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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

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Princeton vows not to repeat last year's script

Princeton's Spencer Weisz. (Jackie Schear Photo)

By Nick Peruffo
@nickperuffo on Twitter

PRINCETON >> The story of last year’s Princeton Tigers took a disastrous turn at the most inopportune time.

After going 11-2 in their non-conference schedule with wins over Bucknell, Rutgers and Penn State, the Tigers lost their first four games in the Ivy League, essentially eliminating themselves from championship contention with a month left to play.

For this year’s Princeton squad, that four-game stretch — and the desire to avoid something similar from striking again — looms large.
“I think we started to feel like we were entitled to games at the beginning of the Ivy League season, and that’s obviously something we can’t have happen again this year,” sophomore Spencer Weisz said at the team’s recent media day.

Though still an underclassman, the 6-foot-4 Weisz established himself as a key cog for the Tigers as a freshman last year, using his uncanny all-around basketball instincts to 8.7 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game. With the Tigers losing all-everything point guard T.J. Bray to graduation, a slimmed-down Weisz (he said he’s about 10 pounds lighter) is expected to take on even more of a playmaking role.

“Everybody is telling him that he had a nice freshman year, but we were 8-6 (in the Ivy)” said coach Mitch Henderson, suggesting the expectations for Weisz have been raised. “That was nice and all, but don’t break your arm patting yourself on the back. What are you going to do this year?”

Another one of the Tigers’ primary returners is Hans Brase, who was the team’s second-leading scorer (11.2) and top rebounder (5.7) a season ago. The 6-8 Brase is extremely skilled for a big man, and can initiate the offense from the high post and stretch opposing defenses out to the 3-point line.

He’ll also be one of the main rim protectors in a defense that is aiming to be more disruptive than it was at times last year.

“On defense, our main thing is to attack,” Brase said. “We are not trying to be defensive on the defensive end, if that makes any sense. We have to attack them and make them feel uncomfortable.”

The emphasis on the defensive end is no coincidence, as it was a primary factor in those four fateful Ivy loses. Over those four games, the Tigers allowed 72.5 points per game, which would have been the third highest season average in the league. Over their last five Ivy games, they went 5-0, and held opponents to just 58 points per game.

“When we got back on track, which I was proud of, it was because we were defending,” Henderson said. “We became the best defensive team in the league. It was just too late.”

Though there are five seniors on the roster, only guards Clay Wilson and Ben Hazel figure to be candidates for major minutes after forward Denton Koon was ruled out for the first half of the season with a knee injury.

The Tigers do, however, have plenty of talent in the sophomore and freshmen classes, which should make for an extremely interesting team to watch as the season unfolds. In addition to Weisz, the sophomore class includes athletic 6-5 swingman Steve Cook, 6-10 center Pete Miller and 5-11 point guard Khyan Rayner.

“They are all showing signs, but I think in particular Khyan has shown the ability to help us where we really need help He’s got that first step speed and some fast twitch,” Henderson said when asked about the sophomores. “Now he’s got to guard and keep his body in front of people, and shoot.”

The freshmen class features two three-star recruits in 6-10 Alec Brennan and East Brunswick product Amir Bell. While Brennan certainly could factor in the rotation, Bell appears to be a serious possibility to start at point guard immediately.

“Amir Bell is somebody that we felt could potentially be another T.J. (Bray) type player,” Henderson said. He has a really good sense about what to do and when. He’s a local player that we got to see a lot and was involved in our process very early, so I’m happy about the freshman.”

Per usual, the Tigers have put together a tough non-conference schedule that features trips to Cal and Wake Forest as well as to Los Angeles as part of the eight-team Wooden Legacy, which also includes UTEP, Xavier and San Diego.

“We always have a great non-conference,” Brase said. “We are going out to Cali twice. The Wooden Legacy is going to be great and there are some great teams in that, but we don’t really look too far ahead.”

As a team in a one-bid, no-tournament league, however, all that will be prelude and preparation for when the games really start to count — against Penn Jan. 10. As much as the Tigers rightfully focus on the one-day-at-a-time, they certainly have no interest in repeating last year’s script.


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