Men's Basketball: Tigers' shooting guards step up
Last year’s men’s basketball team finished one victory over Harvard shy of capturing a share of its second straight Ivy League championship, after completing an impressive 10-4 season in Ivy League play (20-12 overall). To do so, the Tigers relied heavily on critical production from guard Doug Davis ’12, who contributed an average of 33 minutes and 13.8 points to each game.
This year (3-4 Ivy League, 0-0 overall), some unfamiliar faces have had to fill the void left by the departure of Davis and the injury of senior guard Jimmy Sherburne, who averaged nearly nine minutes per game last season.
Most notably, sophomore guard Clay Wilson has been asked to assume a much larger role in his second season, averaging over 22 minutes per game compared to fewer than five last year. Junior guard Chris Clement has also taken advantage of the opportunity to gain more playing time, earning his first four career starts and improving his minutes per game average from 2.5 to 14.6.
The sophomore and junior have responded admirably to their first calls to significant action, and their senior captain and forward Ian Hummer has taken notice.
“Being that both of them didn’t play much last year, the stuff that is being asked of them could really be overwhelming,” he said. “The growth in both of them has been fantastic.”
The squad has also occasionally called upon the services of senior guards Ameer Elbuluk and Isaac Serwanga at the end of games. The two walk-on athletes were initially asked to assist in scout drills to help assuage the burden of junior guard T.J. Bray’s preseason injury, but eventually they earned permanent spots on the varsity roster.
Though Bray has played more minutes than any other Tiger this season as the team’s true starting point guard, Princeton’s unique offensive format leaves the point guard and shooting guard essentially interchangeable. Both players can share the responsibility of calling plays, distributing the ball, and — like just about everyone in the Princeton offense — sinking open three-pointers. Sophomore forward Denton Koon and senior forward Mack Darrow, while listed as a big men, are major forces shooting outside and contribute valuable play on the wing.
No player is more familiar with three-point shooting than Wilson, who has knocked down a team-high 19 of his 43 three-point attempts for an impressive 44.2 percent. His 19 made three-pointers ranks second in the Ivy League, while his percentage is the seventh best.
The sharpshooter showed off his skills most memorably against the Tigers’ toughest opponent this year, No. 4 ranked Syracuse. Wilson hit a remarkable five of nine three pointers, one of which brought Princeton within six points of the heavy favorites late in the contest. Syracuse pulled away after that moment to win convincingly, but the game’s takeaway message was still clear for the Tigers: Wilson is ready for the spotlight.
The sophomore understands what his coaches and more experienced teammates expect of him, though he is more concerned with helping his team score points than with accruing personal stats.
“Coach wants me to be able to stretch the defense out allowing more room for our bigs to do what they do – best,” Wilson said. “I feel comfortable shooting the ball from pretty far out, but it is up to me to take smart shots within the offense. It is important to get the ball inside because that is the strength of our team this year.”
Hummer notes that Wilson’s strengths are complimented brilliantly by Bray and Clement, each of whom brings a specific skill set to various game scenarios.
“Whenever there is pressure, coach looks for guards who can really handle the ball,” he said. “For this, coach likes to call on T.J. Other times he may want some outside shooting and a lot of times he will call on Clay. Now when we need a guard who can really bother their guards, he likes to use Chris as a way to get a few quick steals and crucial stops.”
The three guards have combined to contribute 18.4 points and 7.8 rebounds per game this year, and have done an admirable job leading their fellow — and often more experienced — Tigers on both ends of the floor. Davis left behind some gargantuan shoes to fill, but the newest additions to Princeton’s backcourt have responded nicely to the challenge.
Reader Comments (0)
No comments yet. Be the first to post your opinion on this article.