Tosan in the pros: Evbuomwan nabs two-way deal, minutes with Detroit Pistons

When Ivy Hoops Online last left Tosan Evbuomwan, he was in the mildly perilous spot of playing out a 10-day contract, no future NBA home secured.

Worry no longer; Despite the Memphis Grizzlies letting him leave after four games, Evbuomwan quickly signed a new 10-day deal with the Detroit Pistons and subsequently was converted onto a two-way deal in Detroit announced Friday.

Two-way Tosan

What does that mean? Evbuomwan is not part of the Pistons’ primary 15-man roster but takes one of three two-way spots. Thus the Pistons can have him on their bench for the rest of the season. He can still be sent back to the G-League, where he’d played for Detroit’s affiliate previously, but he now has a more established NBA home than when he was between the G-League and 10-day deals.

Signing a two-way deal now gives Detroit the ability to bring him back next season as well. It likely allows the Pistons the first chance to add him to their 15-man roster if another team pursues him this offseason.

With 27 games to go and little but pride to play for, the 8-47 Pistons should have some minutes Evbuomwan can absorb. Plenty of NBA players have showed enough on two-way contracts to get into regular rotations, and it’s not far-fetched to believe Tosan can do the same within the next few seasons.

Tosan Evbuomwan has a long way to go to rank among the all-time leaders in most NBA games played among Ivy League veterans. (Bally Sports TV broadcast)

Taking on Kevin Durant

I recapped Evbuomwan’s two most fruitful games with Memphis. While he’s only played eight minutes in Detroit, there was plenty to watch as he battled against Kevin Durant’s Phoenix Suns.

In a 116-100 loss in Phoenix on Valentine’s Day, Evbuomwan got real rotation minutes in the first half. He checked in with 5:37 left in the second quarter and the woeful Pistons already down 19. (Unlike the Knicks’ public address announcer, the Suns’ PA man pronounced his last name without issue!)

His defensive role at first was hanging with Eric Gordon and Suns’ tertiary guys. The Pistons forced a shot-clock violation in his first defensive possession, albeit with Evbuomwan mostly off-ball.

With Durant (lightly) guarding him on the other end, Tosan ended up handling the 14-time All-Star in some crossmatches. He held his own on a contest against KD at the rim and picked him up above the three-point arc and navigated a screen well while Durant fired a quality assist. He even earned his first career steal by getting back in transition and interrupting Durant in the open court.

For the last three minutes of the half, Evbuomwan took over as Durant’s primary defender. He fouled him navigating an off-ball screen, giving KD two free throws, but he did fine work staying with the former MVP in the mid-post. Still, Durant was able to use his 6-foot-11 frame to nail the jumper over the outstretched Ivy alum.

His defensive highlight of the night came in garbage time when he returned to the game for the final three minutes of the fourth quarter. Taking on Théo Maledon in transition, he stayed with the speedy guard step-for-step and avoided fouling. He ultimately forced Maledon into an errant floater while getting whistled for a travel.

That’s me in the corner

In Evbuomwan’s first half minutes, his teammates barely looked at him. His role was primarily to stand in the corner. He made some fine cuts and got into good offensive rebounding position twice but on shots the Pistons made.

For the rest of those five and half minutes, Tosan stood by as his teammates made some horrendous passes. Tossing crosscourt to no one, hitting people in the first row, etc. It wasn’t pretty and easily explained the Suns’ hefty advantage.

In garbage time to close the fourth, Evbuomwan was finally an active participant in the offense. He set a few pin-down screens for Mike Muscala and also set more screens for point guard Marcus Sasser.

Sasser and Evbuomwan had some decent chemistry after an early mishap. On their first pick and roll, Sasser’s dump-off past into the post was mediocre and Tosan couldn’t handle it, leading to the Pistons’ maintaining the ball out of bounds. The Pistons left him wide open in the corner on the next play and Sasser nailed him for an easy trey.

On the next possession, Tosan rolled after a screen up top for Sasser and again benefitted from a great wraparound pass from Sasser, scoring an easy layup.

Finally, Evbuomwan crashed the glass late and helped deflect a ball to Muscala for an easy layup.

He wasn’t asked to do much in the halfcourt defensively in garbage time. Funnily enough, it took until his fifth NBA game to guard an ex-teammate, assigned fellow former Grizzly David Roddy, who barely saw the ball. The closest thing to a highlight was when he gobbled up a contested rebound despite Saben Lee crashing the glass.

Tosan Evbuomwan contributed five points on 2-for-2 shooting from the field and two rebounds in 8:24 of playing time for the Detroit Pistons in their 116-100 loss at the Phoenix Suns on Feb. 14. (Bally Sports TV broadcast)


Look, it’s eight minutes and the Pistons are rough to watch. Despite a paucity of high-quality teammates, Evbuomwan is simply asked to be a role player. Five games into his NBA career, he’s handling that just fine. With a two-way contract secured, he’s going to get more chances from the back of the bench, an exciting moment for the Ivy League … even Penn fans like me.

Tosan in the pros: How the Princeton star has looked with the Memphis Grizzlies

Memphis Grizzly and former Princeton standout Tosan Evbuomwan (right) guards New York Knick Taj Gibson during the Grizzlies’ 123-113 loss at the Knicks Tuesday night. Evbuomwan logged 20 minutes, posting four points on 2-for-4 shooting from the field and two assists. (Photo by Steven Tydings) 

With injuries to Marcus Smart and their other stars, there have been few reasons to tune into the 2023-24 Memphis Grizzlies. However, for the faithful readers of Ivy Hoops Online, the Grizzlies have been must-watch hoops for the last week.

That shift is because the Grizzlies, wracked with injuries, signed former Princeton star Tosan Evbuomwan to a 10-day contract in order to help fill their roster.

In three games, the mononymous Tosan has had a low-usage offensive role, but he’s logged ample minutes, averaging 22 a game for the woeful Grizz. He’s scored just 10 points on 4-for-13 shooting (2-for-7 from three-point range) while adding 14 rebounds. It also took the New York Knicks’ public address announcer four tries to pronounce Evbuomwan correctly, a true sign of a rookie.

Despite unspectacular numbers, there’s plenty to like about Tosan’s game and reason to think he could stick around for a second 10-day contract or even more NBA time in the months and years to come. Having watched his second and third games against the Celtics and Knicks, here’s my Quakeaways takeaways on Tosan’s game:

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Celebrating Penn’s regular season title with a shower of realism

For more than half a decade, I’ve spent my Fridays and Saturdays checking Ivy basketball scores, waiting for Penn to get another Ivy title (on the men’s side at least, I’ve seen the women do it a few times!). However, on one of the more consequential weekends in that pursuit, I was struck with a bout of indifference and a twinge of disappointment.

As you surely know reading this site, Penn clinched a co-regular season championship with Harvard on Saturday, ending an 11-year drought between Ivy crowns. It’s been way too long and there’s certainly some satisfaction as a fan watching them pull it off.

The disappointment is understandable: The Quakers had blown their opportunity to win the outright title and the No. 1 seed in the upcoming Ivy League Tournament, which would have not only given them a chance to play a No. 4 seed they had swept in the regular season but also an automatic bid into the NIT if they didn’t win the tournament.

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Finding yet another way to win, Penn musters knockout blow at Columbia

NEW YORK – For the last eight years, Levien Gymnasium has been a house of horrors for the University of Pennsylvania. Penn men’s basketball had lost seven of the last eight at Columbia, including five straight. There have been blowouts, ejections and a couple of photo finishes that went the home team’s way.

So when the Lions jumped out to a 17-6 lead, it followed an unsurprising trend.

“We definitely started off slow,” Penn sophomore Devon Goodman said. “They hit us first.”

Unlike previous seasons, the Quakers hit back, in large part thanks to a career night from Goodman, who scored a career-high 23 points with five assists and five boards. Add that to an impressive second half and an 18-0 run down the stretch and the Red and Blue staged a comeback to win 74-62 over the Light Blue on Friday night.

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Tweak the Ivy League Tournament tiebreakers

That Penn win on Saturday night … I’m kind of speechless. I tried my best to capture the moment for CSN Philly, but that was just a stunner of an ending. As a Penn alum, that Jackson Donahue shot is something I will not forget for a long time. To be fair, even if I wasn’t a Penn alum, that game was a thriller to attend.

With that being said, I do want to raise one quick issue about the Ivy League Tournament. I will still gripe that it should be just three teams, but if that had been the case going into tonight, we would have been robbed of a pretty fantastic moment.

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Princeton switches it up on Penn – literally

I attended both of the Penn-Princeton basketball games, each time as a writer for CSN Philly (you can read my recap of game one here and game two here!). While that means I looked for more of a Penn storyline to write about, I was struck after Tuesday’s game by how revealing the blowout 64-49 win was for the Tigers (hence this article).
The first game was an unmitigated disaster in the first half with just two combined assists and a plethora of turnovers, but Princeton emerged with a double-digit lead and soon expanded said lead to 21 points in the early second half. From there, Penn made just about every three-pointer imaginable for a good 10 minutes and tied the game. The Tigers pulled away soon after, but it was an impressive display of shooting for a road team, especially with the much ballyhooed sight lines at Jadwin Gym.

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Antonio Woods is Penn basketball’s second wind vs. Temple

PHILADELPHIA – For the first time in the Steve Donahue era, Penn basketball lost a Big 5 game.

Temple held the Quakers at an arm’s length the entire game before a late Red and Blue rally led by sophomore guard Antonio Woods fell just short in the 77-73 loss at the Palestra Wednesday night.

There are plenty of reasons for Penn’s ultimate defeat. Thirteen turnovers. Key offensive rebounds for the Owls. Poor shooting from beyond the arc in the first half to build that early deficit.

But there are also a few key positives to take out of this game, chief among them the performance of Woods. Antonio took over down the stretch, putting together what is now a patented dominant second half in a last ditch effort to bring the Quakers back, just as he did against Lafayette and Navy.

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Penn falls to Navy despite a comeback with a twist

PHILDADELPHIA – For the first time all season, Penn basketball has lost consecutive games.

The Red and Blue were thrown off from the opening tip by Navy, a squad which won its seventh consecutive game after an 0-2 start. The Quakers (4-3) got off to a slow start before staging a late comeback, only to be undone by a layup from Navy sophomore Shawn Anderson and some missed free throws by sophomore guard Antonio Woods in the final minute.

I’ll get to the comeback in a second, but the more notable part of this game was the beginning. This is the fourth straight game that Penn trailed at the half and the end of the first half exposed some weaknesses, particularly with the Quakers’ depth.

A turning point came when both Woods and senior center Darien Nelson-Henry each picked up two fouls, all within a two-minute span. The duo account for a lot of Penn’s offense, and it showed in their absence (they each subbed in for a few possessions later in the half, but were limited).

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Plus/minus analysis for analytics-friendly Penn basketball

Utilizing the box score and play-by-play from Penn’s matchups with Robert Morris and Central Connecticut State, this post uses unofficial plus-minus numbers for the Quakers in their first two games this season, both wins at home. Keep in mind that these numbers are a short sample size and do not yet include Penn’s win at Delaware State Tuesday.

Steve Donahue has made much of the fact that he is an analytics-friendly coach, emphasizing to his players that they seek high-percentage shots in the paint first and foremost before subsequently trying for three-pointers if they cannot get off layups. He has also said that he likes to go 10 deep in the first half, using as much of his bench as he can.

That means a lot of lineups for a coach who relies on a lot of analytics, which merits some further analysis of our own. We already established that Penn’s worst lineup against Central Connecticut State was also its most used lineup, as the starting lineup of Jake Silpe-Antonio Woods-Matt Howard-Sam Jones-Darien Nelson-Henry posted a -11 rating in 11:49 together on the court. Donahue used 19 different lineup combinations with 14 different players in that game.

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Crunching the numbers: Penn-CCSU plus/minus

Utilizing the box score and play-by-play from Penn’s matchup with Central Connecticut State, this post uses unofficial plus-minus numbers for the Quakers in their 77-61 win. Keep in mind that these numbers are a very short sample size.

While Sam Jones put on a show against Central Connecticut State by going 5-for-9 from three-point range, he wasn’t the only Penn player to post strong plus-minus numbers. Of the 10 players to get three minutes or more of playing time, seven posted positive plus-minus numbers, including a game-high +23 from Darnell Foreman.

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