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Catching up with...Sean Jackson.

Sean Jackson came to Princeton in 1989 as a transfer from Ohio University. He played three seasons for the Tigers. Sean was named All-Ivy in 1990-1991 and was voted the 1991-1992 Ivy League Player of the Year.

Princeton won the Ivy League title all three years Sean was on the team. When he graduated, Sean was Princeton's all-time leading three-point shooter, connecting on 235 of 501 attempts (.469) in his three seasons.

Jackson also held/holds the Ivy (56) and school (95) records for most treys in a season. A decade later, many of Sean's records still stand, including most consecutive games with a three-point field goal (56) and most three-point field goals made per game (3.1). Sean ranks behind only Brian Earl '99 for most three-point field goals in a career at Princeton, despite only playing three years for the orange and black. Sean recently took the time to answer your questions about his time at Princeton. Here are his responses.

This interview originally ran in September 2002.

After your freshman year at Ohio University, how did you end up transferring to Princeton?

My thought process during my freshman year at Ohio U. was not so much "Man, I got to get out of here" as much as it was "I wonder what it would be like to be involved in a setting that prioritized academics." Coming out high school, my only thought process was to go to a school that paid for college. I applied for transfer to Princeton shortly after the season ended and found out I was accepted in August - one month before classes started. I entered Princeton as a freshman because the school didn't accept any OU credits. Princeton was the only school I inquired about.

What made you decide to come to Princeton?

The deciding factor was obviously the academic reputation. To be honest I didn't know much about the basketball program, only that it was one of the better ones in the Ivies. My plan was just to wait a year (which I had to do because of NCAA transfer rules), and try out for the team the next year. I didn't have many expectations.

What was it like to play for Coach Carril?

Playing for Carril was challenging, but rewarding. He was great at pinpointing things you did on the court that didn't lead to winning games. The games were almost always easier than the practices.

What was most difficult about playing for him?

The toughest part was knowing that any mental lapse you had, he would make sure you knew about it.

What are some of your fondest memories of playing at Princeton?

The week leading up to the NCAA tournament was always an exciting time (I wish I could say the games itself were fond memories). You felt a sense of accomplishment from winning the league and you were a part of something that the whole country was excited about. As far as individual games, my junior year coming to Jadwin two hours before the Loyola Maramount game, and see the fans already in a frenzy was a highlight.

What do you consider three biggest [and best games] you were involved in at Princeton and why?

The best game was the before-mentioned Loyola Maramount game. It was a made-for TV game pitting us against a team that averaged over 100 pts a game. We won something like 72-48, and the crowd was awesome. Two other games include the Rutgers game my junior year, where we entered undefeated and they were ranked. We waxed them by 13 or 15 (it wasn't that close) at their place. Lastly, the NC State game my senior year where we won in OT in Raleigh has to be included. That game was pivotal because we had some tough games early on, and that put us over the hump before the Ivy League season.

How did you get involved with the 3-on-3 tournament circuit? I recall reading about your teams doing very well in some of these tournaments.

John Rogers, '80 is the key guy here. He had been playing in some of the local Chicago 3-on-3 tournaments with other Chicago Princeton alumni for a couple of years. Then at Carril's Hall-of-Fame induction ceremony, I told coach I was living in Chicago (getting my MBA at Northwestern). He said I ought to get together with these guys. John was at the ceremony too, and from then on we've been playing these Hoop-It-Up Tournaments around the country.

Along with John, there have a slew of former Princeton players involved. Kit Mueller and Craig Robinson have played in them the longest, but recently we've had others join in including Gabe Lewellis, Mitch Henderson, Mike Brennan, George Leftwich, Troy Hottenstein, Brian Earl, and Jerry Doyle.

I can't remember how many city tournaments we won through the years (15-20?), but our best performances at the World Championships have been in 1998 and 2000, where we lost in the semi-finals. This fall a team consisting of Kit, Mitch, Craig, and Brian are competing in the West Regionals after winning the Chicago tournament in the summer.

Where are you living these days and what are you involved in?

My residence is in Nashville, TN, where except for my two years in B-school, I've been since graduation. I work at a start-up investment bank called Avondale Partners as a sell-side research analyst. I cover Internet security stocks, which I have done since 1998. Despite all the market turmoil it is a great time to be in the business.

What do you miss most about your time at Princeton, either on or off the court? Do you keep in touch with the players and the coaching staff from your time at Princeton?

You mostly miss the friends that you made and being part of a unique community like Princeton. I try to go back to Princeton at least once a year, either in conjunction with Reunions or something else. My contact with the players and coaches has revolved around these 3-on-3 tournaments and Reunions.

At this year's alumni scrimmage, I saw you hitting several three pointers over Brian Earl. Do you still play basketball regularly?

Thanks for hitting the highlights of the alumni scrimmage, and not mentioning the fact that Brian's team won every game. I try to play at least twice a week. My office is very close to Vanderbilt, so I will get together with some of their coaching staff and other administrators to play.

Do you follow Ivy League basketball now? How do you think the game has changed [at Princeton and elsewhere] since you graduated?

I am still a big fan of Princeton basketball and follow it as much as I can given I live in Nashville. I don't think the game has changed that much. Coach Thompson and before him Coach Carmody have done a super job of maintaining an expectation of excellence and have added a few wrinkles here and there.

Given all the recent brouhaha over Spencer Gloger's multiple transfers and the repeated question of "is he a transfer student?," I would be interested in hearing the circumstances of your transfer. Did you contact Carril to initiate the process? Was the university accepting transfers in general at the time? Did the admissions department make a special exception for you?

My transfer to Princeton was not as much basketball-related as people think. I believe the basketball office didn't even know that a prospective basketball player was transferring until well after the process began.

There were about 15 other students in my "transfer class". They were coming in at all different classes. At that time they only took transfers if there was room in the University. My understanding is that the after my year, Princeton quit taking any transfers because there was no room left.

As far as Spencer is concerned, because he was accepted and enrolled prior, he would be treated as just taking time off while he was at UCLA. I don't know for sure, I am just speculating.

What led you to believe that transferring to Princeton would amplify your basketball career? Was it basketball that inspired your transfer to Princeton? Did you think your success at Princeton would be what it was? How did you initially feel about Pete Carril? Do you still play? You had a remarkable run at Princeton. A true "lightbulb."

Like I mentioned before, I didn't have many expectations about playing basketball at Princeton. My goal was to just try out my sophomore year and see what happens. My understanding was that the only reason I was allowed to try out was because I showed interest the prior spring playing pick-up games with the rest of the guys.

I think Carril was suspicious of me at first, given I was a transfer. But he did give me chance, and that was all I was looking for.

Did you originally apply to Princeton out of high school but decline the original offer of admissions?
Coming out of high school, Princeton was not even on the radar. In my county in WV, no one that I knew of had ever attended any Ivy League school. I believe I did receive some contact from the Princeton basketball staff in high school, but I made it clear that I was only considering scholarship schools.

Were there times-- on the court, in the classroom, or the social scene-- when you wondered if you had made the right decision?

The first time I saw the campus during Freshman Week, I knew I made the right decision.

Who gave you the nickname "PeeWee?"

Coach Carril gave me that nickname, although he didn't use it much my senior year because we had another player on the team that was shorter than me. I've had other nicknames I've liked better.

Princeton basketball was ascendent when you arrived on the scene for the 1989-90 season. As you know, Princeton won four consecutive Ivy League titles from 1989 to 1992, and you were a key component of 3 of those championship teams. What was special about those teams and why were they so successful?

The biggest reason we were successful was because we had a player in the most important position (center) that was better than everybody else. During my senior year and after Kit left, we still had five seniors who knew nothing but winning. That carried over to us winning the league that year as well.

As a follow up to the previous question, I'd like to ask you which of the 3 championship teams that you played for was the best and why? (I'm guessing you'll say the 1990-91 team that finished undefeated in Ivy League play). Assuming that I'm right, how good do you think that 1990-91 team was and where do you think it would rank in Princeton basketball history? Was it as good (or better) than the 1998 team that garnered so much national attention?

The 1991 team my junior year was the best team I was on. I don't think any Ivy League team got within ten points of us that year. I have no clue where it ranks in Princeton history. I believe it was the first nationally ranked Ivy League team in quite some time, but the Princeton teams in the mid-to-late 60's were ranked high all the time.

As far as the 1998 team, we'd crush'em. I'm joking of course. That team ran our offense better than any Princeton team I've ever seen. I know of other D1 college coaches who feel like they know Mitch, Steve, etc. on a first name basis because they've watched so much film on that team trying to pick out certain things. We were probably a little bigger up front than the 1998 team, which helped us with inside defense, but they were more smooth on offense.

During the season before you arrived at Princeton, the all-time Princeton heartbreaker occurred when Alonzo Mourning clearly got away with a hack of Kit Mueller at the buzzer of the infamous 1989 Georgetown game. Did you watch that game? Did it influence your decision to come to Princeton? When you arrived at Princeton the following fall, what affect did that game seem to have on the team the following season? Did teammates and coaches talk about the game? If so, what was said about it?

I was a student on campus that year (couldn't play because of NCAA transfer rules), and I had very little contact with the team. I didn't even see the game, but I did listen to it on the radio in my dorm room.

I imagine it gave everyone a little more confidence, but nobody ever talked about it. Not because it was sacred or anything, but because it was a different year.

As long as we're on the topic of NCAA games, there were two more first round heartbreaks during your tenure: a 1990 nail-biting loss to Final Four-bound Arkansas and a 1991 buzzer beating loss to a lower seeded Villanova. Can you share your impressions and memories of both of those games?

The 1991 game was harder to take because we felt like we were the better team. We had our chances in the 1990 game, but we didn't handle their press well in the 2nd half.

During your three years at Princeton, you helped lead your team to victories over Rutgers (twice), UC-Santa Barbara (who was highly regarded the year you played them), Loyola Marymount (televised on CBS), North Carolina State, and Penn 5 of the 6 times you played them. Which of those games were special to you and why? Were there any other games that stand out in your mind as you reflect back on your Princeton career?
The games mentioned above were definitely among the most memorable. Two Yale games stand out though. In 1991, we played them at home in the first Ivy League game of the season. Going into the season, Yale was expected to be our biggest challenge, and we held them to something like 27 points. The second Yale game was my senior year in 1992, where they beat us on a last second shot. Up to that point we had won over 25 Ivy League games in a row.

You had some tremendous teammates at Princeton. Could you share your memories/impressions of these former players:

-Kit Mueller
-Matt Eastwick
-Chris Mooney
-George Leftwich
-Chris Marquardt
-Mike Brennan
-Matt Henshon

Kit - Best player I ever played with, and that includes two NBA players who were on my team at Ohio U.

Matt E. - He was always a strong inside defender. Our senior year, he had his best year offensively, and made some big shots at Penn to win a game for us.

Chris Mooney. - I think he grew two inches and gained 20 pounds between his freshman and sophomore years. He was a much better player that second year too. You always knew he would be a coach.

George L - Most underrated player on our team. A big reason why we played well against more athletic teams was because George handled ball pressure so well.

Chris Marquardt - Great passer who you couldn't leave open for threes either. When we ran the "55" play for Kit, we would always try to have Chris make the entry pass.

Mike Brennan - Would have liked to play with him for more than two years. He was very tough and from day one knew how to run a team. Another guy you knew would make a good coach.

Matt Henshon - Even though he started much of his sophomore and junior years, he was asked to come off the bench his senior year, and had his most productive year. He was always a calming influence when he came into the game.

No interview could be complete without asking about Coach Carril. What was your relationship with him like while you were at Princeton? Do you keep in touch with him today? What was good and bad about playing for Pete Carril? He had a reputation for being hard on his players; was he hard on you? If so, how did you react to that?
Coach was a guy who cared deeply that every facet of the game was done correctly. That takes a lot of energy. I think the players that adjusted well to his perfectionism tended to be the ones who also were that way. There is no doubt once you get through playing for him, you look at every basketball game you see differently, and you appreciate your years at Princeton more.

How avidly do you follow Princeton basketball today? What is your take on how things have gone for the program since you left campus? What do you think the future holds for this venerable program?

I think the program is in great hands. I am jealous that we didn't get to go on a summer trip abroad to play some games.

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