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Tamenang Choh made eligibility history and is playing towards March

Averaging 13.5 points per game, Choh has Brown aiming to the Big Dance as rare 5th-year Ivy player

NCAA Basketball: Brown at Maryland Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

For over 100 years, the hallowed halls of arenas such as Jadwin Gymnasium, Lavietes Pavilion and The Palestra have seen history echo through them. It’s not bizarre to say that the Ivy League is one of the most historic conference in the country.

So, when someone does something of note, it means an awful lot.

Tamenang Choh pulled his name out of the NBA Draft in June of 2021, returning to Brown for his fifth season of eligibility. What would be a common standard for most leagues and teams, was something completely new for those in the Ivy. Choh made history, becoming one of the first athletes to use a fifth season at an Ivy League school.

“I was thinking about that literally the other day, it didn’t really hit me I guess,” Choh told Mid-Major Madness. “Hopefully I do the right things with it. Maybe, hopefully, I won’t be the only person to do that.”

This season was the first year that Ivies allowed graduate students to play games, snapping its strict academic prowess of four seasons then go out and explore other options (for now). While COVID-19 wiped out its 2020-21 season, the league made the executive decision to allow seniors that had the missed season to play a fifth and final year of eligibility at their schools — as all athletes in the NCAA were granted another season because of the pandemic.

This season, Choh has taken advantage of that, running away with it. Through 18 games, Brown is 9-9, beating teams like Bradley and Harvard, while just falling short of North Carolina, Colorado, Vermont, Maryland and Penn. Choh is leading the charge for Brown, averaging 13.5 points per game.

“I know this kinda sounds cliché, but I wanted to finish what I started at Brown,” said Choh. “It kinda felt like there was unfinished business.”

Unfinished it was because the Bears finished in fourth place of the Ivy League in 2019-20. They lost the tiebreaker but were right on the edge of making its first-ever conference tournament under alumnus and head coach, Mike Martin. When the new season hit, the coaching staff was not able to practice with their players until February 2021.

“That was really difficult; the months of November, December and January,” Martin said. “We never had our full team here March of 2020 to September of 2021.”

Choh never stopped practicing. Last season when they couldn’t practice inside Pizzitola Center, he along with other Bear players had workouts on the field with their strength and conditioning coach. Following the proper procedures, they found gyms to practice with those who were not in close contact. Along with that, his suite had a spare room. They used that as a weight room.

Now, it took some time for Choh to get back to form, but when December hit, he was deadly. In the month opener against UMass Lowell, Choh led the way with 26 points. In a close loss to Big Ten foe Maryland, Choh scored 18 first-half points, giving the Bears a four-point lead against the bubble-bound Terps at halftime. In the second half against Penn in the Ivy opener, Choh had 22 points.

Choh said that a large part of his return to Brown was for those kinds of games, showing that a good schedule can intrigue good talent.

“That’s kind of one of the reasons I came back, to compete in those kinds of games, and win those kinds of games,” said Choh. “We know we can compete with those teams, and we just have to apply that to our conference games.”

Brown was able to do so last Friday, beating Harvard in Cambridge by a score of 84-73 on ESPNU. Choh had yet another big game with 20 points and nine rebounds. It was the Bears' fourth straight win over Harvard, matching their longest winning streak against the Crimson since they won five in a row from 2002-2004 — showing they’re in the right direction.

If Brown can make the Ivy League Tournament and end up winning it, they’ll make their first Big Dance since 1986.

“We wanna do things here that haven’t been done before,” said Martin.

The Browns will continue that journey with a game at league favorite Princeton on Saturday. A win there, and it could look like the Bears will be well on their way to territory not seen in decades.