Teams to watch in 2015–16: Spencer Weisz and Princeton are hungry for an Ivy League title

“By the end of last season, we finally learned how to win,” is how Spencer Weisz, Princeton’s star junior forward, describes his team’s arc in 2014–15.

Few teams in America were as youthful as the Tigers last term; few teams finished as strongly. It was in large part thanks to Weisz, who is part of a considerable back in place for the coming campaign.

Weisz pinpoints the final four games of ‘14–15, all wins, as when Princeton really kicked into gear. The most forceful example might have been the season’s penultimate matchup, Senior Night against Columbia, when Lions star guard Maodo Lo went off for 37 points, on the strength of 11 threes. It was almost déjà vu from November, when San Diego’s Johnny Dee torched the Tigers for 29 at the Wooden Legacy, in Anaheim.

This time, though, Princeton rattled off the last 11 points of the game, and emerged with an 85–83 win. “It was about maturing as a team,” says Weisz, “and I think that’s gonna do us wonders this season.”

Team highs of 11.6 points and 2.6 assists, along with 4.9 boards and a steal per game. The numbers herald Weisz as one of the more versatile players in America. In his first two seasons, the 6–4 forward has hit 47% of his field goals, and sunk 85 threes at a 38% rate. He was the Ivy League Freshman of the Year for ‘13–14, followed up by second team all-conference honors.

This well-rounded production stems from his start in the game. Growing up, Weisz says he was always one of the tallest players on the court, but his father, who coached him until high school, made sure he ran point. He knew Weisz wouldn’t be a seven-footer, so he wanted him to develop the type of skill set that would help him thrive, were he to play high-major college basketball.

“And growing up, my favorite player was Jason Kidd,” says Weisz, who is from Florham Park, N.J., and loved those Nets teams of the early aughts. He couldn’t get enough of Kidd’s ability to see the floor, to get his teammates involved. “And he was known as one of the best triple-double point guards there is, so I’d try to imitate things he did. I’ve watched a lot of film over the years, too, of great passers and shooters, and that’s all contributed to the player I am, today.”

He is part of a junior class that has enjoyed a fascinating journey so far. When Weisz was a freshman, Princeton was led by an all-time great senior class headlined by the likes of T.J. Bray and Will Barrett. Weisz started 20 games in that ‘13–14 season, and he says that one of his greatest lessons was the importance of attention to detail. “One of the main things I saw from T.J., is that the leader of a team can never have a bad day,” Weisz says. “Whether it’s a practice or a game, you need to bring your all every single day.”

Weisz knows that he’ll be called upon to help lead Princeton this season, and that means working with the current seniors, marshaling the forces on the court. Making sure the youngsters are in the right place on the court. Making sure they know how to comport themselves off it. “We have this goal of being Ivy champions,” says Weisz, “and that means you do whatever it takes to achieve that. For me, it’s cutting hard, making the extra pass, doing the little things so the younger guys can see: ‘Oh, a guy who’s played good minutes so far is doing the little things.’ That helps everyone to buy in.

“Because we have such good depth, if anyone wants to see minutes this season, it’s going to be a dogfight, and that just raises the level of play tremendously. And the guys who give it their all will play. There’s going to be a good amount of guys that can contribute to getting a lot of wins this year.”

Game of life, with a twist—and shout. Twitter: @alleywhoops

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