Basketball: Entering the Tigers’ den
When the men’s basketball team takes on Harvard on Friday, it will try not only to increase its winning streak to five games, but also to improve its home record to 8-0 for the 2010-11 season. The women’s team also boasts a 7-0 record at Jadwin this season, and it has not conceded a game there since the 60-50 loss to Rutgers on Dec. 5, 2009. Overall, since the beginning of the 2009-10 season, the men’s and women’s basketball teams hold an impressive 37-4 combined record in home games.
While some degree of home court advantage is expected for basketball teams, members of both squads attributed their particularly high levels of success at home to the fact that Jadwin is a unique gym that takes a lot of getting used to.
“Jadwin is unusual,” senior guard and women’s co-captain Krystal Hill said. “When you first walk in, it’s humongous — the court, the other court to the side of it, the track behind it — it’s a little bit intimidating.”
It’s an advantage that can provide the Tigers with an edge over opponents who have not played on Carril Court nearly as much as they have.
“Because it’s so unique and it’s set up so differently since it’s not only a basketball court, I think it would be a hard place to play if you didn’t practice there,” senior forward and men’s co-captain Kareem Maddox said.
Women’s head coach Courtney Banghart, who played for Dartmouth between 1996 and 2000, said she sometimes felt uncomfortable playing at Jadwin. “Coming from Dartmouth, I’m used to a pretty small gym,” Banghart said. “Then you come down here and you’re like, ‘Wow, this is a lot bigger than I’m used to.’”
Banghart noted that another benefit that the Princeton teams get from playing in Jadwin is the ability to practice where they play, while teams such as Penn — whose 8,722 seat Palestra is known as the “Cathedral of College Basketball” — cannot because their arenas house other events.
“I’m getting shots up on that court all the time ... getting used to the rims, getting used to the lighting and getting used to the backdrop definitely makes a huge difference,” senior guard and men’s co-captain Dan Mavraides said. “That’s a bonus about Jadwin.”
Besides the inherent advantage the players and coaches believe comes with mastering the ins and outs of such an unusual gym, many simply cited the strong support of an enthusiastic crowd as a reason for their success.
“Some of our bigger games — the Cornell game from last year comes to mind ... all our games against Pennsylvania, our true regional rival — those games take on an electric feel,” said men’s head coach Sydney Johnson ’97, Princeton guard from 1993 to 1997. “As a player and as a coach, it’s fun to see that many people in a gym. You get pretty fired up.”
But even more than the fans, the legendary teams, players and coaches that have called Jadwin their home over the years serve as a source of inspiration to the teams of the present.
The gym, which was named after Leander Stockwell Jadwin, who died in a car crash eight months after graduating in 1928, opened in January 1969 with a Princeton basketball victory over Penn. Since then, it has been the home of 15 NCAA tournament teams and many legendary players such as Armond Hill ’85, who spent eight seasons in the NBA, and Craig Robinson ’83, two-time Ivy League player of the year and brother of Michelle Obama ’85.
“There’s a pretty long history on the men’s side of winning a lot of games in Jadwin, so I think it’s something that, rather than take for granted, we’re just trying to live up to,” Johnson said. “We’re trying to make sure that it’s a tough place to play because maybe it’s a tough place to play in 2010-11, but it was a tough place to play in 1991, in 1981, in 1971, so we’re trying to just make sure we’re living up to that tradition.”
“It’s like I have a connection to the history,” Hill said. “I feel a part of this rich tradition from being in this gym and playing in it every single day.”
In February 2009, Jadwin’s main basketball court was given the name Carril Court in honor of Pete Carril, who coached the men’s team to a total 516-261 record between the 1967-68 and 1995-96 seasons. Carril, who is the architect of the renowned ‘Princeton Offense’ and an assistant coach with the Sacramento Kings, is a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame.
“It makes it that much more special to me that every time you look up at the flag for the national anthem, right next to it are all of Coach Carril’s accolades,” senior guard and women’s co-captain Addie Micir said. “It’s a pretty special place to play at, since Princeton clearly has a very rich tradition of basketball.”
In a year in which her 14-3 team has a chance to make its mark on the national level, Banghart is especially honored to coach on the same court as a man who put the greatness of Princeton basketball on display for the rest of the country.
“For me especially, to be coaching on the same court that Coach Carril coached on — a guy that really believed in the Ivy League and showed how great the Ivy League can be nationally — it’s really special,” Banghart said.
Beyond the teams’ performances on the court, the fact that Jadwin serves so many purposes brings the Princeton athletic community together.
“You have track, you have basketball, you have squash and wrestling in the lower tiers of the building,” Johnson said. “There’s tennis, and there’s baseball, and I think that’s fantastic, because it’s all these student-athletes coming together.”
“Walking down to Jadwin from class, I’ll see a bunch of my friends that are athletes from all different sports,” Mavraides said. “I can stop down at the tennis match and watch a couple games. We do that pretty often; it’s kind of like a little community down there, and that’s definitely nice.”
Many of the players said that at times they think it would be nice to play in a stadium built in more of an arena style, with the fans closer to the court, and a more lively and intimate environment. But in the end, because of the home court advantage, the tradition and the community, they would ultimately not want to play anywhere else.
“With all due respect to the Palestra and the Verizon Center, the only place that I prefer [to] and put in the same category as Jadwin is Madison Square Garden,” Johnson said.
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