“We’re battle tested,” Princeton senior forward Spencer Weisz told the Asbury Park Press after defeating Yale in Sunday’s inaugural Ivy League Tournament, 71-59. “These two games kind of give you that feeling of sudden death.” The day prior, the Tigers had prevailed over Penn in an overtime affair. Weisz is a stud, leading the team in rebounds, assists, and steals. The Tigers ended the season on a 19-0 run, and finished undefeated in conference play. Now, on Thursday, Weisz, the Ivy League Player of the Year, will lead his 12-seeded team against favored Notre Dame, a No. 5 seed, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in Buffalo.
Weisz’s basketball accomplishments include being awarded MVP of the under-18 2013 Maccabiah Games, and a member Israel’s under-20 squad at the 2015 FIBA U-20 European Championships. JTA pointed out that in Israel, practices were conducted entirely in Hebrew, but Weisz said he didn’t know any. “A lot of the guys just spoke Hebrew with one another,” he said in 2015. “But they also knew English, so I got to be part of the conversations here and there. I enjoyed my time over there and am definitely thankful for it.”
I asked former Princeton Athletic Director Gary Walters, who led the Tigers to the Final Four in 1965, what he made of Weisz, who’s from Florham Park, N.J. “Ask anybody—they love the way he plays,” he said. “He’s hard-nosed, savvy, and makes the other guys on the team better. At the end of the day, he’s our glue. His leadership is just terrific.”
In fact, Walters believes the position of forward doesn’t quite do Weisz’s game justice. “He’s not a senior forward—he’s a senior player, a multi-dimensional player who happens to be 6′ 4″. I would not categorize him as a forward. I would categorize as a terrific all-around player.”
Walters recalls watching Weisz courtside when he was just a freshman, a year after he graduated from Seton Hall Prep, and thinking this kid is a player. “We call it vision,” he said. “He saw the floor. he would make the right play at the right time.
“His abilities grew during those 4 years. His 3-point shooting got better and better and better. He doesn’t lack any mental attribute. The only physical attribute [he lacks] is speed. He can dribble, he can pass, he can shoot. If he were two steps faster he’d be playing in the NBA.”
But first, midterms (Spencer took one in his hotel room), then Round 1 of the NCAA Tournament, Princeton’s first appearance in the Big Dance since 2011. “I have enormous respect for Notre Dame [head coach] Mike Brey—one of the best coaches in the game,” said Walters. “Our coach Mitch [Henderson] this year did a fabulous [job] of blending talent. I’m hoping it’ll be a really good game.”
And Weisz will be ready. Said Walters, “There’s not a more deserving person than that kid.”
We’ve been waiting to wear our dancing shoes! #LetsDance #16-0
— Spencer Weisz (@S_Weisz973) March 12, 2017
Jonathan Zalman is a writer and teacher based in Brooklyn.