Princeton didn’t play in 2020-21 because of COVID; now it’s in the Sweet 16

Sacramento, California. Since last week’s Ivy League men’s basketball tournament, Princeton high schoolers Tosan Evbuomwan, Ryan Langborg and Kishon Kellman have known that every time they take to the court, it could be their last game for the Tigers.

At first glance, there is nothing unique about this dynamic. This is how collegiate sports work. But for this trio of freshmen, their four-year college career was anything but normal.

As freshmen in the 2019-20 season, their season was cut short due to COVID-19 shortly before the start of the Ivy League tournament, ending their chance to play in the NCAA Tournament. In 2020-21, the Ivy League canceled the entire winter sports season. Last season, they were upset that Yale took first place in the Ivy League championship.

Overall, this has had a big impact on this season because despite the Ivy League remaining eligible for the NCAA, the Ivy League hasn’t backed down from its stance to limit its athletes to a four-year window to compete. According to coach Mitch Henderson, Princeton as an institution also believes in this.

“We have [two] other seniors who are eligible. Each of these guys has an extra year,” Henderson said. “It doesn’t change anything for us. We are very interested in the four-year process.

“Princeton, we are talking about student-athlete growth over a four-year process. I hope this doesn’t mean we’re in the mud. This is largely who we are. able to go out and make some pretty serious contributions to their communities.”

That said, it’s still tempting to think about what this team might look like if they spent another year together, or what this team would look like if the NCAA-eligible players left over from last season returned. Three of last season’s top five scorers – Jaelyn Llewellyn (Michigan), Ethan Wright (Colorado) and Drew Friberg (Belmont) – all moved, while the fourth, Max Jones, moved to Duke.

Perhaps all of them could leave of their own free will, but the decision was not made by them. Shortened time at Princeton made last year’s championship game even more painful.

“We could hardly look at [NCAA] tournament,” Henderson said.

Perhaps that makes this run even more special. The Tigers are just the second Ivy League team to make it into the Sweet 16 since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985 (the other was Cornell in 2012), and ahead of Saturday’s tournament, they finished second in Arizona full of future professionals. a dominant victory over seventh seed Missouri, 78-63.

Langborg, Evbuomvan and Kellman were at the center of the action.

For Langborg, the only player from California, it was a kind of homecoming. He’s from across the state from San Diego, but as a high school senior in 2019, Langborg led La Jolla Country Day to a Division III state title with 25 points in a game also held at the Golden 1 Center. , home of the Sacramento Kings.

“When we had this game, I think we had three combined threes,” Langborg said. “I think it helped me to play here before. I feel comfortable in this environment, although there were a little less people. [in high school].”

On Saturday, Princeton had no shooting problems. Langborg made four 3-pointers and teammate Blake Peters hit five. It all happened against a physical team from Missouri who just two days earlier had choked out a great 3-point throwing team from Utah.

It wouldn’t be possible without Evbuomvan and Kellman inside. They may be the only two players on the Princeton roster with the size and strength to match Mizzo at the bottom, but Princeton still dominated the rebounding battle 44-30 – with 16 hitters from rookie Caden Pierce.


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