to change the way people think of me. That last weekend, I don’t want it define my career.”

Princeton will try to take their first step towards changing that narrative this Sunday, when they’ll host Florida A&M for a 1 p.m. tip. With Bray out, Princeton figures to start two players that missed last season in senior Jimmy Sherburne and junior Ben Hazel— Sherburne with a shoulder injury and Hazel with a personal issue — in the backcourt with returning forwards Barrett, Denton Koon and Hans Brase.

While the Rattlers won’t be the best team the Tigers face in the non-conference this year, they excel in many of the areas that Princeton had a hard time dealing with last season. Led by senior guard Jamie Adams, Florida A&M has a number of extremely quick, aggressive guards that attack the basket and try to force turnovers, which should be a good early test for Sherburne and Hazel.

“I’ve never seen somebody get his own rebound and run his own break (like him.),” coach Mitch Henderson said of Adams. “We’re ready for that, but I’m not sure our guys know exactly what they are in for.”

The Rattlers, who finished 8-23 overall and just 5-11 in the MEAC last season, are also one of the smaller teams in Division I. Princeton remains one of the biggest, even without graduated 6-foot-7 Ivy League Player of the Year Ian Hummer and last year’s reserve big men Mack Darrow and Brendan Connolly. Koon, Brase and Barrett are all 6-8 or taller, and 6-10 freshman Peter Miller is expected to contribute.

While that size advantage is nice, Henderson knows that in and of itself, it won’t be enough.

“We are big, and I keep mentioning and telling our guys, don’t just be okay with being a big team,” Henderson said. “You have to assert yourself in lots of different ways. We work very hard on being in the right position in everything we do, so I think the rebounding will lean in our favor.”

Though Bray will obviously return to the lineup when healthy, this year’s squad appears a bit defined in roles than last year, when it took ten games to for the final starting lineup to emerge. Henderson is hoping that stability pays dividends.

“We were up and down and sideways last year at the beginning of the year, even the last two years,” Henderson said. “I’m hopeful that this year brings a lot of continuity. We’ve been there and done that and know what we’re doing. These guys know who they are playing with and I think that makes you a good team.”

They’ll have 28 games to prove they are a better one than last year.


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