Two weeks ago, Princeton Basketball and the Tiger community mourned the loss of “Big Game James” Mastaglio ’98. Mastaglio was only 47 years old when he passed away after a fight with an aggressive form of cancer on July 25.
Mastaglio, a member of men’s basketball from 1994 to 1998, played a fundamental role in establishing the strength of the Princeton basketball program in the late ’90s. As a player on the ’96 team that upset UCLA in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, Mastaglio contributed to legendary head coach Pete Carril’s final Princeton team.
As his playing career at Princeton progressed, Mastaglio, nicknamed ‘Stags,’ further established himself in the front court as a forward in Princeton’s starting lineup. In over 107 career games, Mastaglio averaged 6.4 points, 2.6 rebounds, and 1.3 assists. He started every single game in his senior season, a season where the nationally No. 8 ranked Tigers went 27–2 and made it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
For current men’s basketball coach Mitch Henderson ’98, Mastaglio’s former teammate and senior year roommate, Mastaglio’s impact as both a player and person is not lost.
“He was a very underrated player on that team,” Henderson told The Daily Princetonian. “We all knew he was often guarding the other team’s best player, and he’d do a great job of doing that.”
“He wasn’t going to rock the boat; he was going to do exactly what was needed,” Henderson continued. “Somewhere else, maybe he scores more points. That was classic James.”
Mastaglio, both during his time at Princeton and after, was known for his inviting and selfless personality.
“He lived in a way that was a good way to be, he did not seem to worry,” Henderson said. “Just sort of one of those guys where you’d say ‘Stags is the best.’”
Mastaglio is survived by his wife Bridgette, and his two children Olivia and Kellan.
For Henderson and the ’98 team, an extremely tight group, the loss of ‘Stags’ hits especially close to home and will leave a lasting mark on them moving forward.
“We are a really close group in particular,” said Henderson. “We were on a really great team that was also just really connected as great friends. I would say now it’s sort of like, let’s appreciate and value and make time for one another more now.”
Cole Keller is a head editor for the Sports section at the ‘Prince.’
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