March 7, 2001:
change for Nate Walton '01: Tigers enjoy surprising success with
their new center
lacrosse boasts talent, depth: Tough early schedule will be a barometer
for championship hopes
Matt Golden's From
the Cheap Seats column
by Beverly Schaefer
change for Nate Walton '01
Tigers enjoy surprising success with their new center
Between August 31 and
the start of its season in November, the Princeton mens basketball
teams roster and coaching staff were ravaged by injuries and
defections. The losses caused concern among Tiger fans and vastly
changed captain Nate Waltons expectations heading into his
Walton would begin his
final collegiate tour with a new head coach, a new position, and,
most significant, a pivotal role on the Tiger squad. Recruited as
a forward, Walton was moved to the center position, which, at Princeton,
is a position true to its name. The Tigers success historically
revolves around their big man in the middle.
I remember finding
out about Chris Young 02 signing with the [Pittsburgh] Pirates
and coach Carmody leaving on the same day, recalls Walton,
who at six feet, seven inches tall is noticeably shorter than most
opposing centers. There was a sense of excitement that I would
be placed in such a key role, but it was disappointing losing Chris.
He was a very talented player, but weve tried to maintain
a positive outlook on the situation from day one.
He adds, I remember
saying to my dad, Well, dad, weve got a new coach, and
Im going to be playing center. I guess I better go out and
start practicing my post moves. He told me not to make too
big of a deal out of it. He said it doesnt matter what position
you play, a good basketball player is a good basketball player no
matter where he is on the floor.
Those words would be
typical of a proud father supporting his son, but when that father
is Bill Walton, winner of three collegiate national basketball championships
with UCLA, two NBA championships with the Portland Trail Blazers
and Boston Celtics, and a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame,
you give them some added credence.
Proving his father right, Walton has been rock solid for Princeton.
The Tiger veteran, whose younger brothers, Chris and Luke, play
at San Diego State and the University of Arizona, respectively,
was averaging 10.3 points and 5.1 rebounds per game heading into
a February 13 first-place, Ivy-League showdown with the Penn Quakers.
(For coverage of that game visit the PAW Web site at www.princeton.
edu/~ paw.) Battling through an early-season ankle injury, Walton
posted respectable numbers and provided leadership that kept the
young Princeton squad afloat. The Tigers dropped seven of their
first 11 games while a hobbled Walton and several new faces struggled
to find consistency and continuity. But as Ivy League play approached,
Walton seemed to hit his stride. After posting a career-high 26
points against the College of New Jersey, Walton paced the Tigers
to a 40 Ivy start that left Princeton knotted in a first-place
tie with Penn.
Nate has been absolutely
outstanding for us, said first-year head coach John Thompson
III 88. He does everything we ask him to, and hes
been a tremendous asset. He may take some jump-hooks at times that
he shouldnt, but youve got to keep in mind, he was recruited
as a forward. In my mind, hes made a remarkable transition.
That transition has presented
an unusually difficult learning curve. The center plays a nontraditional
role in the highly disciplined Princeton offense. You touch
the ball so frequently at the center position in our offense, its
difficult to know when you should look to shoot the ball and when
to pass the ball, Walton explains. In most offenses,
the center doesnt get the ball very often. Basically, when
he gets it, he shoots it. Thats not the case in our offense.
With Walton anchoring
the middle and freshmen Andre Logan, Ed Persia, and Konrad Wysocki
rounding into steady contributors, the Tigers have already surpassed
the expectations of most. But for Walton, in the twilight of his
Ivy career, that only means it is time to raise the bar. He says,
For us to . . . play in the postseason, we need to put forth
a consistent effort every night out. That is our only focus. If
we do that, weve got a chance to win every game we play. All
you can ask for is a chance to win every time out. That effort
was evident in the Tigers first battle with Penn, when Princeton
rolled to a 6753 win for a leg up in the Ivy title chase.
Princeton fans would
agree that Walton and the Tigers have already delivered more than
anyone had a right to ask for when the season began.
By Mark Gola
Mark Gola is a frequent
contributor to PAW.
by Beverly Schaefer
lacrosse boasts talent, depth
Tough early schedule will be a barometer for championship hopes
Last year, the Princeton
mens lacrosse team pulled off one of its biggest upsets in
years, beating the University of Virginia, 1211, in the NCAA
tournament semifinals. The Tigers 137 loss to Syracuse
in the Memorial Day title game barely dimmed the glow on a year
in which Princeton went 123, won a sixth straight Ivy League
title, and ran its streak of Ivy League wins to 31 straight.
Princeton returns almost
all of its key players and adds several freshmen who could see significant
playing time in 2001. Once again, Princetons primary challenger
for the NCAA title will be Syracuse, which enters this season as
a favorite to repeat. The Tigers themselves hope for a return to
the title game. Ryan Mollett 01, an honorable mention All-America
defenseman last year and one of Princetons four captains,
explains, We think that we have the talent to be playing on
Memorial Day, but its spread out so evenly that every day
were pushing each other in practice to see whos going
to be playing for us on that day.
Cocaptain Trevor Tierney
01 proved his mettle in goal last year, earning honorable
mention All-America status. Hell be protected by one of the
best, and deepest, defenses in the game. Along with Mollett, starters
Scott Farrell 02, another honorable mention All-America, and
Damien Davis 03 return. Brian Lieberman 03, Joe Rosenbaum
03, Ricky Schultz 04, and John Walsh 01 will compete
for the longstick midfield spot. Winship Ross 01 returns as
a defensive midfielder, one who wields a short stick but plays only
when his team is on defense, and will be joined there by Chip Buzzeo
01, another cocaptain. All of that experience will help Princeton
immensely. Head coach Bill Tierney says, Last year, going
into the season we really didnt have much of an idea of what
each other was doing. This year, we know that we have four or five
guys who can play defense at a really high level.
The Tigers have even
more depth on the attack, where they return all of their key contributors.
Cocaptain Matt Striebel 01, another honorable mention All-America,
will again run the offense from behind the cage. B. J. Prager 02
has recovered from the knee injury that ended his season last April
and should continue to rack up goals on the crease. Last year, Brendan
Tierney 02, Sean Hartofilis 03, and Josh White 03
also saw substantial time at attack, though White will probably
play midfield this spring. Princeton also added two of the four
best attack recruits in the country: Ryan Boyle 04 and Jason
Donegar 04, who Tierney says have been all we expected
Add to that list Will
MacColl 03, who Tierney says is perhaps the most improved
player on the roster, and Princeton could have a high-scoring attack
where playing time will be hard to come by. No ones
going to play as much as he wants to play, Tierney cautions,
adding that a successful campaign should salve any brooding about
whos playing. White wont be the only attackman to see
time at midfield, where Princeton suffered its only serious loss
to graduation Josh Sims 00 was twice the college midfielder
of the year and was Princetons best offensive player the last
two years. Tierney sees a partial replacement in Rob Torti 01,
who ran on the first midfield as a freshman but was hit by a variety
of injuries in 1999 and 2000. Rob Torti is by far the most
dominant midfielder weve had in the last few years outside
of Sims, Tierney says.
Matt Bailer 01
has been the Tigers face-off man the past two years, but he
will be challenged by Drew Casino 04, perhaps the most highly
touted face-off recruit Tierney has landed at Princeton. Douglas
Baugher 02 and Greg Golaszewski 03 will also take some
Princeton opens its schedule
with four tough opponents. On March 3 the Tigers faced Johns Hopkins,
and on March 10 they host the University of Virginia, both of whom
were national semifinalists last year. The Tigers travel to Hofstra,
an NCAA quarterfinalist last year, on March 17, and to Syracuse
on March 24. The schedule eases after that, with games against Hobart,
Rutgers, and the Ivy League slate.
Heading into the season,
Princeton and Syracuse are clearly the two top teams in the country.
Last year, the Orangemen were far superior to the Tigers, but that
talent gap has narrowed substantially. This year, the two teams
could square off at Rutgers on Memorial Day in a classic NCAA championship
By David Marcus 92
David Marcus is a frequent
contributor to PAW.