Video: Catching Up with Princeton Men's Basketball Alums in Philadelphia
A step inside the Gallagher Athletic Center at Philadelphia University last Friday night was a step back in time for those who followed the Princeton men's basketball team just a few years ago.
There were nine former Tigers, all in black uniforms with orange trim, looking much the same as when they graduated anywhere from five years to three days before. Ian Hummer wore a No. 34 jersey, the same number he wore throughout a career that ended as the second-highest scoring in program history. Douglas Davis wore a No. 20 jersey, the number that was on his back as he lied on the court at Lee Amphitheater three years ago, swarmed by fellow students in orange and black after hitting perhaps the most memorable buzzer-beater in program history.
But even though all nine players in those black-and-orange uniforms last Friday night share the connection of being Princeton alums, it was social media and some entrepreneurs with no connection to the university or the men's basketball program that brought the reunion together.
Jimmy Sherburne, his playing days just completed, received a message on Facebook from a staff member of something called The Basketball Tournament asking if he'd be interested. The event would bring together 32 teams comprised of players with a common alma mater or hometown or no such connection at all other than perhaps knowing some of the same people. The field of 32 would be whittled down to two over a three-day span in June, with the remaining two teams playing for a nice amount of prize money, half a million dollars.
It was that figure, all six of them before the decimal point, that had Alex Okafor '09 skeptical, he recounted to tournament organizers in an interview session after the first game. Someone unknown reaches out to you online mentioning some high-dollar figure like that, and it's a signal to click that delete button and maybe spam flag too. But no, this was for real, even though 31 teams would be leaving with, for the most part, memories and a fun weekend with friends.
So, the men's hoops young alumni network got going, and before long the team had a roster and a name, PUBB Champions Tour, a reference to the program and the Ivy League title that most of the team's members won in 2011. From that group, there was three of that team's top four scorers in Hummer '13, Davis '12 and Kareem Maddox '11, plus Sherburne '14, T.J. Bray '14, Brendan Connolly '13 and Will Barrett '14. Okafor and Pawel Buczak '10, who graduated just before that Ivy title-winning team joined the PUBB Champions Tour too.
Even with the name and the roster, the team had to recruit fans to sign up on the tournament's Web site, and the teams with the top 24 fan counts were given automatic berths into the field. Tournament organizers selected the eight other spots. Thanks to the Web-focused handiwork of Sherburne and the rest, the Tiger alums got one of the automatic bids, and a couple weeks before the tournament, the bracket itself was out. Princeton would open Friday night, June 6, against a team of alumni of St. Anthony High School (N.J.) alums.
Several hundred fans were spread over two courts in the Philadelphia University gym when the nine former Tigers entered, and though the tip came about 15 minutes late, enough members of the St. Anthony team arrived for things to get going. All nine Princeton alums played, and just as it seemed to play out so many times when these guys played in the authentic Princeton jerseys, balanced scoring led the way. Five Tigers reached 10 points, but none scored more than 12. Hummer and Davis co-led the team with 12 points apiece, a phrase that has appeared in this space more than a few times from 2009-12. Princeton never trailed in a 66-47 win.
That brought the Tiger alums a Saturday afternoon date with a group of guys called Team Barstool, a collection of players with Division I and some pro credentials, including Hamilton, N.J. native Dahntay Jones, who played at Rutgers and Duke before spending 10 seasons in the NBA. It wasn't Jones but Matt Walsh, a Florida alum who still plays in Europe, who led the Barstoolers with 20 points in the Round of 16 game.
The contest came down to one last possession for the Princeton alums, who led early by as many as seven points before seeing Team Barstool come back and lead by as many as 10. Davis hit a 3-pointer that pulled the Tiger alums within 67-66 with 13 seconds to go, and after Jones split from the line to make it 68-66, Davis had the ball as the seconds ticked away and lofted a would-be game-winning 3-pointer.
Team Barstool survived where Princeton's foes in the 2011 Ivy League playoff game didn't, and the Princeton guys went out to a worthy opponent. The Barstool boys will be playing for the big check later this month against a group of Notre Dame alums.
Sure, it would have been great to see the hoops reunion continue for a couple more games, maybe even long enough to make the final of an event that didn't exist a year ago but brought back some nice memories for one weekend in Philly. And even though Davis's try didn't go down this time, we're good with the one that went down three years ago but will never seem too far in the past.