Web Exclusives: From the P-Nut Gallery
a column by Nate Sellwyn nsellyn@princeton.edu

December 18, 2002:

Easy on the miracles


Hey there sports fans,

The men's basketball team has fallen on hard times. Sure, in my years here, the Tigers have won an Ivy title, been to the NCAA tournament, and sent a player — Nate Walton '01 — to within striking distance of the NBA.

Still, the teams of late cannot hold a candle to those of Princeton's past. This team will never crack the Top 10 in the national rankings. This team will not upset Maryland — or anyone — when March Madness rolls around. This team will never capture the NIT title. Spencer Gloger '04, Will Venable '05, and Eddie Persia '04 will never be Bill Bradley '65, Kit Mueller '91, or Steve Goodrich '98.

These are bold statements, but I have all the proof I need: It takes a "miracle" to beat Monmouth.

On December 3, Princeton found itself trailing the historic Hawks of Monmouth University 49-39 with about six minutes left in the game. Battling back, the Tigers evened the score, and found themselves with a tie game, the ball, and seven-tenths of a second on the clock. Sophomore Will Venable entered the ball to junior Ed Persia, who heaved a bank from well inside his own half for the victory.

The Trentonian said Persia's "75-foot missile made for one of the most amazing victories for this storied program." The Daily Princetonian did slightly better, acknowledging that the "80-footer' gave the Tigers victory over a team [they] should have handily beaten."

Exactly. Monmouth. The Hawks, after the defeat to Princeton, dropped to 1-3. Dave Lewullis converting on a backdoor cut to beat basketball dynasty UCLA in the NCAA tournament is a miracle. An amazing victory, even. Eddie Persia fluking home a full-court launch to escape with a win over Monmouth is not.

Besides, if words like "miracle" get thrown around for games like this, what will we have left to say when we win something worth talking about? I'd rather not see headlines like "Tigers drop Blue Devils in athletic apocalypse," or "Full-court cataclysm: Tigers ranked #1!"

I know we need things to celebrate out. Let's just not make a mountain out of a rather embarrassing molehill.

By the way, the best quote from that evening, by far, came from Monmouth head coach Dave Calloway. Upset by the officials handling of the shot, Calloway said, "If in three-tenths of a second you can only tip the ball, then he must have caught, turned and pivoted in the other four-tenths. You do the math. But hey, they're from the Ivy League, they do math a lot better than I do."

Not only is he hilarious, the coach has a pretty good point. To throw a ball more than 50 feet — no matter how much quarterback you played in high school — you need to bring that arm way back. I'll never take a victory away from the Tigers, but the NBA's new instant replay would likely have been a just addition to this ballgame. All that hoops talk had me looking through Princeton basketball archives, and I found out some trivia-worthy stuff. Try these five:


1. Of the following, who was the only player NEVER to be named Ivy League Player of the Year:

Steve Goodrich '98

Kit Mueller '91

Bill Bradley '65

Frank Sowinski '78


2. What Tiger went on to win the ABA Rookie of the Year award:

Brian Taylor '73

Geoff Petrie '70

Gary Walters '67

Bill Bradley '65


3. Who was the first player in Princeton history to notch 1,000 career points:

Bud Haabestad '55

Carl Belz '59 *63

Jim Brangan '60

Art Hyland '63


4. Sydney Johnson '97, the 1996 Ivy League Player of the Year, is notable for what reason:

Damned good looking

Only player to receive the award while averaging less than 10 points per game

Most recent Princetonian to win the award

First ever Princetonian to play all five different positions





Answers: 1. c, 2. b, 3. a, 4. b


You can reach Nate at nsellyn@Princeton.EDU