California Basketball Diaries
By Mark Swanson '71, Class Secretary
Note: The end of the men's basketball has been disappointing, to say the least, with 3 OT losses, blowing a 21 point lead and missing free throws that could have won two games. The highlight was the trip to California documented below. Check out "Hard Cuts", episode 11 on the Princeton basketball web site for more reporting on the California trip and some terrific video coverage.
Day 1- Princeton vs. Cal Poly SLO
San Luis Obispo is miles and miles from everywhere. San Francisco is 4 hours away. Los Angeles is 4 hours away (plus detour around mudslides in Santa Barbara). After driving 6 hours from my home in Reno, NV, Suzette and I arrived in time for a quick meal at a downtown boutiquey restaurant with former WPRB broadcasting partner Ed Labowitz '70 (pictured to the left with the author). Cal Poly SLO's gym (not even close to being an arena) is in the middle of campus, with a well-trained army of students politely directing us to the gym. A surprisingly noisy crowd cheered their Mustangs and were intrigued to be hosting an Ivy League team. Cal Poly is a bad team, ranking 302 out of 351 Division I teams. It is a good engineering school, with over 20,000 applicants for 6000 freshman slots. The game was a laugher for Princeton, with the Tigers dominating all phases of the game against an inferior opponent. Final: 80-60. A handful of parents cheered their sons from behind the bench. Labowitz and I were the only alums present. I talked to Braley Albert's father at halftime. Braley is a junior hoops star at Brentwood School in LA and on the radar of Princeton coaches. Mr. Albert is from East Brunswick, NJ and would welcome the chance for his son to become a Tiger.
Day 2 - The Friends of Princeton Basketball Reception
Steve Mayer's '81 stunning Bel Air estate was the site for a lavish reception. Steve apparently did well enough in securities trading to purchase the property (notorious for being the site of Michael Jackson's demise in 2009) at a discounted price of $18 mil. Pool and jaccuzzi were beautiful, as alums, parents and the men's team enjoyed a warm evening. I connected with Douglas Chin, Jr. '21 (who was pleased to be in our mentee class) and his dad, Doug '83. Charlie Bagin '21, largely varsity practice player, typified the bright and curious minds in his class. Dan Mavraides '11 chatted about his continuing hoops career in 3-on-3 tournaments. He is on a US team going to Brazil for world championships. Coach Mitch Henderson '98 and Ivy Defensive Player of the Year Myles Stephens '19 were nice enough to talk and pose for pictures with me and my brother Glenn '76. The players all introduced themselves and their academic pursuits, including senior thesis topics, to the attentive crowd. Parents of Amir Bell '18 traveled from East Brunswick (that place again). Ryan Schwieger '21 also had parental support from Charlotte, where his dad, Rick, a former All-American decathlete at Nebraska, does track and field and IndyCar broadcasts for NBC. Ryan posted a video imitating Carmelo Anthony's workout on Instagram, noted by New York Times. All in all, thanks to the Friends of Princeton Basketball and the Princeton Club of Southern California for arranging an evening enjoyed by all.
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Mark Swanson '71, Coach Mitch Henderson '98,
and Glenn Swanson '76
Swansons and Myles Stephens '19
Day 3: Historic win over Southern Cal
After a pregame gathering nearby, a small (4041) but enthusiastic crowd went to the Galen Center on the USC campus. A sumptuous facility, with lots of displays of Trojan athletic achievements, Galen has the fresh look of a modern basketball arena, though 10 years old. Most annoying was a DJ who constantly tried to intimidate the Tigers into missing two consecutive free throws, in which case the crowd would receive free KFC. The Tigers were cowed neither by the facility nor the DJ and played their best game of the year. In a back-and- forth first half, Princeton led by 7, fell behind by 9 and reduced deficit to 3 at the half with a late rally. Tiger supporters were encouraged by play against a preseason top 10 program. Behind inspired play by Myles Stephens '19 and Sebastian Much '21 (from nearby Laguna Niguel), the Tigers dominated most of the second half, stretching out a lead to 11 points with 8 minutes to go. The best coaching move of the year came late as the Tigers went to a box-and-one to slow down USC's unstoppable 6'11" center. 6'1" Devin Canady '19 performed the task brilliantly With an 7-point lead and 45 seconds to go, it looked a satisfying triumph was in the books. But end-game turnovers and missed free throws, a pattern which would be repeated the rest of the year, allowed USC to tie game and send to OT. Tiger fans were momentarily perplexed and deflated. Surprisingly, the Tigers got their second wind in OT and out-steadied the host Trojans to a memorable 103-93 victory. Princeton fans were exhausted but exhilarated. The win partly erased the bad taste of 1969's one-point loss to #1 UCLA in Pauley Pavilion. The game looked like a coming-out party for Much, who joined with the Big Three of Stephens, Bell '18 and Canady for 90 Princeton points. It was to be Much's highest point total and minutes played for the year. Those who attended will have a wonderful memory of December 19, 2017.
Doug Chin '83, Douglas Chin Jr '21, Mark, Rachel Lee '21