For the first time since when Tom Noonan was a senior in high school, I had a chance to catch a game featuring a current Princeton recruit in person.
Choosing Shabazz over Shabbat, I took the train up to Essex County on Friday night in order to watch Spencer Weisz and Seton Hall Prep host Newark's Malcolm X Shabazz.
My observations and Robert Solomon's photos follow after the jump.
The site's original recruiting profile of Weisz can be found here.
Initially, I was struck by how unassuming Weisz is. With his slouched shoulders and slightly wider frame, you wouldn't expect much on a casual blush. Weisz doesn't sprint down the floor and he looks gassed from the opening tip.
Once the ball is in his hand, everything changes.
Weisz is certainly 6'5" but used as and introduced as a guard for the Pirates.
According to someone I spoke with in the restroom before the opening tip, the SHP Pirates were playing without a couple of players due to the flu and with a pair of point guards in the backcourt switching ballhandling duties it took a little while for the home team to get going.
After standing mostly on the perimeter, it was Weisz' turn to create with possession. He crossed midcourt and suddenly got low to the ground, used an eye blink of a crossover and was into the lane with a burst, dishing firmly to a teammate for his first assist of the contest.
Also of note was how Weisz guarded Shabazz's point and did not let him get angles into the lane. Beat once he blocked a layup from behind with the play waved off due to the reach of a teammate.
When away from the ball Weisz was very vocal directing the defense.
The more Weisz had the ball in his hands though, the better Seton Hall Prep played. On one rare occasion where he posted on the far block Weisz zipped a pass with two hands backwards over his head for what would have been an incredible assist had the layup been completed by another Pirate.
His next time driving into the lane a hook turned into a zippy feed for a reverse.
Weisz did not look for his own shot until a great passing possession where the ball went inside, out to the corner and over to Weisz on the left wing for a high arc three.
The first quarter ended with the teams tied at 11 as Weisz' three quarter court toss was on target but came off the center of the glass loudly, catching rim in the process.
Towards the end of the quarter a familiar face appeared in the doorway of the gym as Princeton assistant Marcus Jenkins arrived.
Weisz hit again from outside, a three from well behind the right wing.
He was able to score in traffic on a drive, freeing his right hand for a push shot that showed good control.
A surge from Seton Hall Prep turned a tie game into a 30-15 contest at the break.
At intermission Weisz was unofficially 3-7 from the field (eight points), 2-3 from three with four assists, three rebounds, one block and one turnover.
In the second half Weisz shined. A backdoor pass on a beautiful line resulted in a dunk for fellow senior Tom Lacey.
Then Weisz read a passing lane and was off for an uncontested drive that drew a disappointed "awwwww." from the crowd as Weisz went with a sure layup instead of a fancy dunk.
A no look feed by Weisz a few seconds later was one more assist. What I liked about Weisz' passes were how fast and firm they were without being too hard to handle. You could sense a buzz in the stands anticipating what he might do with the basketball next. It was legitimately fun to watch.
While a few of his more ambitious attempts resulted in turnovers (I'm thinking of one diagonal feed that had to get through too many men specifically), the only shot he took I wasn't crazy about was a catch/launch three from the far side that sailed well to the left, nicking the rim.
A posting Lacey found Weisz cutting for a layup and foul which gave the future Tiger 12, missing his first free throw attempt of the evening.
Weisz read another passing lane but could not turn up the court with the ball before momentum carried him onto the sideline. I gave him a steal and a turnover here, other scorers might disagree.
The nifty passes kept coming. Weisz lowered his shoulder on a drive to the right, dropping a dish around to a trailing teammate at the last instant.
Another feed met a fellow Pirate curing to the rim but the basket was waved off with a foul ruled to have come before the shot. Weisz put his hands on his head in disbelief.
When Weisz was the inbounder under SHP's basket, it meant a designed lob to the rim. Lacey could not get the finish to go so Weisz stepped into the field of play and when Shabazz had rebounded promptly ripped the ball out of a Bulldog's hands and went up for a finish and foul, converting the three point play.
Seton Hall Prep led 46-25 after three quarters but Weisz, who had not left the floor to this point, stayed in the game.
Weisz was not great at the line on this particular night (3-6) but he was the team's designated technical free throw shooter when a frustrated Shabazz forward got T'd up.
His performance was capped with a sequence where Weisz stole the ball, was able to gain possession under duress, bulled his way to the basket and bullied a shot up while being fouled for a three point play.
Weisz added a pair of bounce passes for assists, one from far out in transition and the other across his body on the break. With 2:35 showing and the result no longer in dispute Weisz finally headed to the bench.
By my count he had 19 points on 7-14 shooting, was 2-4 from three, 3-6 on free throws and distributed nine assists against four turnovers. I also counted seven rebounds, five steals and a block.
Conclusions, based on a very small sample size:
Seton Hall Prep improved to 13-2 with the victory and the Pirates are the top seed for the Essex County Tournament, ranked 11th in the state by the Star Ledger. Weisz is a huge part of their success, his distribution choices and delivery ability making his quite able teammates that much better.
It is exciting to imagine what Weisz could do when surrounded by players a bit larger and faster. I have grown to despise the expression "basketball I.Q." but I can see what people mean by it after watching Weisz play.
I'm more comfortable with a Coach Carril compliment.
He can see.
A one guard Princeton offense could easily turn into a three guard offense down the line with tall ballhandlers like Weisz and Steven Cook headed into the program next year.