Follow us on Instagram
Try our daily mini crossword
Play our latest news quiz
Download our new app on iOS/Android!

The NBA’s only Ivy Leaguer: Tosan Evbuomwan ’23

<h5>Tosan Evbuomwan ’23 posed with his former Princeton teammates and coaches as well as other members of the Princeton basketball family after his second ever NBA game in Madison Square Garden.</h5><h6>Photo courtesy <a href=";igsh=MzRlODBiNWFlZA==" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">@PrincetonMBB/X</a>.</h6>
Tosan Evbuomwan ’23 posed with his former Princeton teammates and coaches as well as other members of the Princeton basketball family after his second ever NBA game in Madison Square Garden.
Photo courtesy @PrincetonMBB/X.

More than five years ago, 100 Division I schools received an email from Tosan Evbuomwan ’23’s club basketball coach, containing his academic record, basketball statistics, measurements, and a highlight tape.

Princeton was the only program to respond.


Associate Head Coach and Recruiting Coordinator for Princeton men’s basketball Brett MacConnell flew out to see Evbuomwan play three hours north of London at Charnwood College, a secondary school in Leicestershire, England.

“The gym has, like, every line, handball, netball, volleyball — it’s a gym with one row of bleachers that fit 15 people in it,” MacConnell said.

“His team got killed,” he said of that fateful game in Leicestershire. “I think they were down like 55 to 14 at halftime … and he didn’t play great.”

After the game, Evbuomwan didn’t expect to hear more from the Tigers, but MacConnell then asked him to fly out to Princeton for an official visit. He agreed.

Three seasons with the Tigers, 1,000 career points, 300 career assists, an Ivy League Player of the Year award, and a trip to the Sweet Sixteen later, and he’s the only Ivy Leaguer currently signed to an NBA roster.

On Feb. 2, he checked into the game late in the first quarter for the Memphis Grizzlies against the Golden State Warriors for his first NBA minutes. 


Soon after, he recorded his first points in the league — a corner three to beat the halftime buzzer and cut the Grizzlies’ deficit to just 10.

There were 17,794 fans in attendance.

He didn’t even crack a smile.

Get the best of ‘the Prince’ delivered straight to your inbox. Subscribe now »


Playing in the most competitive basketball league in the world would be a dream come true for most young boys, but for a teenage Evbuomwan, he could not care less about sports popular across the pond.

Evbuomwan didn’t start taking basketball seriously until he was 16. Instead, he was preoccupied with Newcastle’s more well-known sports — rugby, soccer, cricket, and more.

But the Brit now finds himself all-in on hoops, and it’s paying dividends.

After going undrafted in the 2023 NBA draft, Evbuomwan was quickly picked up by the Detroit Pistons, for whom he featured during the 2023 NBA Summer League.

After his Summer League performance, Evbuomwan signed with the Motor City Cruise — the Pistons’ G-League affiliate — where he shined in 13 regular season games. Evbuomwan averaged 15.6 points per game, 8.9 rebounds, and three assists, while starting in every contest with the Cruise.

As a result of his strong start, Evbuomwan was signed to a 10-day contract with the Memphis Grizzlies. Across four games for the Grizzlies in that stretch, Evbuomwan averaged 18.5 minutes per game. He totaled 11 points, six assists, 14 rebounds, and connected on two three-pointers across all four games.  

Though Evbuomwan tends to look unbothered and unimpressed while on the court, he too gets starstruck. 

“I’d love to say it’s been all business, but there have definitely been some moments,” he said in an interview with The Daily Princetonian. “Just being on the floor with KD (Kevin Durant) I used to watch him a lot … being able to match up with him and, you know, share some words on the court. That was definitely a really cool moment for me.”

The highlight of Evbuomwan’s brief stint with the Grizzlies was his performance against the Boston Celtics — who currently boast the NBA’s best record. 

In the loss to the Celtics, Evbuomwan finished with a game-high 12 rebounds, silencing any doubt as to whether or not the 6-foot-8-inch forward could hold his own in an NBA paint. 

Though Evbuomwan had hoped to stick with the Grizzlies, after his 10-day was up, he received a call from the Detroit Pistons who offered him his second 10-day contract, which he quickly signed.

It only took two games for the team to choose to make Evbuomwan an official part of their 18-man roster by offering him a two-way deal that will keep him in Detroit through the end of the 2024–2025 season.

“I’m glad, obviously, to be sticking around and to have found something of a home here in Detroit this early in my career,” he said.

It’s a two-year deal, a guaranteed home, and some guaranteed money. This is what Evbuomwan has been working toward since arriving at Princeton University in the fall of 2019 — though he ended up a world away from his humble days on the pitch in North East England.

Though his sights are set on putting together a long NBA career — the average of which is only four and a half years — Evbuomwan will not soon forget his time spent at Princeton, nor will those he met along the way.

“All my skills developed when I was at Princeton,” he said. “Attention to detail, being able to work diligently and build, things like that which Coach [Mitch] Henderson really pounds home every day in practice … Definitely, [these are] all things which I’ve carried through my early professional career.”

But perhaps more important to Evbuomwan are the connections he made off the court.

He said he’s watched all but two of the Tigers’ games this season. While away from the Pistons during the all-star break, he came back to campus to watch his buddies take down Yale — a favorite activity of Evbuomwan while he was at Princeton.

“He came to a practice, and we all got to spend time with him for a couple days,” MacConnell said about Evbuomwan’s visit before pausing for a few seconds, smiling to himself. “And just, we love the freakin’ guy, we just love him. I mean, he is so awesome to be around,” he continued with a laugh.

When Evbuomwan played in his second-ever NBA game against the New York Knicks in Madison Square Garden, coaches made sure to end the Tigers’ practice early to get the whole team to the game.

“Princeton basketball really is a big family,” Evbuomwan said. “It means a lot to every single one of us and it will for the rest of our lives, definitely.”

He remains in touch with his teammates from last season, as well as those who graduated before him. Though he spends his time in Detroit and on the road with the Pistons, his impact is still felt inside the Orange Bubble.

“I think he helped kind of create the player and leader that I am,” senior guard and captain Matt Allocco ’24 said when asked about the role Evbuomwan played in his development. “Playing with him has given me all types of confidence; he was always putting his faith in me to make big shots.”

Evbuomwan and Allocco featured together for the Tigers during their Cinderella run to the Sweet Sixteen last season. The two spent three years together playing for the Tigers and think extremely highly of one another.

When I asked Evbuomwan about the rising stars on the Tigers’ squad, he made sure to remind me of the team’s vocal leader, on the court and inside the locker room — Allocco — calling him the “heart and soul of the team” for his leadership and dedication.

Throughout his time at Princeton and beyond, Evbuomwan has stayed out of the spotlight as he helped build a Tigers’ team that achieved the impossible and made history. This character reflected in our conversation — Evbuomwan wanted to ensure that his ex-point guard got the recognition he deserves for a season that has seen him earn two Ivy League Player of the Week awards.

Allocco, for one, can’t say enough about his old running mate’s success.

“It’s been surreal to have such a close friend like that play in the league. It’s obviously his dream come true, but it’s cool for me too,” Allocco said about Evbuomwan’s professional success.

While Princeton certainly remains present in Evbuomwan’s life and heart, he is no longer the 6-foot-8-inch point-forward who towers over Ivy League defenders — he’s in the NBA, playing against some of the most physically gifted athletes in the world.

“It’s not like the way I played and all the stuff I did at Princeton is just out the window, but it looks a little different now,” he said.

He shared that he had to learn how to be a perimeter-oriented player. You likely won’t see him backing down defenders and running the offense like he did at Princeton — at least not yet — but his versatility and confidence in himself have allowed him to adjust to the new role.

“At the end of the day, it’s just basketball,” he said. “How do you impact winning, you know, it’s looked different for me at every stage, but as long as that’s at the forefront of things, I think my versatility allows me to do that.”

MacConnell said that he has watched “every minute” that Evbuomwan has played this season; he praised Evbuomwan’s development through the years.

“He always had a knack for handling the ball well for his size, he was a good passer for his size,” McConnell said. “But [it is] night and day from when he first got here with us to where he was a couple years later.”

What stood out most to MacConnell while watching Evbuomwan play for the Grizzlies and Pistons was how much the two teams have trusted him to defend. In addition to guarding Kevin Durant, he’s also been tasked with containing All-Stars Jayson Tatum and Klay Thompson in his limited minutes.

His improved shooting stroke is also apparent. “He’s shooting it way better,” MacConnell said. “That’ll be key to his success long-term.”

But he is not the lead man he was at Princeton, where his possession usage rate of 28.5 percent was the by the far the highest on his team and his 32.3 percent assist rate was the second highest of any player over 6 feet 6 inches. In the NBA, he’s a role player, and many of his strengths have yet to be displayed on the biggest stage.

MacConnell hopes that soon, Evbuomwan will be able to play more akin to how he did at Princeton — with the addition of a knockdown jumper.

“He’s a really exceptional passer, and when an NBA team starts to appreciate that, and his teammates start to understand that and take advantage of that, he’s gonna get guys easy shots and easy baskets,” MacConnell said. “There’s very few players in any league, including the NBA, that can pass and are as unselfish as he is. That’s gonna be fun to watch in the future.”

The transition to the NBA hasn’t been quite as easy as one might have guessed while watching him play. When I asked him how he was able to be so comfortable on the biggest stage in basketball, he quickly corrected me.

“I try to be poised and calm during a game. I don’t know if I’d use the word comfortable,” he said. “People tend to say sometimes that I make it look easy, and I don’t know, maybe that’s how it looks, but it’s not always the case.”

And yet, though the stakes are higher than they’ve ever been and the lights are certainly brighter, he’s prepared.

“Getting comfortable with being uncomfortable, that’s what it’s been the whole time I’ve been playing basketball, to be honest,” he said. “When I was in the [United Kingdom], I started playing late and was out of my depth a lot growing up. I had to get used to that, you know, just having the mindset of constantly getting better: nothing’s changed in that sense.”

At every stage of his basketball career, he’s had to adapt his game and his limits have been pushed.

“At Princeton, I was stretched; in the G-League, I was stretched. Obviously, right now, it’s the same thing … But yeah, you know, it’s what you want. I want to keep growing. I want to keep getting better as a player, to keep developing.”

His coaches and teammates at Princeton, however, will remember him for his ability to keep it cool, no matter how daunting the task at hand or how comfortable he really felt.

“Definitely his calming demeanor,” Allocco said with a laugh when I asked him what he missed most about having Evbuomwan as a teammate. “He never got too high or too low, he always had the same expression.”

“A guy like me, that’s foreign to me. I’m so emotional, I’m gritting my teeth and yelling,” Allocco added further. “But every time I would go to him, he would just be like ‘yo we’re good, calm, just relax,’ that was always good for me just to help me take a step back, relax a little bit, and calm me down.”

Though the Tigers certainly miss who some called “the Ivy League Giannis,” they haven’t skipped a beat in his absence and are contending for an Ivy League title like they were a year ago.

As Coach Henderson’s squad prepares for a postseason run that they hope will carry late into March, Evbuomwan will be watching every step of the way, just as his former teammates came to watch him.

Allocco said, “I think I speak for everyone who knows him when I say that we can’t wait to see where he goes from here, we’re very excited.”

Diego Uribe is a head Sports editor for the ‘Prince.’

Please send any corrections to corrections[at]