Victory Hoops League Ends 1st Season in Style As Maselli & Warren Wins Title Game at Buzzer
It turned out to be a win-win scenario for the Victory Sports Pro-Am League as the Maselli & Warren Law Firm faced CertaPro Painters in the first-ever championship game of the new hoops league at the Hun School gym last Thursday evening.
CertaPro trailed by 13 points in the fourth quarter before reeling off a 17-4 run to knot the game at 64-64 with seconds remaining in regulation. But then Christian Burns banked in a three-pointer at the buzzer to give Masselli & Warren a dramatic 67-64 win before the appreciative crowd on hand.
The level of play and competitiveness in the title game epitomized what the league was looking to provide for the local hoops scene.
“It was a heckuva way to finish the season,” said former McCorristin High and Seton Hall standout Bryan Caver, the basketball director for Victory Sports.
“It is a testament to those guys, the players made the league. We had a really nice crowd, we had some first timers there. It was extremely exciting.”
The league, which started in mid-June and featured triple-headers Tuesday and Thursday nights at Hun’s Shipley Pavilion, proved to be an instant hit.
“It was extremely positive,” said Caver in assessing the inaugural campaign.
“It opened eyes to players, not only the players who played but to those who heard about it. It was the competitive level that made it so exciting, you saw D-1 guys and guys who have been playing overseas.”
While the league was a labor of love for Caver, a constant presence at Hun on game nights, he got plenty of help in the opening season.
The league’s lineup of sponsors included Masselli & Warren, CertaPro, County Line Auto Body, The Conefry Family, Princeton Elite Management Group, T Rowe Price/The Taylor Family, A. J. Tonon Dedicated Logistics, and Dr. Palmer. Other contributors were Andrew M. Kusnirik III, Hun Athletic Director Bill Quirk, the Pirate Booster Club, Kamryn Thompson, Shevone Johnson, and Troy Stevenson, the league’s referee assignor.
“I have to give special thanks to all the sponsors, they were great,” asserted Caver. “The sponsors were excited about the response we got from the players and fans.”
The positive response has led Caver to add a women’s league to the mix in 2016.
“That is something we are going to do,” said Caver. “The girls would come to me and say what about us? We have some ladies playing in college now and some who have graduated who are now playing overseas. They want to have an outlet like this.”
Caver vows that the men’s league will be bigger and better next summer.
“We are going to grow,” said Caver. “The league is going to expand. I have heard from other teams that are interested in playing. We may want to move the early game back from 6 to 6:30 so people won’t have trouble getting there. We want to add an extra day.”
Written by: Bill Alden | August 19, 2015 | Town Topics
PRINCETON: Buzzer beater thrills end to pro-am finals
Christian Burns put an exclamation point on a successful first season for the Victory Sports Pro-Am Summer Basketball League.
Burns’ three-point shot at the buzzer lifted Masselli & Warren Law Firm to a 67-64 win over CertaPro Painters in the league’s first championship game last Thursday night at The Hun School. The dramatic win brought to a close the first of what league director Bryan Caver hopes will be many successful seasons for the new league.
“When we talked about this on April 24 and said this is something that we wanted to do, it was six weeks out,” said Caver, the former McCorristin High and Seton Hall University standout. “We couldn’t have fathomed the way this thing turned out. And it is a testament to the way the guys have come out and competed. They are really doing the work. I just kind of created a place for them to do it.”
The eight-team league began in late June and concluded last week with its first championship game. Burns scored 20 points to lead the scoring for Masselli & Warren, which saw a 13-point lead slip away in the final four minutes before Burns came through with the game-winning shot. Yvon Raymond added 10 points and Greg Ford had nine in the win. Jeff Robinson had 14 points, while Kevin Avent had 11 and Khalid Lewis added 10 in the loss.
“It was a good game,” said Burns, a 2003 Hamilton West graduate who has spent the last nine years playing overseas. “Everybody knows each other and it was a lot of fun out here. We picked it up late. I think (Caver) did a tremendous job with the league. I think next year it is really going to blow up. He’s going to do a lot of work in the off-season to get it going. He’s one of the famous guys to come out of Hamilton and he is doing it for us now which I think is awesome.”
Masselli & Warren led, 60-47, with 3:59 left before a furious run by CertaPro Painters knotted the game at 64-64 with 5.7 seconds left. But Burns made sure there was no overtime when he sank a three-pointer as time expired.
“We only had a handful of games together with everybody,” said Burns, who played last year in Prague in the Czech Republic. “So we got it going at the end. If you know how to play the game it makes it easier.
“This was awesome. He could put New Jersey back on the map as far as summer league basketball.”
Caver was happy with the way the first season went. He had a great venue with Hun and the players were excited and receptive to the league.
“We couldn’t ask for a better final,” Caver said. “It was a great run. I enjoyed this so much. Seeing these guys compete is what it is really all about. It’s about the players.
“These guys want to compete. I just really wanted the community involvement and for the Division 1 players to not have to travel too far. A lot of these guys are pursing trying to play professionally, whether it is semi-pro or overseas. Or if they are just players in the area that want to continue to compete at a high level, we have given them a platform for that.”
Caver has heard from friends around the country since the league got started and the word has been spreading.
“I had a friend of mine from (Los Angeles) congratulate me,” Caver said. “Arturas Karnisovas, he’s with the Denver Nuggets now, he sent me an email and congratulated me as well. So I think the sky is the limit for this. We just want to continue to provide a quality product.”
By Bob Nuse, Sports Editor
Christian Burns’ big shot lifts Masselli & Warren to inaugural Victory Sports Summer League title
Princeton >> Christian Burns was so happy to be able to play his summer basketball back at home in Mercer County that he gave the fledgling Victory Sports Academy Pro-Am League at the Hun School a shot to remember in its championship game.
The 6-foot-7 Burns banked in a straight-away 3-point field goal at the buzzer to give Masselli & Warren Law Firm a 67-64 win over CertaPro Painters after the Painters had done all in their power just to even up a game it trailed by 13 points with five minutes left in the fourth quarter.
“I wasn’t concerned about overtime. All I had to do was make that shot,” said Burns, who drilled his fourth shot from long range in the game.
It was the perfect capper for a player who had just won his first national championship playing for Prague, Czechoslovakia.
“Right now, I’m waiting to sign and go back overseas,” said Burns, who is looking to play his ninth season on the other side of the pond.
Even more than his game-winner or his game-high 20-point effort, the 2003 Hamilton High graduate was thrilled to be able to come home and play in the offseason. He could not say enough about all that Victory Sports Academy basketball director Bryan Caver had done to get top-quality summer hoops back in the area.
“Bryan Caver did a tremendous job with this league,” said Burns, whose effort was aided by 10 points from St. Peter’s University’s Yvon Raymond. “I think next year, when more people find out about it, this league is going to blow up and be even bigger.”
While things are different from when Caver grew up and the Trenton Men’s Unlimited League was the big game in town during the summer, the league of professionals and amateurs he has built in such a short time for Victory Sports Academy is the closest the county has had since those days at Cadwalader Park.
“Everybody’s getting behind us,” said Caver, the former McCorristin High and Seton Hall University star who is trying to help Victory Sports add a women’s league next summer. “Now if we could just get someone like Under Armour, Adidas or Nike to sponsor us, it would get really big.”
“I was looking for something to do to stay in shape this summer and had been talking to Coach Caver when he told me about this league,” former Trenton Catholic Academy star Khalid Lewis said. “I think he really has something here.”
Lewis, who is moving on to the University of Illinois from La Salle in the fall, provided 11 points for CertaPro Painters, a point behind teammate Kevin Avent of Nebraska Community College and three behind team leader Jeff Robinson, another Seton Hall product.
In fact, the 6-foot-8 Robinson had the biggest shots of the game prior to Burns’ blast. Fouled with 5.7 seconds left while shooting a 3-pointer, Robinson drained three free throws to cap a 17-4 run and knot the score at 64.
Burns, who had been battling inside with Robinson for much of the game, did him one better in the end to cap an enjoyable summer.
“When you really think about it, for players like me, there’s the NBA Summer League or well-known Pro-Ams in Portland, Los Angeles or New York,” Burns said. “I guess there’s still the Jersey Shore League, but having this league back here, this is awesome.”
Burns’ 3-pointer at the buzzer provided the perfect capper to show his excitement for the new Victory Sports Academy Pro-Am Summer Basketball League.
MASSELLI & WARREN LAW FIRM (67)
DWilliams 3-0-7, Ford 3-1-9, Raymond 5-0-10, Azoroh 3-0-6, Harris 2-2-7, Burns 8-2-20, DaBronzo 2-2-6.
Totals — 26-7-67.
CERTAPRO PAINTERS (64)
Avent 4-2-12, Lewis 4-2-11, Hobbs 2-1-5, Bol 2-4-9, Rivers 1-0-2, JCaver 3-1-8, Robinson 4-6-14, Youngblood 1-0-3.
Totals — 21-16-64.
Masselli & Warren 15 19 18 15 — 67 CertaPro Painters 13 16 14 21 — 64
3-point goals — DWilliams, Ford 2, Harris, Burns 4 (M&W), Avent 2, Lewis, Bol, JCaver, Youngblood (CP).
By Red Birch, The Trentonian
Victory Sports Academy brings soccer camp to area youths
Princeton >> Paul Johnson and Carlos Figueroa have always wanted to do more for athletes in Mercer County.
So these two former soccer standouts returned to the sidelines in recent years with the Pennington School to help head coach Chad Bridges lead one of the best boys soccer teams in The Trentonian’s area.
But that still was not enough.
So when Johnson left to pursue his dream of starting a sports and education academy for the talented athletes in Mercer County who may need help and direction to get the kind of college looks they deserve, Figueroa joined him to head the soccer division.
The brainchild is called Victory Sports Academy. The academy has taken off in the last few months with its basketball division hosting its inaugural basketball summer league at the Hun School in Princeton.
Carlos Figueroa signals to players on the field at the Victory Sports Soccer Academy clinic at Princeton Day School Wednesday. Jackie Schear — Trentonian Photo
Sanctioned by the NCAA, the Pro-Am League is directed by former McCorristin High and Seton Hall University standout Bryan Caver, and features basketball players ranging from graduated high school seniors to college to professional. Victory Sports Academy Pro-Am Summer Basketball League will hold its championship game at 7 p.m. Thursday with the CertaPro Painters squaring off with the Masselli & Warren Law Firm.
Now Figueroa is hoping to do the same with the Victory Sports Soccer Academy. Beginning with the clinic they are co-hosting with Real Madrid Cantera at Princeton Day School’s Bill Smoyer Field from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. through Friday this week, former Princeton High star Figueroa and former Hun School star Johnson hope to get their concept out there to the youth of Mercer County.
“We want to do the right thing and help Mercer County bring its old school soccer tradition back,” Figueroa said. “There are a lot of players out there who have a passion for the game. We want to help them get an education through soccer and help the kids get the scholarships they will need to pursue the sport at the next level.”
Before local high school coaches think Figueroa and Johnson are trying to steal their players, they are quick to point out this is not that kind of academy.
Recently a number of soccer academies have been forcing high school athletes to choose between their high school team and their academy. That is not so with the Victory Sports Soccer Academy.
“I want kids to represent their high schools,” Figueroa said. “The ODP system (U.S. Youth Soccer Olympic Development Program) is disappearing because of those academies.”
“We want them to have the high school experience,” Johnson said. “All the time we spent at Community Park playing growing up is how we know each other. It was important. Recently the standard has been dropping, and we’re trying to help kids in the county get the level back.”
The paths Johnson and Figueroa took once their high school days ended in the 1990s have just as much to do with their desire to make Victory Sports Academy successful.
Johnson graduated from the University of Virginia, while Figueroa was only able to complete one year at Mercer County Community College after leading Princeton High to a state title.
“After what I went through, I want to help kids,” Figueroa said. “I want to do the right thing for them.”
“I’ve tried to find directors who can focus on both — the sport and the education,” Johnson said. “We’ll give the players a five-day-a-week schedule to help them not only do better on the field, but also in the classroom. We focus on soccer, but have academic evaluations. We want the players in our academy to be good citizens as well.”
While Figueroa and Caver handle the bulk of the coaching at Victory Sports Academy, Johnson handles the business end along with more former area standouts like Bram Reynolds, Kirk Webber, Mike Riddick and John Thompson. The concept is in place to help Mercer County athletes become great again at every level. The Soccer Academy, for instance, will be available to players, male and female, in the U8 to U17 ranks.
“We are interested in finding donors/sponsors who want to help kids who might not have the means to further their careers,” said Johnson, who found 17 sponsors to support this week’s clinic, which had about 100 players of all ages learning facets of soccer at PDS Wednesday.
“I know it’s something they’ve wanted to do for a long time,” Bridges, another former Mercer County soccer standout, said. “They are branching out, and I’m happy for them.”
As long as Victory Sports Academy looks to aid the high school players and coaches in Mercer County without stepping on toes, it could be just what the teacher ordered for up-and-coming soccer and basketball stars.
For more information on the Victory Sports Academy, visit victorysportsnj.com. They can also be reached on Facebook at Victory Sports NJ, on Twitter @VictorySportsNJ, on Instagram at victorysportsnj and on You Tube at Victory Sports NJ.
By Red Birch, The Trentonian
5 college standouts from Victory summer hoops league
Former Niagara standout and Plainfield native Anthony Nelson (5) watches former Temple star Dalton Pepper finish at the rim in the Victory Sports Pro-Am quarterfinals.
Bryan Caver (Photo: Jerry Carino)
Ismael Sanogo, Seton Hall: Hall coach Kevin Willard has been raving about the sophomore forward’s summer. Of the four Pirates who participated in the league, Sanogo was the most frequent attendee. “He’s doing everything he needs to do,” Caver said of the former Newark East Side standout. “He’s an active player and a great kid too. I’d like to see him be more aggressive offensively, shoot a little better, but he’s such a team guy and that helps a lot.”
D.J.Foreman, Rutgers: The sophomore forward was one of two Rutgers players to participate, including sophomore guard Mike Williams. “He looked pretty good,” Caver said. “He’s trying to stretch his game, work on perimeter stuff. I kind of like him with his back to the basket right now.”
Amir Bell, Princeton: The sophomore guard from East Brunswick “has that point guard mentality,” Caver said. “Great feel for the game. I want to see him attack more, shoot the pull-up more. If he does that, he can really help them.”
Anthony Durham and Xavier Lundy, Rider: “Those guys are really good. Durham is leading the league in scoring (at about 23 points per game). I didn’t realize how much talent Rider has. They’re going to surprise people this year.”
Trey Lowe, Temple: The freshman guard from Ewing High School “has tremendous upside,” Caver said. “He’s impressed me a lot. He’s going to be a very good player for them right away.”
Next year, Caver said, he hopes to expand from eight to 10 teams and perhaps offer an individual instruction component. He also expects a greater Seton Hall presence.
“I think they’re going to get more involved and send us some more players,” he said, adding with a laugh, “By rights, they should.”
Written by:Jerry Carino, @njhoopshaven
Playing for T. Rowe Price in Victory Hoops League, PU Hoops Star Bell Honing His Skills for the Winter
Playing for the T. Rowe Price team on opening night last Thursday in the newly-formed Victory Sports Pro-Am summer basketball league, Amir Bell displayed his competitive fire.
The rising sophomore guard for the Princeton University men’s basketball hit the floor hard at the Hun School gym, diving for loose balls and intensely going to the hoop.
Bell’s grit and 11 points, though weren’t enough as T. Rowe Price fell 77-64 to P.E.M.G.
Afterward, Bell showed another side of his competitive nature as he glumly assessed the defeat.
“We didn’t play defense down the stretch; we missed a lot of shots that we were making in the first half,” said a frowning Bell.
“We have to keep pushing through when we get tired. We should have won that game. That is what summer league is for, to get better at things like that so we have to continue working.”
Bell is looking forward to pushing himself in the summer league. “You get to play, make sure you stay fresh and solid until the season comes,” said Bell. “It should be a really good opportunity, really good competition.”
With incoming Princeton freshmen hoops players Myles Stephens, Devin Cannady, and Noah Bramlage, joining Bell on the T. Rowe Price roster, he is getting the opportunity to take his new teammates under his wing.
“We are trying to build some chemistry, teach them some things that will happen during the season,” said Bell. “We want to help them out, make them run parts of the system.”
Coming off a superb debut campaign, Bell is looking to build up his game individually.
“I have been working on my midrange jump shot and my three-point game,” said Bell, a 6’3, 160-pound native of East Brunswick who averaged 8.8 points a game as a freshman and dished out 77 assists. “I want to be a better leader and a better communicator with my teammates next year.”
Bell and the Tigers are poised to do better than last winter when they posted an overall record of 16-14 and went 9-5 in Ivy League play.
“It should be a really big year for us, trying to bring momentum that we gain over the summer into the season,” said Bell.
“We have a lot of guys who are back and have some experience. We are hungry and we have pretty big expectations for ourselves. It should be fun.”
Written by: Bill Alden
Former Trenton High standout Rasheed Wallace enjoying time in Oklahoma
PRINCETON >> Trenton High’s all-time leading scorer is no country boy, but he has found a home for himself in Oklahoma.
Despite it being only June, Rasheed Wallace was raring to return to Western Oklahoma State College. He was in town playing for Conefry Family in the Victory Sports Pro-Am Summer Basketball League at the Hun School on Wednesday, alongside former teammate Shaquan Worthy and former Pennington guard Elijah Wright.
“It’s good to be back home, but I’m kind of ready to get back to school right now,” Wallace said. “I wanted to get a chance to play with (Worthy and Wright) again over the summer.”
Western Oklahoma State sits in Altus, home to about 19,000 people near the Texas border. Wallace intends to return there for another season of JUCO ball to earn a possible Division I scholarship. The Pioneers’ program has had two D-I players come out of there in the past two years.
“It’s been a great experience, there’s tough competition down there, I like it,” Wallace said. “It’s a big change. It’s very country down there and I had to adjust, but I’m doing OK.
“There’s a lot of cows and farms, guys wearing cowboy hats and girls wearing cowboy bo0ts,” Wallace said of living in the Midwest.
Wallace had an up-and-down year with the Pioneers, early on he was getting about 20 minutes a game through the first couple months of the season, scoring in double figures five times, but eventually his minutes dropped off as other scorers emerged.
“My shot stopped falling and I started getting less shot attempts, so my averages started to fall,” Wallace said. “We had three primary scorers on the team, so a lot of plays were set up for them and before we were just playing regular basketball and everyone was shooting.”
It’s a far departure from Wallace’s days in Tornado Alley, where he compiled 1,316 career points and graduated as Trenton’s all-time leading scorer.
“I knew I would have to change when I got to college. I’m a guard now and I should be better now,” Wallace said of how his game has evolved. “I feel like I can create shots for myself, I work the pick and roll well and I really work to get others open.”
Wallace sees himself as combo-guard at the D-I level and has already shown he’s willing to travel any distance to reach that goal.
“The summer isn’t over yet for me, when I go back, I should be where I should be,” Wallace said.
By Brian Dzenis, The Trentonian
Newly-Formed Victory Sports Hoops League Tips Off, Drawing Talent, Fans to Hun Gym on Opening Night
It was a muggy Thursday evening in mid-June but the atmosphere in the Hun School gym was reminiscent of a big game in mid-winter.
The bleachers in Shipley Pavilion were more than half full and the telltale sounds of whistles and squeaking sneakers filled the air.
While there wasn’t a key high school game in progress, it was a big night on the local hoops scene as it marked the opening night of the newly-formed Victory Sports Pro-Am Summer Basketball League.
League director Bryan Caver, a former Seton Hall men’s hoops standout, was happy to see the strong turnout for the triple-header which featured an entertaining run-and-gun brand of hoops under the league’s format of four 10-minute quarters with a running clock and a 24-second shot clock.
“I just think the avid fan really wants to see some good basketball and that is what we are trying to provide, guys competing at a high level in the summer time,” said Caver of the league, which is holding triple-headers on Tuesday and Thursday evenings at Hun starting at 6:00 p.m. with playoffs slated to begin on August 4.
“Guys that you get to see on TV, Charles Cook played at Dayton this year, Trey Lowe is going to Temple, you get to see them up close. You don’t realize how good these guys are until you see them up close.”
Caver, who has become familiar with the area through working for Mercer County Special Services as a Behavioral Interventionist, realized that there was a need for such high-level competition in the summer.
“I knew a couple of area guys and overseas guys that come home who play Division 1, who really didn’t have a place to play in the summer,” said Caver.
“They were just kind of watching leagues. The Jersey Shore League still exists but it is not the same competition that it was. About two years ago I kind of pondered it and I thought what I want for myself if I was still playing. We just wanted to create an environment where these guys could compete.”
Hun turned out to be an ideal environment for the league. “There were a couple of different places considered but this location is perfect,” said Caver.
“We have guys coming from all different areas so it is accessible. I really thank the Hun family for allowing us to do this, especially athletic director Bill Quirk. They love their basketball but to give an outside entity an opportunity to come and share the facility, I truly appreciate that.”
Caver was taken aback by the number of guys who wanted to get an opportunity to play in the league.
“The moment we started contacting these colleges and universities, they were all for it,” said Caver, pointing out that the league is NCAA-sanctioned.
“We had two tryouts because of the response. We thought we would have some area talent but the vast amount of talent has been a surprise. We have players from Rider, Princeton, and Rutgers. There are some from D-3 schools and some overseas guys. We have guys coming from as far away as Bloomfield. It is a vast array of talent and players.”
While Caver is happy with the talent the league has attracted this summer, he sees it as only a start.
“This season, I want to see an influx of guys, this is what the pro-am is about,” added Caver,
“Guys hearing about it and making room for those guys who want to compete and play in this league. I want the NBA guys to know there is a place they can come to near home. I want to get even more talent and raise the level. I want more than eight teams, I want 16 teams.”
Buoyed by the promising start, Caver is confident that the league can become a fixture on the local sporting scene.
“We hope to keep this going for many years to come,” said Caver, noting that Victory Sports is looking to start programs in other sports, including soccer, field hockey, and football.
“I feel there was a place for this. As you can see, we have some talent and these guys are competing. I just really want people to come out and watch and enjoy the level of competition that we have and the level of the basketball that we are bringing to this area. There is nothing like this in the area and there hasn’t been in a long time.”
Amir Bell Set To Take Next Step Forward At Princeton
Despite enjoying an impressive freshman season at Princeton University, sophomore point guard Amir Bell is not content.
Bell is getting a jump start on the coming season by playing in the inaugural Victory Sports Pro-Am Summer Basketball League, which begins play June 16 on the campus of the Hun School in Princeton, a mere five miles from the Tigers’ campus.
The league consists of eight teams divided into two divisions that play a 14-game regular season. The league’s top teams will then compete for the League Championship in a best-of-three series. Bell, who started all 30 games for the Tigers this past season averaging 8.8 ppg, is excited for the chance to play in the inaugural tournament.
“I’m looking forward to it, it should be fun,” Bell said. “It always good to go against top competition; I think it will be helpful to play against that type of competition and it helps you get ready for the season.”
The league director is former Seton Hall standout Bryan Caver and he has attracted players from the Division I to Division III and even a couple of pros, including former Rider University star and current NBA Sacramento Kings player Jason Thompson.
Princeton men’s head coach Mitch Henderson believes playing in the league will have tremendous merit for Bell.
“Players are made in the summer time,” Henderson said. “He’s playing against tremendous competition and the best players from the local area. For Amir to be a local kid and playing in the league, it’s very beneficial for him. I think it outstanding him and the other players will get exposure this summer. There will be outstanding players and the games will be competitive.”
Bell will have three members from Princeton’s incoming freshman class on his team: 6’7 forward Noah Bramlage (Ottawa-Glandorf; Glandorf, Ohio), 6’1 guard Devin Cannady (Mishawaka Marian; Mishawaka, Ind.), and 6’4 guard Myles Stephens (St. Andrew’s (Del.), Lawrenceville, N.J.).
The chance to play with his new teammates is vital to Bell’s development, according to Henderson.
“I’m interested in how he influences them and especially with the way we do things here at Princeton,” Henderson said. “We have a way here and everyone must be on the same page.”
The summer games can be a great teaching mechanism for Bell as he continues to mature into a collegiate point guard and a leader on and off the court for the Tigers.
“Oftentimes, your best players nowadays are young freshman and sophomores, so they are thrust into a leadership role early,” Henderson said. “Amir is a little more reserve in nature but on the court the best players can be either vocal or reserve.”
Bell echoed his coach’s words on developing chemistry with the incoming freshman.
“It’s definitely important getting a feel for your new teammates,” Bell said. “And especially coming from high school to college, there’s an adjustment period so playing in the summer league helps in that regard.”
Last season it was Bell making the jump, and he cited his more experienced teammates for helping him transition to the college game after a stellar high school career at East Brunswick High School in East Brunswick, N.J.
“My freshman year, I learned a lot from more experienced players like Spencer [Weisz] and Hans [Brase],” Bell said. “They taught me good habits; make sure I got in the gym before and after practice and working on different aspects of my game.”
Henderson coach believes Bell is ready to take the next steps necessary to become a great point guard.
“As a point guard, you have to talk to each other and ensure the message is heard by all of your teammates,” Henderson said. “Amir is a natural leader and we’re expecting big things from him this season. You must forget about your freshman season and know what you have to do to make yourself better. Amir knows what he has to do to make himself better coming into his sophomore season.”
Bell knows what he has to do to be even better as a sophomore.,
“In college I learned more about the game, how to pick my spots more when I’m driving and become a better decision maker,” he said. “As a point guard you want to become a great leader, so I’m working on my communication and if you improve on those aspects, you can become a good point guard.”
Bell did a lot things well his freshman season: He scored in double figures 13 times, his assist to turnover ratio of 1.6 was good for seventh best in the Ivy League, and his 77 assists were the most by a Princeton freshman since 2007 and good for second on the team.
But Bell did lead the team in personal fouls with 102 and shot just 29 percent on three-pointers (13 makes on 45 attempts).
“I need to continue to stay strong with the ball, keep our turnovers low, work on my mid-range and pull-up game,” Bell said. “But I know I need to improve my three point percentage and play defense without fouling; getting my body stronger will help me defensively.”
Having Bell play at a high level is a key for Princeton in an increasingly competitive Ivy League.
“I don’t think people realize how tough the Ivy is,” Bell said. “It’s really deep and teams play good style of basketball. We also play Friday-Saturday nights, back to back which is really tough… On any given night, any team can get a win. You have Harvard and Yale that’ve been top of the league the last couple of years. Columbia and Dartmouth are good. They are all good teams. If you’re not focused, it will be a loss. It’s a 14-game tournament and you have to try and win every one.”
The Tigers finished last season on a four-game winning streak and finished third in the Ivy League with a 9-5 mark and 16-14 overall. Harvard and Yale tied for first with 11-3 marks (Harvard represented the Ivy in the NCAA Tournament by virtue of their 53-51 win over Yale in a playoff game).
Princeton hasn’t made the NCAA tournament since 2011 but the Tigers have high expectations coming into season, as they returning their top four scorers: junior forward Spencer Weisz (11.6 ppg), senior forward Hans Brase (11.5 ppg), junior forward Steven Cook (10.4 ppg) and Bell.
“We had pretty high expectations for ourselves – we started off pretty slow and lost a bunch of games throughout the year we should’ve won,” Bell said. “But I think we were a young team and the last 10 games we learned how to finish games strong and we gelled great. We played better defense. I think if we can carry that momentum to next season it will be big.”
Bell committed to Princeton before his junior season and turned down overtures from several schools, and he has fallen in love with the campus and playing for the program.
“I fell in love with their tradition, and they have a great tradition of winning Ivy League championships,” Bell said. “We have a great young coaching staff that pushes us to get better. I love the way we play; the way they move the ball and very unselfish.”
Henderson believes strongly in his talented young playmaker and knows the time is now for him to become the lynchpin for a potential NCAA tournament contending team.
“It’s time for Amir to be a leader,” Henderson said. “He went through every phase as a freshman and prospered as the season went on. The summer league games will help him towards getting him ready for this season.”
This is a guest post by Ronak Patel.
Rutgers, Princeton, Rider hoops players in new pro-am
Move over, Jersey Shore Basketball League. There’s company across Route 195.
The inaugural season of the Victory Sports Pro-Am summer league tips off tonight. The league, which is based at the Hun School in Princeton and run by former Seton Hall University point guard Bryan Caver, consists of eight teams and includes players from Rutgers, Temple, Princeton, Rider, Saint Peter’s and Fairleigh Dickinson.
Sacramento Kings forward Jason Thompson, a former Rider star, also is on a roster.
Games take place Tuesday and Thursday evenings. Schedule information can be found at www.victorysportsnj.com
Bryan Caver starts Victory Sports Pro-Am Summer Basketball League at Hun School
Mercer County has long been a hotbed for baseball in the summer, but this year basketball might just give the national pastime a run.
The Victory Sports Pro-Am Summer Basketball League is making its debut on June 16, an eight-team league with evening doubleheaders twice a week at the Hun School in Princeton.
Rosters will be filled with college players from all levels, graduating high school seniors and even a pro or two. Tryouts will be held at Hun on June 6 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. With the relative tailing off of talent in the legendary Jersey Shore Basketball League in Belmar, league director Bryan Caver hopes this new league could bounce right past the JSBL in its first year.
“I’ve been thinking about this for a couple of years,’’ Caver said. “Kids coming home from college really didn’t have anywhere to play. I wanted to find a competitive environment in the off-season. I made some calls, and I think we have an interesting dynamic. It’s filling a need.’’
Players at Princeton University, Rider and The College of New Jersey are on board, while other colleges in the state are not yet officially committed. Among those putting the pro in pro-am is former Rider star Jason Thompson of the NBA’s Sacramento Kings.
TCNJ senior-to-be Bobby Brackett has been among the top rebounders in Division 3 the past couple of seasons. The Lawrenceville native again averaged a double-double this past year, but he’s looking forward to testing his skills against better players.
“As a Division 3 player,’’ Brackett said, “it’s hard to get to play against guys at this level. I know a lot of guys who are supposed to be playing in this league, so I don’t expect to be playing a whole game every night. I’m there to learn and try and compete and see how I stack up against better guys.’’
At 6-foot-6 and now nearly 230 pounds, Brackett will also play in the nearby Princeton Summer League at Community Park, along with some of his TCNJ teammates.
Princeton University coach Mitch Henderson will have a handful of players running at Hun, among them guard Amir Bell of East Brunswick, who started for the Tigers as a freshman.
Henderson said many of the Princeton players will have internships this summer, along with working on campus. But also finding time for hoops.
“That’s kind of what we do,’’ said Henderson, who recalls going from open gym to open gym during summers when he played for Princeton. “Summer is when you get the real work done. Players are made in the summer. The way to get better is to play, play, play.
Caver, by day employed by Mercer County Special Services as a Behavioral Interventionist, is also an assistant coach at Trenton Central High School. A graduate of McCorristin High (now Trenton Catholic Academy), Caver went to four NCAA Tournaments as a guard with Seton Hall.
“Victory Sports is a group designed to deliver sports development with a new and innovative approach,’’ Caver said, “with a targeted focus on developing the complete student-athlete from the developmental level to the elite professional level.’’
The group plans on moving into a state-of-the-art facility in a couple of years, one that will be, Caver said, “A preeminent multi-purpose, multi-functional sports facility.’’
Games at Hun will be played on Tuesdays and Thursdays, the first game at 5:30 p.m. The top six teams will begin playoffs Aug. 4. The league is seeking potential sponsors. For information go to victorysportsnj.com or call Caver at 609-456-9596.
on May 30, 2015 4:45 PM
Bryan Caver launches summer hoops league to rival JSBL
His point guard instincts still sharp, Bryan Caver sees an opening — and he’s going after it.
The former Seton Hall University playmaker is launching the Victory Sports Pro-Am Summer Basketball League, a Princeton-based rival and potential successor to the once-mighty but declining Jersey Shore Basketball League.
“Years ago we used to play at the Jersey Shore because it had NBA guys, guys who were playing internationally and college guys,” Caver said. “I’m going to try to bring that energy back and get people interested in coming out and watching a high level of basketball.”
The JSBL was once a haven for Jersey’s Division I teams and other talented Garden State products who were home for the summer. That’s changed in recent years as Seton Hall and Rutgers, among others, have pulled out.
“Last year I got the idea of giving Division I guys, and even guys who go away overseas and come home, someplace to play,” said Caver, who is an assistant coach at Trenton Central High School. “I want to give high school kids something to aspire to.”
Caver said Rider has committed to enter its players, and D-Leaguer Austin Witter, a Princeton native, also is on board. He said he’s reached out to Princeton and Rutgers and also would like to see Seton Hall, Saint Peter’s and Monmouth get involved.
The eight-team, NCAA-sanctioned league will play at Hun School in Princeton. The 14-game schedule tips off June 16 and will take place Tuesday and Thursday nights, with start times ranging from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. It concludes in August with a best-of-three championship series. Admission will be free.
“The park is where you get your grit, but you need to be able to play in that organized setting against your peer competition,” Caver said. “These college guys do a lot of working out, but at some point you have to start applying what you’re working on. We want to create a safe environment, a place where these guys can do that.”
The Victory Sports Pro-Am Summer Basketball League is holding tryouts for Division II, Division III, junior college and graduating high school seniors May 16, 9-11 a.m. at Hun. NBA, D-League, international and Division I players are not required to try out. For more information, visit the league website at http://victorysportsnj.com or email Caver at email@example.com.
Staff writer Jerry Carino: firstname.lastname@example.org.