ESPN: Princeton’s Henry Caruso to become graduate transfer

Princeton senior guard Henry Caruso will become a graduate transfer next season, Jeff Goodman of ESPN reported Wednesday.

Caruso was reported out for the year last week with a toe injury, making him the second Tiger this week to be declared out for this season.

Caruso was a first-team All-Ivy selection as a junior last season, leading the Tigers in scoring and rebounding at 15.0 points and 6.2 rebounds per game and shooting at a 52.7 percent clip. Caruso contributed 9.5 points and 4.3 boards per contest in eight games this season.

The San Mateo, Calif. native joins a long list of Ivy graduate transfers in recent years, including Columbia’s Grant Mullins, Dartmouth’s Alex Mitola, Brown’s Rafael Maia and Princeton’s own Denton Koon.

Fellow Tigers senior Hans Brase was declared out for the year Sunday after sustaining another season-ending knee injury.

Princeton Season Preview – An Ivy Title There For the Taking

Princeton enters the 2015-16 season riding a wave of high expectations. Last season, the Tiger express was derailed by a 3-8 start, disappointing but not entirely unexpected in view of the preseason loss of senior Denton Koon, from whom great things were anticipated and, clearly, needed. (Koon elected to graduate with his class and will use his fourth year of eligibility at Hofstra.) The Tigers finished on a high note, claiming the last four Ivy contests and third place behind the co-champion Yale Bulldogs and Harvard Crimson. The Tigers’ 9-1 record against all of their Ivy foes other than Harvard and Yale is one of the main reasons for optimism in Jadwin. Another is the  return of five starters and six of the first eight in the rotation, while Harvard and Yale lose All-Ivy caliber players not easily replaced.

Read morePrinceton Season Preview – An Ivy Title There For the Taking

Sizing up the Ivy transfers

It’s been an awfully busy offseason for transfers throughout the Ivy League. Shonn Miller is off to Storrs. Rafael Maia is pining for Pittsburgh, Alex Mitola is set for D.C. and Denton Koon is headed to Hempstead.

But which Ivy transfer is going to have the biggest impact on their team in 2015-16?

Read moreSizing up the Ivy transfers

Alex Mitola to become graduate transfer, play final season elsewhere

According to several sources, including his high school coach, Dartmouth junior guard Alex Mitola will become a graduate transfer and play his final season at another school.

“Alex always wanted to see if he could play up at a little bit of a higher level,” Gill St. Bernard’s coach Mergin Sina told Jerry Carino. “Out of high school he didn’t have a chance to do it.”

The news represents a huge loss for Big Green coach Paul Cormier and the Dartmouth basketball program. Mitola averaged 12.4 points, 2.7 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game, good for seventh in scoring, first in free-throw percentage, 10th in assists, second in three-pointers made, second in assist/turnover ratio and second in minutes played.

“I’m disappointed and think he’s making a terrible mistake,” Paul Cormier said to the Valley News of Mitola. “He can’t get that (fourth year at Dartmouth) back. The decision that requires the most substance is staying here and following through with the teammates you came in with.”

The Valley News also reports that Mitola plans to play his final season of college eligibility with a higher-profile program and pursue a graduate business degree before playing professionally overseas.

“We’ve gone from nine victories to 12 to 14 since Alex has been here,” Cormier told the Valley News. “He could have left a real legacy. I hope this isn’t something he later regrets, because it’s not ending the way I think it should.”

“It was hard because I know the situation it puts them in, but I felt it was what was best for me and my career moving forwards,” Mitola said.

The Ivy League will miss Mitola’s potent long-range shooting, superior ballhandling and clutch play. Dartmouth would not have made its first postseason since 1959 this season without him. I discussed what I thought Mitola’s versatility meant to Dartmouth in an On the Vine in February, and One Bid Wonders correctly identified him as the “culture changer” in Hanover earlier this season.

2015 Outgoing Ivy Transfers

Denton Koon

Shonn Miller

Kenyatta Smith

Rafael Maia

Cam Crocker

Galal Cancer

Alex Mitola

Princeton routs Lipscomb, Amir Bell steps up

The Tigers got what they needed last night at Jadwin: a struggling team on the road. The lopsided matchup resulted in a 77-54 Princeton win in a game dominated by the home team almost from the first tap. Senior designated shooter Clay Wilson had a holiday party for himself, canning five three-pointers and four free throws for a game and career high 19 points.

Amir Bell, the Tigers’ heralded freshman point guard, played perhaps his best overall game, leading the Tigers in minutes played (34) and assists (five), while adding 11 points and two steals. Best of all, he kept his personal fouls to a manageable three. Many observers believe Bell may hold the key to the Tigers’ success in league play, especially if he can continue to score in double figures every night.

One ominous note – senior captain Denton Koon was not on the bench, although nothing official has been released by the basketball office. An October knee injury sidelined the versatile 6-foot-8 Missouri native whose status going forward is now doubtful at best.

The Tigers put out the welcome mat for Liberty on Monday evening before taking a break for Christmas.

Steven Cook leads Princeton past Stony Brook

Steven Cook notched 28 points and seven steals in a pull-away victory over Stony Brook. (ivyleaguedigitalnetwork.com)
Steven Cook notched 28 points and seven steals in a pull-away victory over Stony Brook. (ivyleaguedigitalnetwork.com)

PRINCETON, N.J. – On a night when the Ivy League generally beat up on the America East Conference, Princeton did its part, besting the Stony Brook Seawolves at Jadwin in the Tigers’ return home after almost two weeks on the road. A little home cooking was just what the Tigers needed, especially after Wednesday’s disaster Fairleigh Dickinson.

The storyline for Saturday, a come-from-behind 77-64 victory, starts with a formula developed when we began to keep score in basketball:  Find the guy with the hot hand and keep getting him the ball. Steven Cook, the rangy Tiger sophomore from Winnetka, Ill., was that guy.

Cook scored a career-high 28 points, doubling his previous best, shooting 5-for-7 from three point territory. He added an impressive seven steals, mostly from the top of the Tigers’ 1-3-1 zone, a total exceeded only one time in the last 40 seasons.

Read moreSteven Cook leads Princeton past Stony Brook

Princeton makes progress on the West Coast

Although the Tigers went 1-2 in the Wooden Legacy tournament, Mitch Henderson believes his young team made progress on the West Coast trip.

“[Freshman point guard] Amir Bell is settling into the position, showing a better understanding of what we expect from him and getting more comfortable in each game,” Henderson said.

Bell’s work in the tournament earned him Ivy Rookie of the Week recognition in Big Apple Buckets’ Ivy weekly roundup. The rapidly maturing freshman, cast as “the heir apparent to T. J. Bray,” averaged 11 points per game in Anaheim and, impressively, committed only one turnover in the three games. Henderson said that he was pleased with how freshman center Alec Brennan responded while getting significant minutes in the Golden State. Sophomore Henry Caruso from San Mateo, Cal., came off the bench in each game to spark several Tiger rallies. His 15 points in 20 minutes against UTEP in the opener on Thanksgiving afternoon led all Tigers.

Read morePrinceton makes progress on the West Coast

Princeton basketball fell to Lafayette, but hey, Lafayette’s pretty good

Princeton’s visit to the beautifully renovated Kirby Sports Center on the tree-studded campus of Lafayette University last night was marred by the frosty reception awaiting the Tigers. The players stepped off the bus into a cold, blustery night far more typical of a Pennsylvania January than mid-November. The arena was warmer, but no more hospitable for the young and still struggling Tigers.

For the first time this season, Mitch Henderson’s offense ran smoothly and efficiently from the outset through the initial 20-minute period. Princeton’s 44 points was easily its highest output for any half so far, more than doubling its 19-point total in the first stanza at George Mason two days earlier. The Tigers posted a fantastic 60 percent shooting mark (14-for-23) including a deadly 70 percent (9-for-13) from behind the arc.

Unfortunately, by rule, possession of the ball goes to the opponent after Tiger scores. Showing disdain for the Tigers’ defensive history, the Leopards veteran team outshot the Tigers (68 percent, 71 percent from three), canning a stunning 47 first-half points. Quite easy to understand why Fran O’Hanlon is so bullish on his chances for a postseason run this year.

Tiger fans, grateful to be within reach at the intermission, took some solace in the unlikelihood that the Leopards could keep it up for the whole game. The Tiger fans were right: Lafayette “cooled off” with only 36 in the second period. Not to worry, Fran. Princeton could manage only 22. The only issue in the last 10 minutes was the eventual margin. It was 17 as the Leopards came away with an impressive 83-66 win. Of Lafayette’s total of 83 points, the starting five accounted for 82, as all of them reached double figures. This is a solid team, indeed.

Read morePrinceton basketball fell to Lafayette, but hey, Lafayette’s pretty good

Princeton’s offense lagging behind its defense so far

Mike Tony’s analysis of the Tigers’ season-opening win against Rider was straight from the DP’s “yes but…” prism through which anything about Tiger hoops is typically filtered: “ nice win but the Tigers have depth issues…” After watching Princeton’s woeful 17 percent first-half shooting in the first half against the A-10’s George Mason, one must acknowledge the painful accuracy of Mike’s observation.

At home against Rider none of Princeton’s starters came close to foul trouble (the Broncs shot just four free throws), which allowed Mitch Henderson to spread 90 percent of the minutes among six players. Last year’s Ivy Rookie of the Year Spencer Weisz and junior F-C Hans Brase held the Tigers together after Rider spurted to a nine-point second half lead. The 64-58 win was satisfying although not at all convincing. As Mike said, “A win is a win…”

Reality slapped the Tigers in the kisser at George Mason on Sunday afternoon. Princeton, undoubtedly aware that the Patriots had dropped their home opener to last year’s Ivy doormat Cornell on Friday, arrived in Fairfax with high expectations. Dreadful shooting and early foul trouble for freshman point guard Amir Bell exposed the Tigers’ depth problems in the first half, as the Patriots cruised to a lead as big as 17. The first half closed with the Tigers on the short end of a 32-19 score.

Read morePrinceton’s offense lagging behind its defense so far

Princeton’s lack of depth troubling against Rider

Yes, a win is a win, and Princeton’s come-from-behind 64-58 victory over Rider certainly qualifies as a successful season opener. But there’s more to a box score than wins and losses, and the Rider-Princeton box score was discouraging in unexpected ways for the Tigers.

Going into this season, Princeton figured to be one of the deepest teams in the league, even with Denton Koon lost indefinitely with an MCL injury. But what I identified as a potential tendency to rely too heavily on Spencer Weisz and Hans Brase seemed to come to fruition last night, as Brase and Weisz combined for nearly half of the Tigers’ shots from the field. That reliance worked in the end, but more disturbing was Princeton’s surprisingly small rotation of only six players. Mitch Henderson’s Princeton teams have traditionally had much more depth than what was on display last night, but rest assured, the Tigers do not stand a chance in Ivy play without a bench.

Having said that, this is a sample size of only one game and promising freshmen Amir Bell and Aaron Young are just beginning to round into shape at the collegiate level. For now, we know that they can dig deep. Maybe they just can’t play deep yet, that’s all.